Try a Little Harder to be a Little Better
Hei! Miten sinun päiväsi on mennyt? That's what I say about 350 times a day! How are you all doing? Man I miss you so much! I hope life in good old USA is just going strong! I miss America! Finland is a very, very close second, but America has my heart! I bleed red, white, and blue! :) On the 11th, Sister Pace and I sang all the America hymns in the hymnbook and I read 1 Nephi 13 to pay my respects to my motherland! It was a great day...also we ate burgers! :) I hope you all had a great 9/11 remembrance day. I can't believe how long ago that was...I was 7 years old when it happened, but I still remember being scared and wondering why someone would do that. I still don't know why, but I am just so grateful to have been born in America! We are so blessed! So some shoutouts...Taylor and Ashley, WELCOME TO DAVIS COUNTY! It's the best place in the world...especially now that your family is there! I am way excited to see your new house! Also Anne, I hope you kicked some Davis butt this week...if not, that's ok too! :) Lauren...YOU GO TO NEW YORK THIS WEEK. Oh my goodness, get ready to have your mind blown, my friend! It's the greatest thing in the world! I want to hear about everything! Send me ALL THE PICTURES and go to Shake Shack for me! It's delicious. Also make sure you listen to "New York, New York" by Tony Bennett when you drive into the city. Mom tried to do that when I was 13 and I didn't appreciate it like I should...but do it...trust me! It's the greatest place ever! All the people, the sights, the smells, the buildings, the food, the grime...ahhhh...I miss it! Anyways, I hope you 3 have a party and just enjoy being there! It's wonderful! :) Make sure you tell Mom and Dad thank you...we are so lucky we get to do that! Also, Dad...I was reading the Liahona this week and read all about the church in Korea! It made me WAY happy to read about your mission land! If you haven't seen the article yet, read it!! It's way good! Anyways, all the rest of you are just amazing and I love and miss you so much!!
We had such a good week this week. Oh man...like just get ready guys...I don't know if I can even explain how awesome this week was. First off, we went to Seinäjoki on Tuesday. Can I just tell you how beautiful the Finnish countryside is? Honestly, I have driven back and forth from Vaasa to Seinäjoki about 100 times...I did the math...and I never get sick of it. It is gorgeous. We all need to come to Finland, rent a big old car and just drive...and drive...and drive...it is so green with all the trees and the cute little farms and the houses and the clouds and ahhh...I love it! But we went to Seinäjoki and all our investigators there went a-wall...not like they dropped us, but we just couldn't meet with any of them, except for Poe and Soe. We went and taught them about the Restoration...again...and invited them to be baptized. They said they want to, but wouldn't commit to a date because their mom said no. It's super hard...she doesn't speak finnish and I don't really blame her for being a little apprehensive about the american girls wanting her kids to join their church, but she has felt the spirit with us before, and I know she knows this is good, we just need to keep working with them. Also, at the end of the lesson, Poe and Soe asked us to sleepover...hahahaha uh, that's never happened before! I am not going to lie, it took me way off guard. I was super awkward as I miserably tried to explain why we can't do that in my high quality finnish....hahaha NOT. But anyways, I thought it was pretty hilarious. Sister Pace and I had a nice long laugh about it on the way home.
But ya, not too much to report from Seinäjoki. It's a hard place to work...not a lot going on, but we have been so blessed to have investigators there. Actually, President Watson just closed down Seinäjoki as it's own area and now Vaasa includes Seinäjoki so the Vaasa Elders go to Seinäjoki three times a week and we go twice. Do you know what this means? Yes, that's right...the Elders have their own car and we do too now!! YIIPPEE!! We don't even use our car that much, but man...it's hard sharing a car when you have such different schedules. Sister Pace and I did a number on our car this morning though...I vacuumed that sucker out like it was my job and we washed the outside and man...it's running like a charm. Dad, thanks for teaching me how to clean cars...I found so much joy in it this morning, I think I know what I want to major in now! :)
So tracting...let me tell you about it...we don't do it anymore...THANK HEAVEN. I have never been a fan. President Rawlings was big on ruling on tracting except, he has this policy called "10 doors". So what it means is when you go to check on a former investigator or a potential or something, you tract 10 doors on either side of their door. I am not going to lie...I have always hated it...even though it's only 10. I know missionaries used to do that ALL STINKING DAY. I don't know how they did it, but I think it's super ineffective and at least in Finland, people get super offended and don't like to be disturbed at home. Although I have strong opinions, hahaha I try not to rock the boat, so I have always followed the 10 door rule and have never really seen much success with it. But boy oh boy, did that change! So about 4 weeks ago, Brother Aromaa gave us a referral of a childhood friend he used to have. Now he is pretty old, so we didn't really know what to expect, but man a referral is a referral. So we set out to find this lady. We knocked on her door, and no one was home. Immediately "10 doors" shot into my mind like a bolt of lightning. I kind of stood there and was like "Ugh...man...NOOOO." But my pouting lasted like 0.2 seconds and we started doing 10 doors. We start at the top of the building and worked our way down. Anyways, no one was answering. I am pretty sure that one dog almost broke the door down, headbutting it however, so thankfully he didn't break through #couldhavebeenbad but anyways, not too much was happening. This is about to get dramatic, ok...so we come to the last door and knock...we stand and stand and nothing. Then, the door opens really really slowly. It's dark inside...I can't see anything...and then I see a hand reach out...................to stop the door from opening because this guy didn't have clothes on...hahahaha sorry not too intense, but anyways, this guys says, in Finnish, "Let me put some clothes on." Thank heavens it was dark and I couldn't see anything, but anyways, this guy comes back. His name is Janne. He lives with his girlfriend and they have a cute little baby. #potentialeternalfamily He was kind of "busy" at the time, but he told us we could come back.
So that was about 4 weeks ago. We had a DA with the Nåsmans on Wednesday and they sort of live out by where Janne lives. We were sort of/borderline late for another appointment, but we had the strong impression to go check on Janne. So we go back and this time his girlfriend comes to the door. Her name is Heini and she is SO STINKING NICE. She told us we could come back and that they would love to hear more about our message! Guys...we found a finnish family....ok not really a family bound by matrimony, but we can work with that! I gained a testimony of 10 doors this week and we have a lesson with them in about 6 hours!! WAHOOO!! I hope with all my heart that all goes well! I have a good feeling about these two!! Oh in case you were wondering...we weren't late for our appointment. Follow the spirit always....it always works out!
So on Thursday, a member in our ward asked us if we could come do some service at her brand new möki...aka summer house! We said TOTTA KAI...and so Thursday morning we all set off. This member is awesome! She has 3 sons...all are super active, awesome members and she is just a rockstar. She has had such a hard life, but man, she really is so strong. I admire her a lot. But we had the best time cutting down trees and bushes and loading them up with her. She just kept saying how glad she was that we were there and she showed us all around the möki! Do we have möki's in Utah? Cause if not, we need to build one! Our family would have WAY too much fun with a möki! Plus..of course it had a sauna! It was awesome! But anyways, we just loaded up all these branches and bushes and set off for the dump. After we had unloaded all of the stuff, Sister Weijola looks at us and says, "Is it your lunch hour?" It was. We had gone over a little on our lunch hour. Anyways, she says, "Can I take you guys out to get burgers?" Sister Pace and I were like, "oh my goodness, no, you are totally fine, we love serving, please don't" blah blah blah and Sisar Weijola just sits there and then when we had finished she said, "Ok, well I am taking you to get burgers so get in the car." hahaha yes ma'am! You don't have to ask me twice when it comes to burgers! Anyways, we got burgers with her and it was just a great time! I love these members!!
So Sister Thayne has the same birthday as me...I think you all know that, but we decided that we were going to get each other birthday presents and give them to each other at the mission conference! BTW, she got me a SUPER CUTE scarf that I love! #kiitsBFF anyways, there is this bakery in Vaasa that is MY FAVORITE! They make this delicious banana cake and Sister Thayne loves bananas so I wanted to buy her a piece and take it down to the conference. The lady that works in the bakery is super cute and is going to be an investigator. We want her to get baptized SO BAD. Luckily, we frequent the bakery enough...not too much...but enough that we are buds! Little by little...she is warming up to us. Last time we were there she even asked us about the church! YAAAA BABY!!! The power of the banana cake folks, its real!!
Later that night, we were down at the mission home in Espoo with all of the missionaries from the North. It was so great to see the Watsons. I just love them so much! I know I say it all the time, but they are WAY too easy to talk to! I talked to President while we were eating dinner for like 30 minutes about all the things, and Sister Watson is the same way! I feel like I have known them forever and they really make you feel like what you have to say is important. I think that is a great quality to have and one I hope I am developing! Anyways, we got to stay in the mission home which was super fun! I have to tell you though, I couldn't sleep AT ALL. It was like Christmas. I mean flip, David A. Bednar was coming to Finland. Holy cow! I have looked forward to this for weeks! I actually slept terrible that night because I was so excited. You best believe I woke up right at 6:30 that next morning, ready to go!
So we all caravan ed to Haaga and were in the chapel by 10! First off, it was SO awesome to have all the Finnish missionaries there! There are only 110 of us and it was just so wonderful to see everyone especially my MTC group and Sister Jones and my other BFF Sister Curtis! I just love them all so much! I sent some pics home of my group...it's amazing how much we have all changed. I just can't believe it has almost been a year, but that's beside the point. Anyways, we all were sitting in the chapel, studying, and then in walks President and Sister Watson, Elder and Sister Kearon of the area presidency, and Elder and Sister Bednar. I love how we stand up when they walk in...it's so cool! Anyways, the spirit was strong in that room before they came in, but man, after they came, it was incredible! I could literally feel the spirit around me! Man...it gives me the chills just to think about it. I have never been in that "intimate" of a meeting with a general authority, let alone an apostle. It was awesome!!
Sidenote: so our investigator/friend/"can't learn about the church" guy Viet was at the church on Tuesday and Sister Pace and I were talking to each other about how excited we were for Elder Bednar and Viet, who is hilarious and nosy, comes around and says, "Who is coming to Helsinki?" Sister Pace says, "Viet, do you know what an apostle is?" Viet said, "An apostle, you mean apostle? as in a package?" hahahaha he thought we meant A PARCEL. hahahaha man, you may not think that's funny, but I about died! I thought my siblings would appreciate that! It was super funny!
So anyways, the meeting. So Elder and Sister Kearon spoke and it was SUPER good. Mostly because Elder Kearon has a british accent! Man, it's a good thing I didn't go to England. I would have been too enthralled by their accents...anyways, both of their messages were really good. Then cute little Sister Bednar gets up and talks to us. She started off by saying "The spirit is here, can you feel it?" We all totally could. It was awesome and you could really tell how much everyone had prepared. Anyways, I don't know if you know this, but Elder Bednar's son served in Finland and he actually served in Vaasa. Isn't that crazy? But anyways, she talked about that and she said, "Before my son got his mission call, I was so worried because I wanted him to go somewhere safe. Elder Bednar wanted him to go somewhere hard. Well, we were both satisfied. Finland fits the bill." She talked about the gift of tongues and how our families need to be praying for us to receive the gift of tongues...I know you guys have been praying because there is literally NO WAY ON EARTH I could speak this language without it. Seriously...it's a miracle. But anyways, thank you for your prayers. :)
She also said something that gave the heart strings a nice little tug, she said, "I wish your mothers could be here to see your faces right now. This is magical." Man...I wanted nothing more than that right then. But it really got me thinking. If my mom could see me right now, would she be proud of the missionary and person that I am? I hope with all my heart that the answer would be yes! After that she gave us all a challenge....she told us to get a Book of Mormon and to go through and read it, highlighting any instance or evidence or mention of the Savior's atonement. She said to read it from cover to cover and then at the end, write a one-page summary about what we have found. She said her son did that on his mission and sent home is summary to his family to read for Christmas and it was amazing! I am starting that right now! I have wondered about how I can more fully understand and incorporate the Atonement into my life. This is such a simple way to do it. She said that she and Elder Bednar have done this and still do this for any gospel principle they want to understand better and she said it's amazing what you find. I love that! I mean flip, what better resource to learn about Jesus Christ than The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ! I am way excited to get started and would challenge whoever wants to...wink wink...to do the same! :)
Then Elder Bednar got up and man, you should have seen his smile! He was so happy and he just looked thrilled to be there which was awesome! The way he taught us was amazing. He started off by saying the three words of finnish that he knows, which was awesome and way funny! He knew "kiitos" or thank you, "joulupuki" or Santa Claus and he said the third word he knows is harbor but in finnish that word is dangerously close to a swear word and his son, who speaks finnish, told him not to try to pronounce that third word or we would all laugh and laugh and laugh! Anyways, we thought that was funny and it was just funny to see him speaking finnish! No one speaks finnish! Ok, anyways, he then went on to talk about agency and the difference between acting and being acted upon. He said that he would never force anyone to answer a question and he hates playing the "Guess what's in my head game". He talked a lot about the culture of the church and some of the things, that are not doctrine, that we do, just because it's "the culture". He was way funny about everything, but a couple of things he told us to do that I want to share with you are to never force people in your classes to answer question, invite them to act, never take notes on exactly what the speaker is saying, listen to what the spirit tells you. Also, he said that when we give talks, we should just study and pray our hearts out before we speak to prepare, and that we really should speak without notes. Now flip, he is talking to the note taker of all note takers, but I determined that during my homecoming talk, I am not going to have notes. You can all keep tabs on my for that. But it really is way true. When it is unscripted, the spirit it there so much stronger.
Anyways, I could sit here and try and tell you everything he said, but I don't remember, because I didn't write it down. But man, the things I wrote down in my study journal are answers to prayers that I didn't even know I had. He taught us about so many good things. Literally, I felt like all barriers were down when he was teaching and he was just saying exactly what Heavenly Father wanted us to hear. The notes that I took are evidence of that. I received answers to questions about my past, about what I am doing now, and also about my future, during and after my mission. I have never felt so inspired and uplifted as I did in that meeting. I felt like everything was possible, because we have Christ on our side. Christ is everything. We become yoked with Him by making covenants and we remained yoked as we keep them. He talked a lot about keeping covenants and trying hard each day to be a little better. He told us that the world we live in now is as good as it's going to be during our lifetimes. Kind of a scary thought, but he promised us each that as we keep our covenants, we will be alright. I knew that was true. I felt the truth of that statement so strongly, I can't even tell you. It's a scary thing to think of raising a family and being a parent in this world. I want nothing more than that, but It scares me to death. But he told us, "As you look ahead to your future, don't ever be afraid." I was so grateful to just be in his presence and to have the opportunity to be taught by a prophet of God. Seriously, I can't even describe it!
Man...I wish you all could have been there with me, but you were and I felt your love and the love of my Heavenly Father so strongly. I realized so many things and had so many personal prayers answered. It was wonderful! As we headed back to Vaasa, I had the thought come to me that as wonderful as that experience was, that is how General Conference should be every single time we watch it. We have the opportunity in about 3 weeks to be taught by every single prophet, seer, and revelator we have on the earth today. We all prepared so hard for Elder Bednar to come, and I know that if we all prepare ourselves for conference by praying that our questions will be answered and our minds and hearts will be open, they will be. I wrote down a lot of questions that I had before, and I put the list away. I didn't even look at it during the meeting. But when I came home, I looked at the list and literally, every single question was answered. It was awesome! I know that can happen for us all this conference. Let's all prepare and be spiritually recharged. We need it now more than ever!
Man, there is so much more I want to talk about, but I don't have time. I just hope you all know that I know the church is true. There is no doubt in my mind. I am so grateful for prophets. They are evidence of God's love for us. We can look to them as another source of revelation and direction from our Heavenly Father. We are so blessed. This week for the first time on my mission, I woke up and it just felt normal to be a missionary. I felt like this is what I have been doing for my whole life. I didn't have to remind myself of where I was, I just knew where I was and knew what I was supposed to be doing. Being a missionary is incredible because we have our purpose in our minds all the time. I realized I have been nervous lately about going home and falling back into the trap of not doing missionary work. The thing is though, we can't fall into that trap and if we are in it, we better get the heck out. The work is moving forward. The Lord is Hastening this work with or without us. He gives us each the opportunity every single day to share the gospel. There really are no excuses to not share the gospel with those around us. I know that each of us, especially me, know at least one non-member person or family with whom we could share the gospel. We all need to stop making excuses, and start doing missionary work.
Now everyone pause for a second....I am a missionary and I am here to tell you that just giving the missionaries the names of your friends is not missionary work...at least not anymore. We need to have our friends over to our homes. Invite them to do things with our families. Talk about the gospel "normally and naturally". Help people see the blessings of the gospel before we throw up the doctrine in their face. People recognize a difference in us and tell them about it when they want to know what it is. We don't have to teach them anything, just tell them the truth. Think to yourself about why you are a member of the church. How has it blessed your life? Why do you do all the things you do? Dad you said this in your letter last week, but really think about those questions. Write the answers in your journal. Add to it when you think of other reasons. Man...I am sorry to monologue, but I just know the blessings that come from missionary work and I never want to stop doing it. I know it is so easy for me to say because I have nothing else to think about right now, but I really think if we "try a little harder to be a littler better" in missionary work, we will see amazing results. I know if we all pray for opportunities to share the gospel and REALLY INTEND to act, they will come. Without fail. We need to help our brothers and sisters get back to Heavenly Father.
Before conference comes, everyone should pray and ask Heavenly Father to tell us one person that we know who would accept the gospel soon in their lives and what we can do to help them. We will ALL get an answer and I promise you will be amazed at how closely the Lord is willing to work with us when we let Him in. This is His work. We just need to get over ourselves and our insecurities and get out of the way and share it. We can be tools in His hands...I never understood what that meant until I experienced it, but it's true. Trust the Lord. He will take care of us and our friends that we care so much about! Heavenly Father loves us. He wants us to know that. He wants us to feel that. He wants us to be brave and strong and to know that everything is going to be ok, regardless of what comes in the world. If we keep our covenants, we are independent of what the leaders of the world or anyone says or does because we are yoked with our Savior and we have made promises with God. Everything changes for the better after we make covenants. I am so grateful for baptism and for the temple. I know this is all true. It's all real and because of Jesus Christ, we can all live together again as a family! Wow. He literally saved us from death! We can never repay Him but man, we can sure do our best every day to be a little better! I love you all so much and hope you have the most amazing week! God answers prayers in His way and in His time...always!! You are all great! I love you so much!!
Sisar Olivia Bitner
P.S. Something Finnish for the week....so you know how I said there are no cops on the road in Finland? Well everyone and their dog has one headlight that is burnt out because no one is there to pull them over and tell them! It's hilarious and Sister Pace and I are "perdiddle" masters now! If you don't know what perdiddle means...ask a kid or teenager! They will know! You are all awesome!!
P.P.S.S. I just got called to be the district language coordinator...hahahahahaha I have to teach a finnish lesson in district meeting each week for 10-15 minutes! I laughed for about 234 minutes, but I just thought I would let you know! I love you all!!
|Here are some photo's of us!|
|Me doing service at the möki|
|Switching trains in Tampere...the land of my birth!|
|My traveling companions|