Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Monday, August 4, 2014

Remember that one time...

    Hey guys!!! Remember that one time last p-day when I flipping DELETED MY WHOLE EMAIL I MEANT TO SEND HOME. Man, I can't even tell you how devastated I was. I know...way to be dramatic, but for real, I pour my heart and soul into these emails and to see it all taken away was a big old steak knife to the heart! Speaking of steak...I am seriously craving some Steak Diane right about now...can you send that in my birthday package? haha EW! That would be gross! But anyways,  Hopefully we have all come out alright...I can't promise it won't happen again...but I am saving this about every other sentence so hopefully, it all works out! You are all so wonderful! Thanks for being patient with me! :)

    So first off...BEST PACKAGE EVER!! You guys are too sweet to me! I literally about ate the whole box of Jared Munchies #foreverafatty and tears came to my eyes at the sight of White Cheddar Cheez-its and Sour Punch Straws. You know the way to my heart, that's for sure! :) Thank you so much for the raha dad...that means money...and for all the wonderful letters and other stuff as well!! :) You are all way too good to me but I appreciate it and all of you so much!!!!

    I hope you all had the best week ever! It sounds like Bear Lake was a huge success and that the Bitners still know how to party! :) I heard about the sprinklers....HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA It wouldn't be a camping trip without everything getting completely soaked. You thought you could escape it in Bear Lake and than SHAPOW!! Sprinklers! Heavenly Father has a sense of humor! :) Just kidding...that wasn't his doing, but still, way funny! I love hearing the same story from all your different perspectives! It's way too hilarious and I can just hear you guys each telling me about it! I love you all! Thank you all for being you! You deserve to be told that every single day!!

    Well...I just have so much to say this week...2 whole weeks of not writing...I am about to explode...but we had a really good week this week! A lot of traveling...again...but such is the life of a Vaasa sister! I love it so much! I have to tell you about Monday night. So I kind of have told you a little bit about how Sister Pace has told me "You can be yourself around me, you just cant' do this or this or that or that...oh it also bugs me when you do this and that and..." blah blah blah. Kind of hard to be yourself when someone is putting restrictions on it. Anyways, last LAST week, I really tried to not step on her toes. I know she doesn't like to listen, so I just didn't talk about anything. I wasn't resentful or spiteful or jerky to her, I just didn't say anything about how I was feeling. I know as you are reading this, especially you, family, you are probably thinking, "Oh boy...SHE'S GONNA BLOW". And you are right. I blew up. But was in the sauna in our apartment...did I tell you we have a sauna? We obviously don't use it #lame but it's a great place to pray and to not be alone sometimes. Anyways, I went in the sauna and I just cried. I haven't cried that hard in a LONG time. I know...I probably sound like a baby...but honestly I just told Heavenly Father everything. I prayed for like 1 1/2 hours. Don't worry, it was P-day! :) As I was sitting there, I looked over at my suitcase (unused saunas are great storage spaces) and I had the feeling to look in the front pocket. I looked in there and I had saved a note from my wonderful mother that she sent to me when I was in the MTC. It was so wonderful to see it again...and the one line that stuck out to me was "Thank you for being you." Mom, you said that to me and I needed to hear it SO BADLY on Monday. I am sure you didn't know you would be answering a prayer when you wrote that, but you totally did! I the this sounds way pathetic, but I have thought so much this week about being ourselves. After I read that, I realized that is probably exactly what Heavenly Father would say to each of us if He were standing right next to us. I realized that I am who I am and Heavenly Father loves me for that. What anyone else thinks really doesn't matter. In the end, He will always love us. It's like President Monson said in a Relief Society Meeting a couple years ago, "God's love is simply always there whether we deserve it or not." Thanks mom for being an answer to my prayer...again! I love you!!

    Anyways, after I prayed, Sister Pace and I had a great talk. She really is such a great person. I love her a lot. I think I wrote this in my letter last week but....hahaha....none of you received it....but anyways, I have been praying SO HARD to know how to help her and what I could do so that we could have a good relationship. Two words came to my mind as I prayed....LISTEN and LOVE. I just sat there praying, thinking, "Ok Heavenly Father, it can't be that easy." But I told him I would try it. It has been miraculous! This week she has really opened up to me. She has told me a lot about her life and why she does the things that she does. Granted, it still hurts when she says things sometimes, but I have a greater understanding of the "Why". I know that Heavenly Father is blessing me with love and patience for her and the great thing is, I really do love her so much. She really is a crack up! She always is talking in this voice that sounds like a chipmunk and I always catch her staring at me. Seriously, it's hilarious. I will be eating or driving or talking to someone or reading my scriptures or getting ready and she just comes and stands next to/behind me and stares...and stares...and stares...I usually just let it slide, but this week I said, "Sister Pace, is there something I can do for you?" and she didn't even hear me...she just kept staring. It's an interesting thing being with someone 24/7. Gotta love it. Let's just say the song "I always feel like somebody's watching me" has taken on a whole new meaning for me! I love my greenie! :)

    This week we had splits with the Sister Training Leaders on Tuesday, Sister Hubner and Sister Lund. Sister Hubner trained my BFF from Logan, UT Sisar Pack and Sisar Lund was trained by my best friend Sisar Fronk. Needless to say, I love them both a lot. Sister Lund and I were so fortunate as to be chosen to work in Seinäjoki for the day. Party!! :) It was so wonderful to talk with her and especially to talk about our favorite, Sister Fronk. Sister Fronk, if you are reading this...I love you so much and miss you like crazy! But anyways, we decided together that morning that we were going to follow every little thought we had for the entire day...if it was good. We studied in Preach My Gospel about following the spirit and this is what we read:

    In answer to the question, “How do we recognize the promptings of the Spirit?” President Gordon B. Hinckley read Moroni 7:13, 16–17 and then said: “That’s the test, when all is said and done. Does it persuade one to do good, to rise, to stand tall, to do the right thing, to be kind, to be generous? Then it is of the Spirit of God. …

    “If it invites to do good, it is of God. If it inviteth to do evil, it is of the devil. … And if you are doing the right thing and if you are living the right way, you will know in your heart what the Spirit is saying to you.

    “You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit—that which enlighteneth, that which buildeth up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God” 

    I love that so much! Following the spirit isn't always easy. Sometimes it's easy to think, "Well that was probably just me thinking that," or "We really don't have time" or "Would God really tell me to do that?" The problem with those thoughts is that if we think that way, the opportunity to act is already gone. Later on in Chapter 4 of PMG, it says,

    Your task is to live worthily, pray fervently, and learn to recognize and follow courageously the Spirit’s guidance.

    That little sentence right there is the kind of missionary and person I want to be. That is our only task. To live worthily, pray with all our heart, and then follow the promptings we receive. I love lists and this list is not only applicable and attainable, but it works! It works really well! Tuesday was evidence of that. We didn't have a whole lot planned, but we had some different names to visit and we just said, "Ok, we are following all our good thoughts today." I know you are probably expecting some miraculous story but nothing particularly miraculous happened except I have never been so happy doing missionary work in my whole life. I was so happy! We had the best day ever and were just laughing and talking to all the people and teaching and testifying, but most importantly, sharing our testimonies. I realized this week that is what missionary work is. It's about living worthily, praying fervantly, and learning to recognize and follow courageously the Spirit's guidance to share our testimonies. We do that in so many different ways. We do it by our example. We do it by smiling. We do it by saying "Hey" or "Moi" in my case. We do it by listening. We do it by loving. We do it by treating others as the Savior would and we do that by actually telling others what we know to be true. The spirit does the converting, it's just our job to open our mouths!

    While Sisar Lund and I were in Seinäjoki, Sisar Pace and Sisar Hubner found this BOMB AWESOME INVESTIGATOR, Milla. Milla is a finn, 23, red hair, english major, and is probably the sweetest person in the world! Sisar Pace was so excited to tell me the story when I got home that night...I wish she could tell it to you, but I will do my best. So they were sitting in the of town...waiting for this semi-interested investigator to come and meet them there. As luck would have it, he called and cancelled, but they both felt they should stay at the bench they were at for awhile. Apparently, this man came over to them and started yelling about why the church isn't true and how stupid we are for being here and how we should go back to America...honestly people aren't very original...but Sisar Pace said, "We just sat there and politely testified and secretly wanted to punch him in the nose." Anyways, this guy left and Sisar Hubner starts talking to this little old lady about the weather when Milla turns around and just butts into the conversation and says, "Ya, it looks like rain today". They all did a double take and were like "Ok, thank you random woman." But the older woman left and then Milla pops up and comes and sits next to them and says, "I am really sorry, I didn't mean to butt it, but I think what you guys were saying to that man is true and is really interesting. Would you mind telling me a little more about it?" Sisar Pace was practically bouncing off the walls...she is so stinking funny...but anyways, Milla became a new investigator!! It was awesome!!

    We had a church tour with her this week and the whole time she was just asking question after question after question and just wasn't satisfied until she knew basically everything we believe. She is the first investigator I have had that actually genuinely wants to believe the same way we do right at the beginning. She would say, "How do you guys feel about infant baptism?" and we would explain and she would follow up with "Phew, Ok, me too." Then she said, "I hear you guys don't drink coffee, but how do you feel about tea?" We explained, then she said "Well I guess it wouldn't be too hard for me to give up coffee or tea. I mean...I don't really NEED it." In my head I was like, dang girl, you planning on joining so soon? Hopefully YES. But she got sick and couldn't come to church. Oddly enough, I really believe she was sick. She wanted to come and she will next week, but anyways, pray for Milla and a baptismal date!!! She needs this and wants it so bad! I love MIlla!!

    Tuulia's kids are doing well. It's been a really frustrating week...Tuulia wouldn't answer her phone or answer the kids didn't come to church...again. Man...Satan is working hard on this family and it's ticking me off. He is a punk and needs to go away! #millenium But anyways, we got in to their house last night and wrote down all of our appointments for the month of August so that they could know exactly when we were coming. Sisar Kronqvist said she would pick them up at 9:30 every Sunday for church so we are just hoping and praying it goes well! These kids are awesome! Tinja is 11 and she has already read the Book of Mormon to 2's been a week and a half. Caspian is 8 and is trying hard to read, but we gave him that little Book of Mormon stories book and he likes that better. Ronja is also reading and praying every day. It is seriously the greatest feeling in the world to teach these kids! I loved teaching primary and I love teaching it again...sort of! Kids are so sincere and they really love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. No wonder we are commanded to become as little children. They are great examples to me!

     I don't know if I have told you this yet, but we play soccer for 1 hour each week with our ward. It's so stinking fun! Seriously...I LOVE SOCCER!! This week we had so many non-members there, it was awesome! Our team totally dominated...I scored some felt pretty good! Sometimes when I feel like I still don't speak Finnish and I can't be a missionary, I go play soccer and it reminds me that I did know how to do something once! :) Anyways, the saddest thing happened at soccer...I probably shouldn't even tell you but oh well, the cat's out of the bag now...there was this little kid at the game. His dad wouldn't let him play because he is like 2 and there were a lot of big scary finnish men playing. He was sitting on the sideline, but towards the end of the game, he decided he wanted to come play. He jumped up and ran in the middle of the field. Meanwhile, I was dribbling the ball up the sideline, trying to get away from this Turkish man who just started playing with us from off the street #alwaysfinding but anyways, I get past him and cross the ball as hard as I can and BOOM!!! I drilled the little kid right in the head. He dropped like a sack of dirt. It was awful and I was horrified. I felt so awful and he was just crying and screaming his head off. Worst thing is, his dad isn't a member so now what he thinks about mormon missionaries is that they hit kids in the head with stuff...really hard. Man, I still feel horrible about it, but everyone else was laughing. I didn't think it was funny at all. The worst thing is that yesterday at church, everyone thought it was still everyone knows about it! I am surprised that someone didn't mention it in their testimony! But hey...the kid is fine, I learned my lesson....don't let Turkish men tick you off! Anyways, it really is a good way to find investigators...three teenage boys just showed up that we don't even know! They said they want to come play again this week! I think it's so good for people to see that we are normal people and we do stupid stuff like hit kids in the head with a ball! I love this ward though! They are so great!!

    This week has been incredible with our members! For the last 6 weeks, we have done nothing but LOVE LOVE LOVE them and really tried to build them up and help them see how awesome they are! They Finns, in general are a bunch of perfectionists and are SUPER critical of themselves. They HATE being complimented. I thought before it was just because they were awkward, but the more i get to know them, the more I realize that they genuinely don't believe they are good people. When we tell them they are...they feel like a bunch of frauds. They really are the best people I know. I hope some Finnish goodness rubs off on me, because they really amaze me every day. Their faith and hope and love for God and others is inspiring. Anyways, this week we had 4 dinner appointments, 2 unscheduled "Hey Sisters, do you want to stop by for like 20 minutes and give our family a lesson" meetings and 1 really solid referral from this family who "never" gives referrals. Honestly...LOVE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD!!! It is changing the world in Vaasa. There is a different feeling in the ward as we have just tried to help them love each other and serve each other and also to love themselves. To realize how proud Heavenly Father is of them and how much he loves them! I just love being in Vaasa! I have almost been here for half of my mission...I never want to leave...dangerous thing to say, but it really is the promised land!

     This week, I was thinking a lot about Christ. I was thinking about the Atonement. I was thinking about why Christ did what he did for us. I just finished reading Mark in the Bible and each time I read about Gethsemane and Golgotha and the crucifixion, I just sit there and shake my head and think, "Why?" Why did the most wonderful, glorious being in existence come to this earth and allow himself to be mocked, humiliated, judged, smitten, and eventually killed. Why did He do it? Honestly, I still don't know. I know He loves us and I know He loves His father. That kind of love though...I don't know if I will ever understand it. I know I have said this before, but the song, "I Stand All Amazed" just expressed my feelings about the Atonement. 

I Stand All Amazed at the love Jesus offers me
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
that for me a sinner, he suffered, he bled, and died

I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine
that he should extend his great love unto such as I
sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify

I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt,
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no I will praise and adore at the mercy seat
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet

Oh it is wonderful that he should care for me, enough to die for me.
Oh it is wonderful, wonderful to me. 

    What a beautiful song! I love it so much! Jesus Christ can literally help us become something better than we were before! My favorite song, since being a missionary is "Lead, Kindly Light." I am really bad at explaining how I feel...hahaha....not really....but songs just say it better than I ever could. Sorry for all the lyrics...feel free to skip over these if you're busy...haha anyways, it says:

Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark and I am far from home,
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet, I do not ask to see
The distant scene, one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will, remember not past years.

So long thy pow'r hath blest me, sure it still
will lead me on.
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent till
The night is gone
And with the morn, those angel faces smile,
When I have loved, long since and lost, awhile!

    The MoTab sang that song in the Saturday Morning Session of the last General Conference and I literally bawl everytime I listen to it...which happens quite often. This song is "Sister Olivia Bitner's Mission". That should be the title. The night is dark...well at least it was. I was far from home. I didn't care to see the next week, I just needed to see the next day, the next minute at the beginning of my mission. Never before in my life had I thought I needed help. Wow. I was so prideful. I had never asked for help, but man, this mission has taught me, literally every day, that "Yea, I know that I am nothing, as to my strength I am weak, therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength, I can do all things, yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever." Alma 26...just read the whole thing! It's incredible! You all are those "angel faces" and every morning, I look at your picture hanging next to my desk and am so grateful that we are going to be together forever. It is so wonderful! I love you all so much and am so grateful for your support! Knowing you are all praying for me motivates me so much! i just want everyone in Finland, and in the world in general to be able to have what we have. This truth, this gospel is the most wonderful thing in the world. We are so blessed! 

    I just love being a missionary. I love waking up every day and everyone who talks to me knows me as "Sister Bitner". I think I am going to wear my nametag under my clothes for the rest of my life. I never want to take it off. It's the best thing in the world! I hope you all have the most wonderful week! Oh boy, little sidenote: Something Finnish for the week. I actually don't know if this is Finnish but I have never heard of it in Utah...we are getting a "mini missionary" this week....a 18 year old girl from Turku...south of coming to live with us and be a missionary for a week! Only 7 companionships get to have a mini missionary and we are SUPER excited. Sister Pace is terrified! We pick her up tonight at 19! Hopefully all goes well! Also, next week is Interim! I will probably get to print off your emails, but probably not write one...we don't have p-day next week! We are in Helsinki from Sunday to Wednesday. But we GET TO GO TO THE TEMPLE!!!! Oh my goodness, I am like dying to go to the temple! I finally get to go!! Oh my goodness I am so excited! But just know how much I love you! I am so grateful for all of you! Have the best week and always remember to be yourselves! Thank you all for being exactly who you are!! You really are the best!!

    Minä rakastan teitä todella kovasti!!! Minä kaipaan teitä, mutta mä tiedän ette olen tekemassa Jumalan tyotä täällä Suomessa ja on suurin siunaus mun elämässäni! 
Jumala rakastaa teitä!! Muistakaa!!!


    Sisar Bitner

My companion for the day..Sisar Lund she is lovely!


Vaasa missionaries!!

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