Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Monday, July 28, 2014

I am an idiot.....

How are you my wonderful family?? Oh my goodness I want to cry right now...I just typed a whole letter and it deleted before i had the chance to send it...I seriously am dying right now....I had so many things to say and I just botched the whole thing! I am so sorry this email is going to be so lame, but oh my gosh I am so sorry. I feel awful! I wrote this whole email about everything that happened this was such an incredible week! Oh my gosh...I am so sorry!!!! I seriously could cry right now!

well I guess I will just write a little blurp of what happened....first thing, I love and miss you all. I missed Nauvoo so much this week! Remember the condo we stayed in? Remember how it smelt like supreme pizza? hahaha Remember the beautiful Nauvoo temple? Remember Jennings? hahahaha Remember David Archuleta coming? Remember playing soccer and ultimate frisbee in the rain? Remember teaching the highland fling and sweating to death in our pioneer dresses? Remember district meetings with John and singing "Called to Serve" everyday...GO BAPTIZE!! Remember the Lyon's and the Larsens #bestfriendsforever Remember eating treats at Grandma and Grandpa Bitner's house after the pageant? Remember the fireflies and chiggers? Mom remember running in the morning around the temple and being SO SWEATY? hahaha Remember our yellow cast t-shirts? Remember Nauvoo Pageant in a flash? But most of all, remember the spirit we felt? Remember the people we got to know? Remember Carthage? Remember walking down Parley Street? Remember how sad we were to leave? Man, if that's anything like what heaven is going to be, I am going to do everything I can to get back! My testimony of the restoration of the gospel was solidified during that summer. I love Joseph Smith. I know he was a prophet and am so grateful to him for his faith and courage. Thank you so much mom and dad for letting us do that!

Tuulia's kids have baptismal dates! It's for August 30th I wrote all about the story....oh my gosh I can't believe I deleted that letter....but I am so excited for them!!

I don't have time to write anymore....I will write about this week and last week next Monday if I can...I am just so terrible sorry. Not that anyone pines over my letters, but I love that you all know what is going on! I guess it happened for a reason, but know that I am doing pretty well! Just plugging along. I have been frustrated with how slow work is moving's hard not to think that is a direct reflection of me sometimes. I am the trainer. I am "in charge" and ever since that happened, the work has slowed down. I know it's dumb to think that way. I am doing my best, but I just feel like my best isn't enough sometimes. I was praying the other night and I was frustrated when the thought came to my mind, "What if the reason the work has slowed down is so that you could be there 100% for Tuulia and her kids? isn't that enough?" I realized then and there that is enough. They mean so much to me and I am so excited for them to be baptized!

I wrote this whole letter about how much I love all of you and all of the things that happened this I am super bummed right now, but above all, know how much I love and care about each one of you! You are the most wonderful family in the world and I am so grateful I have you! I really am so sorry about the letter...hopefully you don't all lost interest by next week and forget I used to write letters...I am just kidding...I just put so much into these letters...on Sunday night I write down a list of all the things I want to share. But things happen...good lesson to learn...always save your letters. But I love you all so much and hope you have the most wonderful week ever! You are the best!!

Rakkaudella, Sisar Bitner

P.S. Something Finnish....their doors open the opposite way of ours. Like they open out instead of in. It's really awkward when your next door neighbor and you are trying to get into your door at the same time. Also, their front doors usually have an outside door and an inside fact for the day...I am way sorry this is probably the lamest thing you have ever read! I love you all though!! 

Moving Boulders

WASSSUP?? Ok, I love you! I know I always start these emails out with a burst of love, but I can't help it. I really try hard to  focus, focus, focus during the week, but man, I come to e-mail and I freak out with all the love I feel for my family and friends! I love you all so much! I love hearing from you and reading all your letters and seeing your beautiful faces! It makes my week so much better so thank you for your love and support!! You da best!!

First off, Grandma, you and I are definitely having a Chuck-A-Rama date when I get home! I will eat ALL the rolls and soft serve ice cream! :) Dad, I am so happy you are the mission prep guy! HALLELUJAH!!! Heavenly Father answers prayers! You are exactly what the soon to be missionaries need. I am so happy for you! I was thinking about what I could say that would have been useful to me before I came on my mission. Of course about 3259052908 ideas came to my mind, but one really big one would be practicing contacting or "Talking with Everyone". I never realized how much time would be spent walking around talking to people. The sooner you get comfortable with that and know how to bring up the gospel normally and naturally, the better. I think that is one of the biggest challenges I have had on my mission. I love talking to people, but as a missionary, sometimes I feel as though I am only talking to them because I have an ulterior motive. Granted, that motive is their salvation and eternal life, but the times when talking with everyone has been most successful is when I haven't even worried about bringing up a gospel topic. I just try to talk to them and bring it up normally and naturally. In Preach My Gospel, Elder Holland said that if we listen with love, something they(the people we talk to) say will ALWAYS highlight a truth of the gospel about which we can bear testimony, and then offer more. It really is all about loving the person in front of us. But yes, definitely do some role plays with that. It's actually really fun once you get over the, "I'm too cool, this is awkward" stage. There is no such thing as awkward in missionary work! :)

Another thing I would stress a lot with them is the importance of working with members. That is the future of missionary work. It's moving slowly here in Finland, but I know that is the way we are going to find the most prepared, solid people. I really don't have a lot of advice on this subject because I still have no idea how to do it correctly and effectively, but it would be definitely worth it to study about it and also ask members what they expect/want from the missionaries. How can we help them to become the most effective missionaries they can be? That's really all we are trying to do is to make it so members feel more comfortable sharing the gospel! But anyways, that is my two cents...sense...I don't know...but ya! I hope that helped or gave you some ideas! The lessons are obviously important to learn, but they come and every single situation is different. I have never taught the Restoration the same, twice. If you teach people not lessons, you really will come to know that we need to know the doctrines of the lessons so the spirit has something to feed on, but if we don't teach by the spirit, it is just a bunch of information teaching, not transformation teaching!

Oh yes, one more thing...Mom, I got the scarf from Paris! It is probably the cutest thing in the world and I LOVE IT!! Thank you so much! I wear it all the time...granted, I usually take it off because it is surprisingly hot in Finland, but you best believe I will wear it e'erday in the winter! Thank you so much for thinking of me! It was so nice to get a little something something from you Parisians! :) You are the best!!!

Ok so now that I am done rambling...hahahaha....ya I will ever be done rambling...this week has been pretty good. Not going to lie, it's been really hard and discouraging, but hey, as my main man, Michael Buble once said, "That's life." The good news is, bad days and bad weeks always end and something good is always around the corner. It's just a fact of life. We have really struggled with finding and teaching a lot this week. We found 1 new investigator in Seinäjoki, Iris. She is super sweet and has great faith in God. We are really excited about her and are going to church this week in Seinäjoki, so hopefully she can come and have a good experience! She bought us doughnuts...seriously, these people need to stop feeding me...Finnish pastries are SO STINKING GOOD. Seriously, it's bad! But anyways, we had a great first lesson with her this week. We invited her to be baptized and she said, "If I knew how my life would be better after baptism, I would definitely get baptized." Valid point. It's like you always say dad, people want to know what is in it for them. I used to think that was kind of selfish, but the more I think about it, I realize it's totally not. At least not where something this serious is concerned. These people want to know what is so great about the gospel that would make them want to change their lives! Whenever people say that, I always think in my head, "Well, it's true, isn't that enough?" But we have been praying for her and praying for the gift of discernment to know what she needs! Mutta, katsotaan! That is my favorite saying in Finnish. It means "Let's see". You should all use it! :)

We had district meeting in Kokkola this week. It was AWESOME cause Elder Stimpson from my MTC group is our Zone Leader and the zone leaders and sister training leaders came to our district meeting. Seriously, my MTC group is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. I love them all so much! They are all my brothers and sisters! I got a letter this week from Sister Thayne and Sister Pack, congratulating me on making it to "Hump Day". haha I love them both so much and all the others as well. Anyways, during district meeting, the sister training leaders. Sister Hubner and Sister Lund...I LOVE THEM BOTH....talked about the day we received our mission calls. They had our district leader, Elder Christiansen, read his call as we all sat, with our eyes closed and listened and tried to remember how we felt when we read our call. Well, you best believe I was bawling. I remembered so clearly that wonderful day May 23, 2013, when my life changed forever. It's funny because I sat there, thinking about that day and remembered how immediately when I read "Finland Helsinki Mission" I knew that is exactly where I was supposed to go. I think our mission calls are included in our "Preparing to go to Earth" packets up in heaven so when we read it on earth, it's like we remember something we knew before. We aren't learning something new, just remembering a part of us that we hadn't realized yet. Anyways, it was a super inspiring district meeting and that night, I recommitted myself to the work for the next 9 months! I want to look back on my mission with no regret! Does that mean I will be perfect? Heck no! But I know I can do my best every single day, and that's all Heavenly Father expects of me!

We had a lesson with Tomi and Maria this week. It was awesome! Sisar Pace and I were both pretty scared just because these guys are awesome and we really want things to work out! We went into their home and sat and talked with them about their lives and beliefs and their expectations of our visits. We realized, as we were sitting there A, teaching people, not lessons is so important, and B, these people really just want to have a strong family. They want their kids to have good values and are doing their best to achieve that. They have 4 boys, 2 are baptismal age and they are just awesome. They are former investigators as well and it's funny because on the record, it said how they don't want to change and are too set in their ways. Granted, I only have met them like 3 times, but the spirit we felt in their home was so strong. I know they will be members. Tomi is going to be the Branch President!

So Jan....oh boy...Jan...what a gem! He is a way cool guy! We had a lesson scheduled with him on Wednesday and literally, I kid you not, EVERY SINGLE WOMAN IN OUR BRANCH WAS BUSY. We could not find someone to save our lives. I was so frustrated and stressed. It ended up that we had to move the appointment to the following day. Thankfully Jan was super cool about it. But anyways, we kept trying to get members to come for the following day and literally no woman could come. It was insane. I was like "Ok, it's been hard to get members to lessons before but literally, this have never happened." Sister Pace and I were sitting there at lunch and I just looked up at her and said, "I think we need to pray." We prayed together and then both went and prayed individually. We came back together and literally, we both said at the exact same time, "The elders need to teach Jan." Man...not going to lie, I did not want to give our golden boy away, but, for some reason, we knew we had to. So we told the elders about the church tour, they found this really cool, hipster member to go with them, and now Jan and Patrick...the hipster...are best friends! Seriously, the Lord works in mysterious ways. I learned a valuable lesson though. Sisar Pace and I both did. We realized that our pride was getting in the way of the Lord's work. Yes, we needed to find Jan, but Jan needs to be taught by the elders. I don't know why, but he does. It's kind of funny how literally nothing was working out and the second we "let go" it all worked out perfectly. Heavenly Father knows best. But yes, that is the update on Jan! He will probably get baptized which would be awesome so keep praying for him!! I know you all do!

Funny side note: our sink got clogged this week so I learned a lot of new exciting vocab like clogged, hairball, drain, pipe, and repairman. hahaha I had to call our landlord and then the building man and I tried to explain what was wrong...I think he caught on pretty quick that I don't speak finnish very well so he hung up on me and just came over and fixed the drain! It was hilarious! oh man, the mission life! There is nothing better!!

We didn't get to meet with Tuulia's kids all last week. of others really gets you sometimes. She doesn't answer her phone and it's super frustrating because I know, the second we start meeting regularly with those kids, they are going to be baptized. Pray for them and that Tuulia and Caius will be open to us coming over! I love this family so much and want them to be baptized! They need the church now more than ever!! 

Sister Pace and I are doing a lot better. I have this list in the back of my journal called "Lessons learned as a lähetyssaarnaja". I added to the list this week, "There is no person you cannot love once you hear their story." That happened this week. Sisar Pace is pretty incredible. I have never met, hung out with, associated with anyone like her in my life, but I love her. I really do. She teaches me new things every single day! She really is so wonderful! 

I have to tell you all about my experience with church this week. Church is the place of miracles. I was doing pretty well this week, in spite of not having a lot of success until about Saturday night. After we had planned for the day, I just felt this wave of despair and hopelessness crash into me. The worst part is, I know it was a choice. I made the choice to be disappointed. I felt the hope leave me. I have tried so hard for 7 months to work with these members. I have tried to motivate them by duty, responsibility, making them cookies, doing service for them, and it's still just like pulling teeth sometimes to get people on lessons. I love all the members of the church, especially in Finland, but man, I was just so frustrated! I went to bed that night feeling pretty sad and woke up Sunday morning and just felt sick. I didn't want to go to church. Of course we went, but I was sitting in sacrament meeting and I just felt tired. I felt heavy. I felt no motivation to do anything. 

During the actual sacrament, my first Sunday in Vaasa flashed through my head. I remembered looking at all the members as I bore my testimony and the love I felt for each of them. I saw Sisar Eriksson who said to me, "I always save a seat next to me so when my husband comes, he has a place." Her husband is less active. He doesn't come to church. Talk about hope. I saw Sisar Raitila whose husband isn't a member, yet who brings her daughters to church every week and is the district young women president. I saw Sisar Vuorinen whose kids are all less active and whose husband isn't a member, yet she still comes to church every week and is always kind to those who don't have many friends. I thought of Sisar Nieminen who lives alone and tries to share the gospel as much as she can with literally everyone she meets and I saw the Bishop's family, the Alahäivälä's. Their two oldest sons are blind, Sisar Alahäivälä literally does EVERYTHING. She is amazing and Veli Alahäivälä works so hard for his wonderful family and for this ward. Not only did I feel love for these people, but I felt the same way I felt after leaving Larsmo, "I am not worthy to be serving with these people. They are incredible." Really they are. They do so much. The thing about Finland is that these members, the ones we are working with now are still in the process of building the foundation of the church here. It's so easy sometimes to get frustrated and think, "Well, why don't wehave ward missionaries?" or "Why doesn't our BML even live in Vaasa?" But the thing is, we...all of us here together are building this foundation so in 5 years, 10 years, 50 years, the church here in Finland will literally not be able to accommodate all the people who will want to come in, just to feel a little bit of the spirit. I know that day will come. These members don't need to be guilt-tripped into anything. They need love, support, and they need our help. I do not feel worthy to be here, but I am so grateful to be! Sisar Pace shared this poem with me this week. I really love it and it pretty much sums up how I have felt about being a missionary here in Finland. It's called, "Love". The young man is a missionary...substitute young woman in there if that applies to you :) but it really has such a great message:

The young man walked down the city street
in a strange land, with his own now far away.
And his newness clashed with the echoing beat
Of horse carts and cobbled streets. And they say
He preached of a better world to those who loved their own,
And he prayed, "Oh God, I would my good be known!"

And no one understood.

The young man stopped in the pitted road, 
His manner not so shiny now, and gazed 
At humble folk, their backs bent 'neath their heavy load.
And vaguely sensed the meaning of eternal days.
And preached, "Come follow me that you might have rest."
And prayed, "Oh, God, help me to do my best."

And few men understood.

The young man trudged down the country lane,
No stranger now he came, still searching for those paths to roam,
But somehow unashamed, a little older now he came.
And deep within his heart he sang, "This place is home."
And he preached the brotherhood of man, and peace and charity;
And prayed, "Oh, Lord, that I may be worthy of such as these
In some far eternity."

And lo, he understood.

I love that so much! Also, Sister Thayne sent me this quote in her letter she wrote me and I LOVE IT and want to share it with you:

There once was a man who had a huge boulder placed before him. The Savior came to him and told him to push the stone out of the way. Day after day and week after week he pushed and strained to move the stone with no success. The devil came and discouraged him after not moving the stone even an inch. He started to lose faith. He complained to the Savior that there was no way he could ever do this and that it was a waste of time. The Savior replied "Look at your arms, they have received strength. Look at your shoulders, they have grown so broad. Look at your back, chest, and your legs, they have become stronger. Your job is to push, my job is to remove." And with that, he removed the stone.

I love that so much. I can't move the stone/boulder on my own. But it's not my job to move it, it's my job to push. I know I can push everyday. I can give my all and work as hard as I possibly can and if I do that, whatever happens will be according to the Lord's will. There is always sunlight through the clouds. In Finland, there is always sunlight...period. hahaha but I know that sometimes getting the rock rolling is the hardest part! I know God is here with us and he is helping us! Thank you for your prayers! I feel them everyday! I love you all and hope you have a blast up in BEAR LAKE!!! Get nice and tan for me! :)


Sisar Olivia Bitner

P.S. Something Finnish for the week....CROCS AND SOCKS MAN!! They all rock the crocs and socks! It's hilarious! I miss my crocs! You are all wonderful and I love you!!!

Oh and mom, your no-bake cookies are changing Finland! Thanks for the recipes! :) 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

9 months down...9 to go baby!! WOOOHOOO!!!

    HELLOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! Man, where do I even begin! Probably should talk about the title of my halfway mark is on Wednesday...HOLY COW. Where does the time go? I seriously can't believe it! I have so many different little "rites of passage" to do on Wednesday that I have saved for my halfway point! I can't tell you what they are though...that would ruin the fun :) This is nuts! Also, did anyone else just realize other than me that being a sister missionary is like expecting a baby twice...two sets of 9 months...kind of an interesting perspective...was that inappropriate to say? I don't know :) , but anyways, it has been the most incredible 9 months of my life! I have loved every second. Hardest 9 months of my life...uh YES! Would I trade them for anything? Uh...NO!! I love being a missionary and I love that I have 9 months more of this wonderful life! It's the best!!!

    2nd thing...OH MY GOODNESS YOU MET SISTER FRONK!!! Holy cow...I about died when I looked at your pictures...yes I am crying! She looks like she belongs in our family! She is so wonderful and I am so happy you got to meet her! She really is one of my best friends and I am just so glad you were there! This is the best day ever!! 

   3rd thing...EMMA RUSSELL IS GOING TO PERU!!!! Holy cow....this is insanity! Emma, I don't even know if you read this, but I am SOOO excited for you! Seriously, you are going to love being a missionary! How cool that you are leaving at basically the same time I left! It is a great time to be in the MTC!! Wait, you will probably actually go to Peru, huh? Oh are way too cool! :) They are going to love you down there and you are going to love being a missionary! I am so excited for you and I love you so much!! Send me your e-mail so we can be besties/sisters/cousins forever!! hahaha I love you!!

    Wow, I have been looking forward to emailing this whole week! I knew you were going to meet Sister Fronk and that Emma should have received her call! I have been reflecting a lot this week about all the things I have learned on my mission. Actually, that's false, I don't have time to think about all the things I have learned on my mission. But I hope you all know, more than anything how much I love Heavenly Father and my Savior and this work! It is so wonderful. I don't know what else to say about it! It's amazing how hard it is and how many struggles you have, but the joy you feel is like nothing else I have ever experienced. It's funny because it's not just even joy doing the day to day things we do as missionaries, but your love for EVERYONE increases. That includes all your family, friends, and all the people who influenced your life for good before your mission and all the people who have influenced it during your mission. Honestly, I know I am so happy because I love you all so much! I love the Finns so much! I love my companions so much! I just love everything. It's amazing what can happen to us as we allow the love of Christ to fill our lives. That comes as we pray for his love to fill us. Anyways...I just LOVE you all with a capital/capitol (#dontrememberenglish) L! You are so wonderful!!

    Well, this week on "Something Finnish", let's talk about Angry Birds. BTW, I really can't remember all the things I have already told you, so if some of this is repeated, then sorry and this is really embarrassing, but hey, you can never know too much about the same thing, right? Anyways, I don't know if you know this, but the creator of Angry Birds is from Finland. If anyone wants to know why that is funny, come and try to sleep through the night in Finland. The birds are MENTAL. They sit outside and squawk and chirp and beep and buzz and cry and yell and scream and do every other sound you could think of. Seriously, it's amazing. I think they have some sort of an "Angry Bird Orchestra" that performs outside our apartment building each night. Luckily we have a fan, so we can't hear too much during the night, but they are always there without fail in the morning. Anyways, I guess some Finnish man thought they were pretty crazy as well, but he decided to do something constructive with his whining so he created Angry Birds and is now making billions of dollars! So there ya fact for the day!!

    Oh yes, little is really hot in Finland...let me 'splain....they don't have air conditioning in their homes or buildings because... it's not usually necessary...but man, on those days when it is warm outside, we cook like little dough balls. Especially in the is nice and toasty! I am hot as I am sitting writing this email in the church! I know it's not anything to South America or Mexico or the Philippines, but's roasty toasty! I sort of have a tan skin went from translucent to how it was when I was born! I am coming back to life! :)

    Sisar Pace and I are doing pretty well. I have never had so many disagreements with a companion before, however, and it's really hard for me to understand her. She has a lot of really good ideas, and I really made it a priority and goal at the beginning of this training experience to acknowledge and try her ideas. I wanted her to know that I am her trainer, she is my trainee, but we are also companions and I value her opinion. She is very wise and an incredible missionary, but she does think that it should be her way or the highway. She likes to say, "It's not like I think I am better than you or anything, but I think you should do this like this" or "You should probably work on that" or "If I were you, I would do things this way". Not going to's hard not to let it bug me and to just shrug it off. We have extremely different sense of humors, and what she says are jokes, I would only say to someone if I really wanted to insult them. I have been praying SO HARD that I would be able to love her and understand her, because honestly, sometimes it's hard. I don't know everything, but I do know some things, especially stuff I have learned on my mission.

     Anyways, yesterday she decided to tell me, ever so sweetly, some of the things she thinks I do wrong and I just looked at her and said, "Sister Pace, I respect you and your opinions, but you are asking me to change who I am and to become who you are. You are wonderful, but I cannot and should not be you. We are different for a reason and if I do things that really irritate you, please let me know so I can work on them, but we need to work together and we CANNOT be critical of each other or this will never work." Dad and Mom, your letters last week helped me more than you know...they have been running over in my head all week, but anyways, we had a good talk, and I really listened to her and asked her questions about her friends, family, and her life. It's amazing how the more you learn about someone and their background, the harder it is to be frustrated with them. Yes, she is super sassy. Yes, she hurts my feelings a lot, but I know she doesn't mean it. This is really good for me and I hope for her as well. I am learning how to not get offended...EVER...and I don't really know what I am teaching her, but I am sure it's something. It's amazing how on those days when I pray REALLY hard that I will love her, I do, and the work and everything else goes so much better! Christ's love man, it's the only way to go! We can love anyone when we love them with the love of Christ. I know that is true, 100%!

    Anyways, We had a pretty good week this week! We had the best day ever scheduled for Tuesday. We had an appointment with Chau in the morning, a lesson with Jan and two awesome YSA's from our ward, and then a church tour with Markkus scheduled with this YSA who is always super busy, but had time to come on Tuesday. Then we had 2 dinner appointments with members and a lesson scheduled with our Less active, part member family that we are working with. Monday night, I looked at our schedule and thought, "Dang...this has the potential to be the best, most productive, successful day of my mission." So I went to sleep with flowers and sunshine in my head...woke up next morning to both of our investigator lessons cancelling, but oddly enough, I wasn't frustrated. I really felt like we did all that we could do and put it in the Lord's hands. Everybody goes on vacation in Finland during the summer...members included. It's hard to get people to lessons, but we are REALLY trying and the Lord is blessing us for our efforts! Anyways, those two appointments fell through so we haven't met with Markkus or Jan yet, but pray for them. We have appointments scheduled for this week!!

    On Tuesday night, we met with the Less Active/Part Member family. The mom, Tuulia, and the husband, Caius, are divorced. Both finnish. Both still members. Both less active. Both in our ward. Kind of an awkward situation. Anyways, they have 5 kids, 2 have been baptized and 3 are baptismal age, but haven't been baptized yet because they don't come to church. The bishop has really been wanting us to focus on them lately, and we have tried, but they just don't answer calls and are always busy. Anyways, thanks to Heavenly Father, we had an appointment with them on Monday. I am not going to lie, I was TERRIFIED!!! There was a lot riding on this lesson and I just felt super inadequate. I know that is a tool Satan uses to get at all of his missionaries, but I just remembered what Sister Fronk told me before she left, "If you love the people you work with, you will never fail." I decided right then and there just to love Tuulia and her kids as much as I could. We got to know them a little bit and she was super warm and friendly. I was actually really surprised and was feeling pretty good, but then I knew that we needed to bring up the fact that we want to teach her kids. I said a quick prayer in my heart, and just told her, "Hey, we would love to come and teach your kids about the gospel." She smiled and said, "Of course, I would love that too." I asked her little daughter, Ronya, if she would like to learn more about Jesus, and she said, "Kyllä. Minä uskon Jumalaan ja Jeesukseen," or "Yes. I believe in God and Jesus." I love primary age kids. Seriously, they have the most pure spirits and desires. It's incredible. I just feel so bad for this sweet little family though. It's a really sad situation. Tuulia has kind of been barking up the wrong tree. She has a 20 year old boyfriend...she is 45...and he lives with her and her kids. The spirit in their home was so sad. I just walked out feeling pretty junky. I know that they need the light of the gospel back into their lives and in their home. Pray for Tuulia, Ronya, Caspian, Benjamin, Tiina, and Caspar. They are awesome and we hope to see them baptized soon!!

    We have/had this investigator in Seinäjoki, Anna. She is pretty pushing 85, but she comes to church every Sunday and just LOVES it. She is super hilarious and half the time, I have no idea what she is talking about. We have taught her on and off ever since I have been in Seinäjoki and Vaasa. This week, we decided that we would ask her to be baptized and kind of gauge the situation from there. We went to her house and she proceeded to tell us how Jesus appeared to her and told her that she should stay in the church she is in. Man, I hate when that happens :) JK but we are giving her to the Lord for awhile! Seriously, the funny situations you find yourself in as a missionary are priceless! I love it so much!!

    We had an awesome day on Sunday. We went to church...ilmeisesti....isn't church the greatest thing in the world? I look forward to it like none other! Yesterday, the meeting was wonderful as always! Not going to lie, I know I am going to miss singing the hymns in Finnish! But after church, we finished our studies and then we set off to go heart attack some ward members, contact a referral, and go visit a member family. I love heart attacking people. It's such a small, dorky, sister missionary thing, but man...PEOPLE LOVE IT! Especially in Finland. I have told you how they don't express love very often, so when two american girls plaster big, bright hearts all over your door telling you how much they love you, it is a bit out of the ordinary, but man...they always either call us, text us, or talk to us in church about it. We had a dinner appointment this week with the Pettersson family...the wife is Finnish and the husband is Swedish, and they are wonderful! They have only lived in Vaasa for a year, but are always willing to help us with anything. Anyways, we heart attacked them and last night at like 10:25, Sisar Pettersson calls us, crying, and says, "Sisters, thank you SO much. How did you know we had been praying to feel loved and needed in this ward. You are angels. We love you both so much."'s times like that where you just sit there and smile and think, "Is there anything better than serving others?" No, there really isn't!

    We received this referral from a member about 3 weeks ago. His name is Zhang Feng...yes, yes, HE IS CHINESE!! I love CHINA!!! I love the people, I love the food, I just love them! Anyways, I have been pretty persistent about getting in contact with this referral A, because it's a referral, B, because he is chinese, and C, because the member who gave him to us said that he didn't know much about him, but felt like he had a great heart. Enough said! :) Anyways we have tried and tried and tried to contact this guy, but he is never home. Yesterday we decided that it would be the last time we would try to contact him. We show up to his door, all sweaty and dirty cause we bike everywhere, not expecting him to answer, but guess what? He his rubber ducky pajamas! It was awesome! We had a great discussion with him at his door and gave him a Book of Mormon and invited him to a church tour on Saturday. He was so nice and way excited. We actually just received a text from him saying that he talked to his "mentor" in China and the mentor said that he couldn't meet with us. I'm pretty sure when he said "mentor" he meant "De-mentor". Who does that? Satan is working so hard to keep China closed. They really are the best people. Anyways, we want to take him a chinese Book of Mormon...we can't interfere with the laws of the land where we don't live or serve....go figure...but anyways...maybe something will come up! He is a wonderful guy and HE IS CHINESE! I have nothing further to say! :)

    Anyways, after we contacted Zhang, we rode our bikes to the Raitila's house. Sidenote: I love riding my bike more than anything in the world. It is my new simple pleasure. It's coming home with me! :) But we had an awesome lesson with their family. Sisar Raitila is a supermom...Mom, you two would be great friends, she reminds me so much of you. Their daughters are adorable and are so sweet to us when we come. Their dad isn't a member, but the elders are working with him. Sisar Raitila bore her testimony yesterday about hope and how even though they don't know when their dad will join the church, they know he will and that makes every day worth living. Man, talk about rockstars. These members are amazing and I just love them all SO MUCH!! It's the best place in the world. Plus they gave us watermelon! It was way delicious! :)

    Oh, way funny story, so we were trying to find the Raitila's house through this neighborhood. Sister Pace was navigating...we take turns navigating...and we were totally and completely lost. Neither of us knew where we were. We were driving down this neighborhood street and I glanced over at this house and saw a big flower in the window. I kind of smiled and thought, "That was a pretty flower," but kept going along. The spirit hit my like a bag of bricks and said, "That flower was attached to a shirt...someone was staring at you...go back and talk to them." I rang my bike bell...yes I have a bike bell...and told Sister Pace we had to go check this house. We walked our bikes up to the door and this older couple comes out and I asked, "Sorry, we are lost, can you help us?" The husband turns around and goes back inside, but the wife, Maija, stayed outside and was looking at the map, trying to help us at least find where we were. All of a sudden, her husband...probably in his 70s comes out carrying his bike and said, "Follow Me". I was like, "Oh my goodness, you don't have to take us over there, we just wanted to see where he were." He muttered something in finnish and waved his hand at us, as if to say, "Oh please, you will never find this place alone," haha but anyways, there we were, an old finnish man, Sister Pace and I biking through the Finnish forest. He got us right to the Raitila's house. We thanked him as he started to drive away, but Sister Pace and I both felt like we should take them cookies later this week to say thank you and hopefully to talk about the gospel, cause that's what we do. :) Anyways, it was a pretty funny experience...first time it's ever happened to me! It was awesome!!

    Anyways, I have been thinking a lot this week about happiness. I was pretty sad at the beginning of the week. I really don't like when people are frustrated with me and I felt my companion was and I was just like, "Dang it...what am I going to do?" I prayed a all day...and just asked Heavenly Father to help me know what to do. The answer came so directly, it kind of caught me off guard. I was sitting one night, writing in my journal and the thought came to me, "Don't let your happiness be dependent on anything, especially someone else's opinion of you. You will have a long, unhappy life if that's how you decide whether or not to be happy." Two things caught my attention from that answer, A, it doesn't matter who it is, whether it's a companion or a spouse or a best friend or a parent or a sibling, whoever....our happiness cannot be dependent on another person. That song from "Tea for Two" kept coming into my mind this week, "I want to be happy, but I won't be happy, til I make you happy too." That song is a lie! :) Just kidding, it's a cute sappy, love song, but in the end, it's really true that we can't become so dependent on another "person" that whatever they say or do affects us to the point of making us happy or sad. Yes, we need to love everyone as the Savior loves them, but I know for a fact that when people said rude things to him or when people he loved did stupid things, it made him sad, but he didn't wallow in it or distract him from his true purpose. He pushed forward with love in his heart and served those around him. What a wonderful person!

    But, I realized that it really is our decision to be happy. We literally have a choice, everyday when we wake up to decide how we are going to respond to situations during the day. I don't really know how to feel about that. It kind of puts some weird kind of pressure on us, but it also gives me such a sense of freedom. It doesn't matter where we are, who we are with, or what we are doing, if we rely on the Lord, put our trust in Him, and love those around us, we will not be able to stop ourselves from being happy. I have seen so many people in my life who have "put their trust in the arm of the flesh" and have suffered for it. It's a good lesson to learn, yes, but we can't put our trust in a sandy foundation. It's like in Helaman 5:12, if we build our foundation on Jesus Christ, we will NEVER fail. Never. It's impossible. 

    I love being happy. I hate being sad. Honestly, the greatest desire of my heart is that everyone can be happy. The best part is, the way to be truly, truly happy is to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. You are all wonderful missionaries. You live your lives every day, thinking people don't notice, but trust me, they do. You are making a bigger difference than you know, just by being who you are. Heavenly Father loves each one of you so much. I know that is true because every night when I pray for you, I ask him to bless you and keep you all safe and to help you know that I love you and he loves you, and I feel his love for you come into my heart, and that multiplies and perfects my love for you. It's amazing how much Heavenly Father loves each of us. He really does. If you don't believe it, just ask him to see yourself through his eyes. I promise, you will never be the same again! The gospel is real. God's love is real. Pure, Christ like love can change the world. It has changed me forever and I am beyond grateful for it! You are the most wonderful people I know. Mom, Dad, Jocelyn, Anne, Lauren, Luke, Caroline, and everyone else who tries to read this and gets bored cause it's so are the most wonderful people I know. Be who you are. Invite others to do things with you. Help them experience the joy that we have because we know we can be together forever. What greater blessing is that? Have we not great reason to rejoice??!! I love you all so much and hope you have the best week in the history of forever!!! MINÄ RAKASTAN TEITÄ!!!! 

    Ether 12:4 It's my favorite scriptures! The gospel is our anchor! Make sure it's tied to a solid foundation! :)


    Sisar Bitner

    P.S. I have thought about Nauvoo SOOOO much this week. It is the loveliest place, and the best people under the heavens! I love you all! LET ZION IN HER BEAUTY RISE!!! :) 

Land of the free, Home of the Brave...Happy Birthday America!!!

    Well, well, the heck are you all doing? First are beautiful...all of you...just had to get that out of the way! I LOVED all the pics you sent of the fourth...seriously I felt like I was there in spirit! Dad...congrats on the float! You are awesome and I was so proud to see you in the most wonderful parade in the world...that of Grantsville, UT! BTW, there is a Sister here from fact for the day! :) Anyways, it was so great to be a part of your fourth of July! I wore my stars and red skirt...I have been planning this outfit since I bought this shirt! Isn't America the best! I love Finland, but man, a lot of Finns were rocking the red, white, and was actually super funny and I just felt such love for America! We sang every single American hymn in my little english hymn book and, not gonna lie, I got a little teary eyed! We are so blessed to live in the promised land! America was made for the gospel to come forth! What a blessed land! One of the senior sisters made 4th of July cookies and played American music on her iPad at zone meeting and it was awesome!! Too bad I was in a skirt or I would have been doing cartwheels and running all over the church! America is the best!! I love it and I love you all!!

    Oh mom, you said you were going to send my package off next week...I was wondering if you could send me a curling iron or a wand or something so I can change up the hair...9 months of straight hair kind of gets you down! :) Just kidding but that would be wonderful! Also, my little speakers in my room I got for Christmas! I think they need batteries, but I would love to have them so I can jam out to my EFY tunes in my apartment! Ask my if i know the words to every song from Yes, I do! My favorites are "Not the only One" and "Brand New Year". They are my pump up songs! haha anyways you are the best!! I love you!!

    Well, this week was pretty crazy! I am sorry my letter last week was kind of debby downer and sad! I was/still am sort of overwhelmed, but we are getting into our rhythm and I feel as though once again, Jesus Christ is helping me every step of the way! It's funny how easy it is to forget that. It's sad actually. He is always there and sometimes we...for some unknown reason...try to take everything on our back. He is standing there saying, "Uh, I can help you...let me take some of that" and we look up with our sweaty, dirty, tear stained faces and say, "No, I want to carry it all. I can do it alone. I just need more time." I can imagine what it must feel like to stand there and watch us helplessly go through things we don't have to go through alone. He loves us so much. I know he does. I have felt his love for me and for everyone I know too many times to think otherwise. The trick is giving all our heart and soul to him. I know he will take care of us!

    Anyways, on Tuesday, I was feeling pretty bummed. I just felt like all hope for missionary work in Finland had flown out of me and I was watching it fly up into the sky. It was horrible. I felt so depressed and old and tired and just awful. I tried to cover it up as best I could...but I am horrible at hiding my all know that. Sister Pace has been an answer to my prayers this week. On Tuesday, during weekly planning, she looked at me and said, "Sister Bitner, I want you to read this." She handed me this packet that she had received in the MTC during In-field orientation! It was a case study about a sister missionary who served in a ward in America where missionary work was dead. The members in this ward were AWESOME...much like in Finland...but they are pretty content to stay where they are...much like in Finland. As I read this case study and how this sister missionary got the members excited, I started bawling. I know...pretty pathetic...I am sorry to disgrace the Bitner name by my emotional breakdown, but man, I felt like I was reading my mission. I felt like everything this sister expressed, every emotion, frustration, and situation are the same things we deal with in Finland. Now, I don't mean to make this sound like "Oh poor me", but it's reality. Finland is the best mission in the world...duh...but it is hard. Hard work and not a ton of success. But this sister was in a similar situation and instead of getting depressed and I was beginning to...she completely changed how she was doing her missionary work. She gave up the tracting and mindlessly roaming the streets, and she focused on doing things as Christ would do them. Exactly as Christ would do them.

    She worked with the members. She loved them, she served them, she wrote them thank you notes, she commented in Relief Society, she was always positive about the area where she served, she got to know the members, she and her companion motivated these members by love...not by guilt. I think as members, it is really easy to feel guilty. We never feel like we do enough, even when we do. Then on top of that, to have missionaries come over and guilt trip you about not doing missionary work doesn't sound very motivating. Now, believe you me, we do NOT try to guilt trip anyone...but the attitude of missionary work in this mission has really honestly been one of frustration. "Why don't the members ever give us referrals? Why don't they feed us? Why won't they come on lessons?" I have had those same thoughts...not going to lie. But this week, I realized my approach for 7 months has been wrong. Yes, I have loved the members, but in the back of my mind, those frustrations and thoughts have been roaming around. Definitely not as Christ-like as I should have been!

    Anyways, we decided to put this to the test. All of our investigators had fallen off the face of the earth and we literally had nothing at the beginning of this week. We had one finnish investigator, Sirkka who was out of town. We looked at our week and thought, "Well, what would Jesus do if he were here?" We started serving. We had a dinner appointment with the Nåsman family...President Nåsman is the district president here. They are wonderful and always have us over for dinner, but it has been kind of hard to get them involved in missionary work. Not because of them, but honestly, we just haven't known how to work with them. They are kind of intimidating.

     Anyways, we were planning the lesson we wanted to share with them I said, "I think we should talk to them about starting a family mission plan." We have really been focusing lately on getting members these "family mission plans". Sister Pace just kind of sat there, staring at me, and then she said, "I think we should talk about how much we love being missionaries in Finland." Uh...I just sat there like, "Oh, you little greenie, sweet to think that would work." But, I figured, what the heck? We have nothing to lose. We got to the Nåsman's and it was just Sister Nåsman. she is the nicest lady in the world, but she speaks finnish SOOOOO fast and has great style and is beautiful...she reminds me of my mom...except for the speaking finnish part :) but I don't know why, I have always kind of been intimidated by her. But as we talked more with her, I felt this love for her and her family spring into my heart. All frustration I had with, finnish, members, lack of investigators, just left me and we had the most wonderful conversation. We were all laughing and chatting and just having a great time. The most optimistic, happy spirit was in their home. After lunch, we got ready to share our spiritual message. Sister Pace started it out, (gotta get these greenies working :) and she shared Ether 12:4 which says, "Wherefore, whose believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God." She talked about how it is so easy to forget the "Why" of missionary work. It's interesting because I think we always remember the "How" or "What" of missionary work or maybe more realistically, we always remember "I don't know HOW" or I don't know WHAT to do", but we forget WHY we do it. We do missionary work because this gospel, this church, this doctrine is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to any of us. It is the light of our lives. It is our joy. Our loving Heavenly Father has asked us to give it to his children who don't know about it yet. That's why we share it.

    Then I felt prompted to share D&C 84:88 which says, "And whose receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up." Sister Pace had totally invited the spirit and it was SO strong. I just testified of how much I love their family. I told her how much I love Finland and being a missionary here and that my greatest desire honestly is to see this branch grow! I testified of angels being with us to give us strength and courage when we feel we have none. We were all a little teary and it was the most wonderful feeling! Sister Nåsman looked at us and said, "Who are you teaching right now? I want you to bring them to our home to teach them." She also asked us to come do service with her in her yard this week. Now, I don't know if I can explain the magnitude of what just happened. The Finns don't like to accept help. We offer, but they say, "No, we are fine." They are so independent and I love that about them, but man, it's rough when you want to offer service. We have asked the Nåsman's for service opportunities and tried and tried to figure out who and how we could teach in their home, and it hasn't ever worked. For 3 months. But this time, just because we taught completely by all came to pass without us doing anything. It was incredible. 

    Sister Pace is incredible. Missionary work is incredible. I have learned SO much from Sister Pace and it is amazing to me how much training has changed in the MTC even since I was there. They are teaching missionaries how to do missionary work in the most effective way possible...completely by LOVE. Christ-like love can change the world. The work of salvation is hastening right before our eyes and literally right before my eyes. My companion has just come out of the most wonderful training in the world and she has completely changed what I think missionary work is. The reality's love. We love people, so we want to talk to them and help their families. We love the members so we want to help them feel needed and to serve them. My focus has been too much on "Finding the Elect" by my own efforts. Heavenly Father, through President Rawlings and my new companion has shown me a new way. Find the Elect through the people that Heavenly Father has allowed to be in Vaasa right now. Use the Members. They will lead us to the elect!

    Anyways, we went on splits up in Oulu on Thursday...5 hour train ride later :) and we met President Watson and his wife on Friday during Zone Meeting. They are AWESOME!! There was such a special spirit when both of them talked. You could literally feel and see the love they had for each of us coming out of them! It was so great! President Watson talked completely about love and how each of us needs to pray in every prayer we say to be filled with the Love of Christ. He promised us that it will change our lives. I have started doing that and would challenge you all to do the same. Our worlds, our lives, will never be the same as we do this!

    So, as you can tell, I was feeling pretty good about missionary work...but then I looked at our teaching pool...and our empty schedule for next week and was just like..."Man...dang it." That's seriously what went through my head. We went to Seinäjoki for church this week and as I was sitting there kind of mulling things over in my mind, our former investigator...whom we had dropped a few months ago...comes walking into church, sits down next to me and says, "I want to meet with you guys again." Uh, what? Boom, 1 new investigator. Oh funny story, while we were driving to Seinäjoki, we pull up to a stoplight and there was a cop there. He signaled for me to pull over, muttered something in Finnish, and held out a little white tube with a little handheld machine attached to it. I about died. I was like, "what in the world is going on?" Ya, I was being drug tested. Thank heavens for the word of wisdom! Anyways, funny story, but good news is I passed! You can all stop worrying now! :)

    We had a dinner appointment on Sunday after church with the Relief Society President in our ward in Vaasa whose husband is less active. Sister Pace and I were still recovering from the shock of Anna showing up to church, but we both felt like we should go the way of "love" again. We did a similar message and then the thought came to tell Sisar Eriksson about the "BOO" idea that we do in Utah. You know where someone makes cookies and drops it off at a member's house and then it goes around the whole ward? Anyways, I explained that to her and asked if we could come start this little idea with her, and she was kind of hesitant. Her husband was still sitting at the table, sleeping, but he woke up and walked off to his office...he doesn't usually stay for the spiritual messages. Anyways, Sister Eriksson said, "I don't really know" but then from the office we hear her husband yell, "I have a recipe for chocolate chip cookies...when are you guys coming over?" I will never forget Sister Eriksson's face. She smiled the biggest smile I have ever seen and basically jumped a foot in the air and said, "Oh yes, this is such a great idea, when can you come...Oh can we give them to this family, oh how about this family, oh this family would love this.." and so on and so forth. Her husband came out of his office with his chocolate chip cookie recipe in hand and a HUGE smile on his face. He said, "These are so good. Come over and Tuesday and we will make them with you." Oh my goodness. Less Actives offering to bake cookies with the Sisters...what??

    As we were walking from the Eriksson's, still completely flabbergasted, we get a call from an unknown number. I answer and say, "Moi, Sisaret täällä!" or "Hello, this is the Sisters" and this guy says, "Well finally I get a hold of you. I met you on the street two months ago and you gave me your card. I have decided I want to learn about your church. Can you meet with me on Tuesday at 4:30?" Uh....what? New investigator number 2. His name is Markkus. 

    Then....THEN....later Sunday night, we were sitting doing some 12 week program study, and our phone rings again. It is our friend Jan, whom we met last week while trying to contact a referral. He said he was too busy to meet last week, so he didn't become a new investigator, but this week he calls and says, "Um, do you know the Nåsman family?" I said "Of course we do, they are awesome!" And he said, "my little brother is best friend with their son Thomas (Thomas is a missionary in Taiwan right now) and I would really like to meet them and talk with you a little bit more about your church. Can you meet on Tuesday at 2?" OH MY GOSH. I seriously am still pinching myself right now to know if this is really true. New investigator number 3 and he wants to meet with the Nåsmans. All Finns. All from us doing NOTHING but loving the people and serving those whom God has given us to love. What is this? I am still shocked.

    But just wait, it gets better. So there is this less active family in our ward. Well part member, less active family. The parents are both members but got a divorce and haven't been to church since the divorce. They have 5 kids, 3 boys and 2 girls. The boys are all over the age of 8 but have not been baptized. At the beginning of my change with Sister Fronk, we established a vision for Vaasa based on what this branch needed. What we came out with is 2 youth baptisms...we only have 1 young man in our branch, 6 member families implementing mission plans, and 1 reactivation. Well we have wanted to teach this family for a long time, but the mom won't answer our calls or answer the door when we visit. Last night as we were starting to plan, we get a call on the phone from THE MOTHER OF THIS FAMILY. She asked if we were available tomorrow night, meaning Monday, to come and start teaching her kids about the gospel. I SERIOUSLY CANNOT BELIEVE WHAT IS GOING ON. After today we will have 6 new investigators...all Finns...all fit our vision...and we have made friends with the less active husband of our Relief Society President. 

    "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail - But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him." Moroni 7:46-47

    I seriously cannot even tell you how amazing this week was. I really don't know what else to say other than the church is true. All of this is real. It's God's work. When we do it his way, we can't fail. I love this gospel. It's so worth it to go through the muck to experience these wonderful miracles. I love the Savior. I love you all!!

    Oh, "Something Finnish" for the week...the strawberries in Finland are TO DIE FOR. They have little stands all over the place and they taste like sugar. They are pretty expensive, but we managed to scrimp and save to buy some! Sister Pace said she will make me strawberry shortcake for my birthday! YIPPEEE! You are all so wonderful and I hope you have the most incredible week ever! :) Pray for Jan, Markkus, Anna, Tomi and Maria (Potentials) and Tuulia and her kids and for Veli Eriksson. There can be miracles when you believe! Thank you for your prayers and support! It means the world to me!! I love you all!!!

    Rakkaudella, Sisar Bitner
Sister Pace drew a picture of she and I...that's what I look like studying...she is a goof!! I love her!!

This was my compy for the day in Oulu...Sisar Hubner! She was trained by Sister Egan as well!!

I STILL LOVE AMERICA!! Happy Birthday to the most wonderful place in the world...and yes I am wearing boots in July...yes it is freezing some days...Finland is nuts! I love you!!!