Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hyvää Kiitos Päivää

    Waddup son? :) Happy Thanksgiving Week! Or in finnish...Hyvää Kiitos Päivä!! They don't celebrate it here....that should be fairly obvious and probably is to most people, but it took a while for it to register in my brain why Finland wouldn't celebrate Thanksgiving...awkward! :) Oh well, their loss! It's the best holiday ever. I am sad I can't be there with you, but it's ok cause my diet starts tomorrow. hahaha just kidding. But for real, I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving. Someone PLEASE eat a piece of banana cream pie in my honor and some mashed potatoes and gravy! Thank you! :) Send me lots of pictures too! I want to see everybody. Oh yes, THANKS FOR THE PACKAGE! Man, it is so great to get actual finnish it's posti...I loved all of your sweet letters and the cheez-its and candy made me cry. Do you want to know something, Finland has not hopped on the peanut butter train none of their candy has peanut butter. Eating a Reeses made me pretty happy! Man...Americans just do food right. We may be a bunch of fatties, but at least we enjoy ourselves...just's still important to eat right and exercise, but man, we should enjoy our food too! Ok, I am done monologuing about food. I just really missed Peanut Butter so thank you for thinking of that! :) I love you all and really appreciate everything you do! You are the best!

    Guys, it is almost December. I came to Finland last December. EW. Seriously, I would be lying if I said that I wasn't having like a "mid-life crisis" so to speak right now. I just feel so old. I feel so Finnish. It's great. I feel like I have never lived anywhere else. I have grown to love this country and these people and this culture and this language so much. I can't believe it hasn't always been a part of my life. We all have to come see it one of these days. It's really not an option anymore! :) I love Finland and am so grateful for the opportunity and privilege I have to serve in this beautiful place! It will always be a very sacred place to me.

    So this week...this week was good! As always, we did splits on Tuesday. We went with the sisters in Espoo 2 or the south ward. I was able to go with Sister Bruce. I sent you a pic! She is awesome. She has only been in Finland for 3 weeks. It was fun to be with a greenie again and to feel the special spirit that they have. I love when new missionaries come because they are just ready to take on the world! It's so fun to see! Sister Bruce is from Arkansas. Her dad actually served his mission in Finland which is way cool. She took two years of finnish at BYU before she even knew she was serving here, needless to say, she speaks finnish SO WELL. It was amazing! We really wanted to focus on talking with everyone and serving from our strengths. One of Sister Bruce's strengths is honestly her spirit. She has the most pure, sincere heart and her motivations and desires were pretty inspiring. It was so fun to be with her. Being with her got me thinking about how I felt at that stage of my mission...excited, anxious, overwhelmed, frustrated, inadequate, and a lot of the times, pretty hopeless. I was never going to learn finnish, never going to know Preach My Gospel, never going to be able to talk to people, never going to see the sun again (I am still wondering that now :) but it's amazing what happens when we stop fighting the journey. We have to stop fighting the process. The process and the journey is what brings a "mighty change of heart". I experienced that and it was incredible. Hardest thing in the world? was hard. Worth it? Um...YA!!! I am so grateful for my mission. I love it so much and I know that it is only through my Savior that I am still here today, loving being a missionary! I am also so grateful to be able to work with these sisters. I learn so much from each of them and I know we are all here with each other, in Finland for a reason! It's pretty incredible!

    So Elder Texeira at Zone Conference challenged us each to set a goal for how many of Book of Mormons we wanted to give away before the change was over. Sister Nielsen and I set a goal to give 85 away in 40 days. Just wanted to tell you that so we can be accountable to our families when we a month...ok....nobody freak out! :) I am so excited to see you all. But anyways, be sure to ask me about that on Christmas! We have given away 5 so far last week, we need to up our game, but we are really trying to make it meaningful when we give it away! Bank on the Book of Mormon...that's our strategy! :)

    We had another lesson with S and L this week. They are so hilarious. I love them so much. We went to S's apartment, and she had cleaned the kitchen like spotless and had cheesecake sitting out on the kitchen table for us. It was so cute because I had talked to her a few weeks ago about life and her and what she likes to do, her favorite foods, and all that stuff. She asked me what my favorite restaurant was in America and I told her Cafe Rio...obviously...but then I said Cheesecake Factory. She said "Woah...a factory with cheesecake?" hahaha but I explained to her what it was and told her about all the delicious cheesecake. I told her I missed it, but when she comes to America to visit, she and I are going to get the Godiva chocolate cheesecake. Anyways, apparently she remembered because she made cheesecake for me. It was so sweet and really good! I was impressed.

    We brought our friend H to the lesson with S and L. H got baptized 4 months ago and is a rockstar!! She was actually studying to be a Lutheran priest when the missionaries found her...go figure! but she is on fire and loves helping the missionaries. We taught S and L about tithing and fasting and the spirit was really strong. H testified about how her life has changed since she started paying tithing and how grateful she is to be able to help contribute to the Lord's kingdom! My testimony was strengthened of the importance of tithing. It's amazing when you teach something, new things come to your mind that you never thought of before. I think that's why I love teaching so much. A, I feel the spirit, and B, I always learn so much. It's great. S and L committed to live the law of tithing and fasting. :) They are feeling pretty shaky about their baptismal date.The funny thing is, when we asked them why they want to be baptized, L said, "To become clean" and S said, "Because it is the gate back to Heavenly Father." I get so confused sometimes. If people really believe what they say, which I think S and L do, why don't they go jump in the font? Those things are both true, but I guess the reality of the situation just hasn't clicked quite yet, but it will! The problem...well not problem...but the issue is, they both go out of town for a month on the 12th of December so we wanted and felt like they could be baptized before then, but we are just continuing to work with them to prepare them for baptism. They are so ready, they just don't think they know enough. Continue to pray for them though. They are so sweet and have the purest hearts in the world! I hope you got the pictures I sent of them last week! S is my buddy. She is the one with longer hair. I love her so much!! And I love L too!

    Something Finnish for the week....these Finnish YSAs are all single. It's so annoying! They are the most classy, put together kids I have EVER met and they just are too shy and reserved to put themselves out there. I didn't think it was that big of a problem, but seriously SO many of them are returned missionaries, going to school, just the best people ever, but they have a hard time dating. I guess everyone does, but it's just like it says on "My Turn on Earth"..."It isn't good to be alone, it isn't good." :) Anyways, I know if they went to BYU or Utah State they would all be married in like 5 seconds. Battling with the culture man, it's rough stuff. But I love the YSA here. They are such solid members and they are going to be the ones to build the kingdom here in Finland. We just need them to have eternal families and to keep their missionary fire! They are so great!

    Anyways, our recent convert A from India is doing great! She just received a calling to be the English Sunday School Teacher. There are surprisingly a lot of Americans in this ward that have married finns. I didn't realize how much I missed hearing names like "Brother Douglas" and "Brother Stuart". It's pretty great. She is really excited about her calling though. She has been Christian her whole life so she loves the Bible and is a really good teacher. I am so grateful for a ward that is functioning and is working to get these recent converts integrated as soon as possible. That really is the key. Just like President Hinckley said, all converts need 1, a responsibility, 2, a friend, and 3, nourishment by the word of God. I have such a strong testimony of that!

    Our other recent convert R is SO COOL!! He is from Ghana and was baptized about a month ago, right before I got here. We were walking down the street the other day and got a call from him so we chatted for awhile and he said, "Hey Sisters, I met this woman on the train today...I could tell she needed the gospel so I got her number and address and told her I would send my 'strong sisters' (meaning the missionaries) over to meet her. Can you go visit her for me? Am I allowed to do that?" hahahaha uh ya R, we would be alright with that! This guy is like finding people for us. It's incredible! He has given 3 referrals to missionaries in Haaga and Espoo and Helsinki this week. He introduced us to 2 of his roommates, one is a new investigator B, and he is just kicking butt and taking names. When we asked him why he is such a good missionary, he said, "This joy I have felt is like none other. Reading the Book of Mormon, coming to church, and praying helps me understand things so much more. Everyone needs this." R needs to be the poster child for missionary work. That is where the church is going. If every member did what R is doing, church membership would skyrocket. He is such a good example to me of what kind of a member missionary I want to be when I go home. I am grateful for his example!

    So we are working with this Less Active Family, the J family. We have been trying to get an appointment ever since I got here, but no dice. We haven't been successful. The husband is finnish, the wife is chinese and they have 2 adorable little girls. Well, this week, they called us and invited us to come over. We were way shocked, but happy so we went over. We didn't want to take up too much of their time, so we just planned to share like a 20 minute FHE lesson, but we walk in and the wife had prepared this HUGE feast of delicious Chinese food. It was so good! We had a great time getting to know them and had a great lesson. We watched the mormon message, "Earthly Father, Heavenly Father"...if you haven't seen that lately or at all, GO WATCH IT. Listen to the words. It is so powerful. I was just overcome as we watched that video. It talks about how much parents love their children, and I had the biggest love burst come into my heart for my parents. I am so grateful for you, Mom and Dad. I am so grateful for the life that you have provided for me and of the love and support you give me. I am also grateful for my Heavenly Father. There is a line in that video that says, "I am far, but close, always thinking about them." "Them" being this man's kids, but I realized that is how Heavenly Father is. He is far, but close. He is always thinking about us, wondering and wanting to hear how we are doing. I love that the relationship we have with Him is that of Father and Child. It's so special and so powerful! Anyways, they J family invited us back over these week, so hopefully all goes well...I can't take many more of those chinese feasts much food! :)

    So we had an awesome experience with a new investigator this week. His name is C...he is from Romania but has lived in Finland his whole life, so he speaks finnish fluently. We found his name in the area book. The sisters awhile ago had invited him to play soccer with them, but Sister Nielsen and I both had the strong impression to invite him to a temple tour. He came and it was one of the best lessons of my mission. The spirit was so strong. We had this whole lesson plan set up and ended up just throwing it out the window cause the spirit wanted us to take it in a complete different direction. We had planned to talk about the Restoration and specifically Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, but after we showed him the "Temple Tour" video, we both felt strongly that we needed to continue talking about temples and the blessings the temple has brought into our lives. We talked about eternal families and baptisms for the the first lesson...not something you do everyday...but as we spoke, his eyes started tearing up. He opened up and told us about his dad being sick with cancer and how worried he is about his dad. We testified that families can be together forever and man, you could have cut the spirit with a knife. We were all teary-eyed. Anyways, he gave the most sincere prayer at the end of the lesson and prayed almost completely for his dad. It was so incredible! I am so grateful for the temple. I am grateful for eternal families. I am grateful that whatever comes in life, we know that this life is so short and we will see each other again. C didn't know that, but he does now and it really changed his life. A new light came into his eyes. It was incredible to see. I love the temple!

    We had a DA this week with a member whose DAs are pretty infamous. She gives us SO MUCH FOOD and doesn't let you leave until it's completely. Well, I didn't eat all day before we went to her house...dumbest idea ever...but she just loaded us up with all this food. Man...I have never been so sick in my life. Her name is Sister T. She is 80 and super sassy! I asked her all sorts of questions about her life and family and she answered me in the most complicated finnish ways, I had absolutely no idea what she was saying. Sister Nielsen told me later that she likes to stump the missionaries because she thinks it is funny! Whatever floats her boat, you know what I'm saying? :) It was pretty funny! We have really good members here. They are so strong. It is a privilege to serve with and learn from them!

    So the day of Sister T's DA, it looked pretty warm in the morning. Since we are missionaries and are absolutely cut off from the world of Internet...except for today...we have no way to know what weather is coming. Well, it was pretty warm, so we thought, we would be fine. We put on our lighter coats, thin gloves, no hats and set off. Well we walk out of Sister T's house and there was 6 inches of snow on the ground. Literally it was dumping snow! It was awesome. Of course we were way happy until we realized we had to go out and walk in it! :) But we set off anyways. By the time we got to the bus station, I was frozen. Literally, my hands and ears and nose were numb. My hair was completely soaked. Same with Sister Nielsen. I would have taken a picture, but my hands were too cold. :) Anyways, we finally make it to the bus stop, and we waited there for probably like 1 1/2 hours. It was a joke. Finally some lady came driving down the road and told us there was a crash up the road and the whole road was blocked so no buses could get through. Well, we were out in the middle of nowhere so that was good, but we had this brilliant idea to go try and make it to the other bus stop farther down the other road. Well as we start walking, we realize that there was a bus coming from the opposite direction. Honestly we didn't care where it was going, we just needed to get on a bus, so we sprint after this bus and flag it down, we got on and started heading back to Espoo Center. Well it took forever. Not trying to scare you mom, but our bus was drifting all over the road, fish-tailing like crazy. I was praying so hard that we would be safe, but I think our bus driver was an angel. She had really white hair and was beautiful! :) She got us to the center safely and then we made it back home. was incredible! The first snow to actually stick in Finland! It makes me way happy when I am in my winter coat and hat and mittens. I learned a good lesson though...text a member in the morning and ask for the weather forecast! :) 

    Well, we are just plugging along here in good old Espoo. I love it so much. Really. I am way blessed to be here. I was reading again in Jesus The Christ. Can I just tell you, I love reading the Book of Mormon and Jesus the Christ at the same time. It's so cool to read the Book of Mormon and hear all of the prophesies from these prophets about Christ and then to read the actual stories of Christ come to life and all the things those Book of Mormon prophets testified of. As I have been a missionary, I have really come to connect with Peter, the apostle. Two of my favorite accounts in the New Testament involve Christ and Peter. The first one is when the Christ asks the apostles "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?". The apostles start answering. Some said "They think you are John the Baptist come back from the dead" and others said "They think you are Elijah or Jeremiah or some other significant prophet." But then Jesus asked the apostles, "Whom say ye that I am?" Now I am quoting from Jesus the Christ, but it says:

    "Peter, with all the fervor of his soul, voiced the great confession: "Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God." This was no avowal of mere belief, no expression of a result at which he had arrived by mental process, no solution of a problem laboriously worked out, no verdict based on the weighing of evidence; he spoke in the sure knowledge that knows no question and from which doubt and reservation are as far removed as is the sky from the ground...and Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed are thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. Peter's knowledge...was of a kind apart from all that man may find out for himself; it was a divine bestowal....As a gift from God comes the testimony of Jesus into the heart of man."

    Jesus continues to talk to Peter and says that Peter was the rock on which he would build his church. Peter in all his imperfection was the rock. I love how Elder Talmage explains the passage. He tells us that really, what Christ said to Peter is such a crucial truth. A testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, is a gift from our Heavenly Father. It can only be obtained when we are ready to receive it. Peter was ready. Peter wasn't perfect, but He was willing to do what Heavenly Father wanted him to do. It continues in that chapter to go on to the story about where Christ tells the apostles that He is going to be delivered to the chief priests and scribes and they will kill him. Now this is where I feel I relate to Peter. Peter doesn't want to go down without a fight. Peter doesn't want this to happen to Christ. Peter sees such a small part of the picture, but He really tries to do what is right. In Jesus the Christ, it says:

    "Peter was shocked at this unqualified declaration, and, yielding to impulse, remonstrated with Jesus, or, as two of the evangelists state, 'began to rebuke him,' even going so far as to say: 'This shall not be unto thee:' The Lord turned upon him with this sharp reproof: "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."

    Man...that part always feels like a slap to the face. It's pretty harsh. I have always wondered why Christ said that to Peter in such an rebuking way when really Peter was just trying to save his beloved Master and Teacher. But it goes onto say in the book,

    "Peter saw mainly as men see, understanding but imperfectly the deeper purposes of God. Though deserved, the rebuke he received was severe. The adjuration, "Get thee behind me, Satan," was identical with that used against the arch-tempter himself, who had sought to beguile Jesus from the path upon which He had entered, and the provocation in the two instances was in some respects similar- the temptation to evade sacrifice and suffering, though such was the world's ransom, and to follow a more comfortable way."

    Wow. Thank you James E. Talmage. How powerful is that? Christ rebuked Peter for wanting him to fight the process. He rebuked him for wanting to fight the journey and to back out and turn to a more comfortable way. As I was reading this part one morning, the spirit came into my heart so strongly that that is what kind of a person I was before my mission and of course, I am still working to turn this weakness into a strength. I have good intentions, but just as Peter did, sometimes I feel like I know what's best. I know what is right for my life. I know what will bring me the most happiness. Peter truly thought, out of the goodness of his heart, that helping Christ avoid this death and suffering would be the best thing, but He is a mortal. He is imperfect. He doesn't understand. I am mortal. I am imperfect. I don't  understand. I want to do what's right, always have and always will, but we, as humans, don't want to go through the hard stuff. We want the rewards of the "refiner's fire" but no way do we want to pass through it. That's not fun. That's not desirable. That's not comfortable.

    But I love what Christ follows up with. He says:

    "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Here the frightful figure of the cross was again made prominent. There was left no shadow of excuse for the thought that devotion to Christ would not mean denial and privation. He who would save his life at the cost of duty, as Peter had just suggested that Christ should do, would surely lose it in a sense worse than that of psychical death; whereas he who stood willing to lose all, even life itself, should find the life that is eternal. As evincing the soundness of His teachings, Jesus uttered what has since become an inspiring aphorism of life: 'For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?'"

    I think that is what I am grateful most for this year. I am grateful for my testimony of my Savior Jesus Christ. I am thankful Heavenly Father loved me enough to cut me down and build me back up into who He wants me to be. I am grateful for the refiner's fire. I am grateful that although I had good intentions and wanted good things, God had much bigger and better plans for me than I could have ever imagined. I am grateful that for discomfort and hard times in life that make us stretch. I am grateful for the process of purification and sanctification in life because that is the only way I will be prepared to meet my Heavenly Father and my Savior one day. I am so grateful for all that has happened in my life, but especially during my mission. I have so many blessings, I don't even know where to start, but on my wall, I have a picture hanging of my Savior and underneath that my parents, and underneath that my siblings. That is what I am most grateful for as well as all my other family and friends. I am so grateful to be a disciple of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I needed to come to Finland to be prepared to receive my testimony of Him, but that testimony has brought more joy into my life than anything else ever could. I love Jesus Christ. He is my Savior. He saved me and gave me another chance to live my life in the way my Father wants me to live my life. The joy I have in my heart is so real. It's like nothing I have ever experienced and I know it's because the hard shell surrounding my heart was broken and my real heart, my real self has been made known to me over these past 13 months. The gospel is true. Living the process of the gospel is what changes us. Doing the little things every day changes us. I know that is true! I love you all so much. I sometimes wish  you were all here so I could give you all a hug and tell you how much I love you, but I know that time will come. For now, I am here in the most beautiful place in the world and you are there in the other most beautiful place in the world and our family is eternal because of our Savior Jesus Christ. Man, that sounds pretty good to me! :) I love you all and hope you have the most wonderful Thanksgiving! Minä rakastan teitä!!


    Sisar Olivia Bitner

Splits with Sisar Johnson...sorry my hair looks nast....You don't have to claim me as your daughter :)

Sisar Bruce!!

My companion...she is pretty cool...I call her do you spell that? Like qwazy motto? hahaha gosh dang it...english is hard 
The beautiful sky...

Sister Nielsen and I with Hanna...she got baptized 4 months ago!!! 


Thanks for the package!!! Also mom...Christmas you want to send me some of that delicious Trader Joe's candy...just all the kinds you usually get...I got a craving for that way bad the other day. Also can we have your cinnamon roll recipe? We want to make them on Christmas!! K LOVE YOU!!!

Monday, November 17, 2014


    Well, well, are you all doing? I can't believe I am sitting here writing another p-day email. I can't believe how fast time flies. Also, I decided this week that I am really going to miss writing these letters to you all one day....I think I will keep it up...forever. I may be the only one who reads my blog when I am 50 and still rambling on about all the things, but hey, whatever floats my boat, eikö niin? :) Thank you all for your letters and pictures. It makes me so happy to see your beautiful faces and hear about your lives. I have said this before, and I will say it again, I sometimes feel like you are all these imaginary friends that I made up, but I am not clever enough to make up people as wonderful as you, but still, tell me about your lives. I love to hear from you! :) I hope everyone is happy and well and gearing up for Turkey Day! I am going to miss your pie you think you could ship that to Finland? Maybe the recipe? Anyways, I am so grateful for this time of year. It is a wonderful time to reflect and really think about all that we have been blessed with. Man, I can't believe a year ago, I was in the MTC. What is this? Honestly, time flies. It's unbelievable, but I am so thankful to be a missionary. I love the gospel!

    First off, I just have to tell you that everyone and their dog here knows the Bitners. We serve really close to the temple, which you know, so I have been meeting a lot of the temple couples who are serving here. They are amazing, by the way, I love them all, but so many of them know either Dr. Bitner and one, Elder Dunn, even knows Grandpa Wade Bitner. He said he went to high school with him at Highland High. Small world! It's been really fun to make all of these connections. I am proud to be a Bitner, that's for dang sure! :)

    So this week has been pretty awesome. They all are. Like for real. I don't know what it is about Espoo, but this place is magic. It really is the temple. This may sound kind of weird, but I have never felt the reality of the gospel as strongly as I have over these past 3 weeks. I don't know why, but just seeing the temple and talking to people so much about the temple really has just opened my eyes in a way they have never been opened before. This really is the city of dreams. I am so blessed to be here!

    First off, I was able to go on splits this week with Sister Johnston. I forgot my card reader at home today, so I will have to send you a picture next week, but it was super fun to be with her. She is 4 months younger than I am in the mission, and she is a brand new trainer. It definitely made me reminiscent of those good old days...being a new was a blast. She is such a solid missionary though. We really are best friends now. It's amazing how the gospel brings you together, but we just have very similar personalities, and we just cracked each other up the whole day. We had so much fun. Before we do splits, we call the sisters and ask them to think of focuses or goals they have for the exchange. It can be personal goals, goals with missionary work, things they want to do better, and then we do our best to help them. Well, our focuses for the day were to be exactly obedient, especially with the mission schedule, to stop people on the streets, and to help people feel the love of Heavenly Father. I was really excited for the day. We taught one of their less-active members, found this way cool investigator on the street, (who I just found out accepted a baptismal date) and talked to all the people. It was great!

    So for splits, both Sister Nielsen and I go to the other sister's area. It used to be that we would trade companions for the day, but recently that rule has changed. But I was way excited to go to these sister's area because it is like straight up downtown Helsinki. I just love being there. There is such a good vibe and energy. We were on a tram heading to a lesson and no one was sitting next to me at the time, but I noticed that there was this little kid in the seat in front of me staring at me. He was about 3, I would guess. By the way, I have to tell you my I believe that babies and dogs know who the missionaries are. Let me ' every time we are on a bus or a tram and there is a baby close to us, the babies ALWAYS stare. Like always. It's incredible. Their parents will be doing everything possible to avoid eye contact or any sort of contact with us but the babies are just smiling and waving and laughing and man, it's the best. I can't even tell you how many times I have been sitting on a bus and a little kid or baby will smile or wave or laugh at us, and it's such a great way to start talking to their mom. Same with dogs. Dogs like run up to us, even if there are other people or other dogs on the street, it's always to us. It's super funny, but my theory is that they know. They know who we are and what the message we have to share is and they don't want their mom/dad/owner to miss out on the message. Now, I could be wrong, probably am, but I am convinced this theory is true! :) Anyways, this kid just kept staring at me so after a while, I just asked him "What's up?" I talked to him for about 30 seconds about hockey...finns love hockey...even 3 year old kids....but it led into a great conversation with his mom. Sadly, we had to jump off the tram before I could get her information, but it was still a wonderful experience and made me way happy! But I really learned so much from Sister Johnston on Tuesday. She has such a big heart and loves literally. It was really inspiring to be with her and I hope I can be like her one day!

    So on Wednesday, we had Zone Conference with Elder Texeira of the Europe area presidency. He is from Portugal and was in Finland for a week. We had a leadership meeting in the morning with the APs, Zone Leaders, and Sister Training Leaders. It was a really good meeting and it was fun to be taught by him on such a personal level. He talked about who a leader is and what the role of a leader is. What I took away from that is that I want to be a leader that builds. I don't just want to be an example, but I want to point people to the Savior so they will know how to change in their lives and become the people Heavenly Father wants them to become. I don't want to be someone who feels distant to other people. I want to be relateable. I want to be a builder. Anyways, it was a really cool experience. He also talked about "the loneliness of leadership". I have learned, especially on my mission, that is a real thing. He talked about the purpose of that, however, and how it really teaches us to turn to our Father for help. I have felt these past few weeks that my trust and dependence on my Father and my Savior have increased dramatically. I am supposed to be helping other people, but heaven knows I need help too. Heavenly Father will always help me though. I know that. He is so close to us. We just have to pay attention.

    During Zone Conference, Elder Texeira talked a lot about boldness. He talked about changing the way we do missionary work by changing the way we think. We all took a survey before he came, and apparently the thing our mission struggles with the most is finding investigators, particularly through contacting. We have been pushing the "normal and natural" train my whole mission. I think that is a wonderful thing, but what Elder Texeira said and taught us was so completely different from how I have always done missionary work. The underlying principle in everything he taught was "take what these people are willing to give you and run with it." The finns are not always willing to stop and shoot the breeze with the missionaries, which brings us to "Something Finnish" for the day, they are very focused. I love them for it, but man, you try and get in a finn's path when they have set their mind to do something, look out. They won't stop. But it's like what you are always saying dad, we have to have our "Elevator Speech" ready to give them. It was amazing though because Sister Nielsen and I committed after Zone Conference to be bold....always. It was so cool to see how it worked when we just took what time the finns are willing to give us. Sometimes, it is literally 2 seconds, but I have given out more cards this week in 2 seconds than I ever have in my life. Maybe nothing will come of it, but it's totally worth it if something, even a tiny something, comes out of it. I know it will. I am so grateful for inspired leaders! We have a couple of return appointments and temple tours this week with people from being bold. It works folks...try it! :)

    So now onto the investigators....oh man...are you ready for the most wonderful/saddest story in the world. So D is the most prepared investigator I have EVER taught on my mission. Hands down. We had another lesson with him this week and taught about the Restoration. It was such a powerful lesson. I was so overcome with the spirit. Honestly, D is so prepared...his lessons are just filled with the unrestrained spirit of the Lord. We were both so emotional as we taught him and testified about the Book of Mormon especially. I started to testify about the Book of Mormon and I have never felt the spirit confirm that strongly in MY heart the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. I told D that when I want to feel close to my Heavenly Father and my Savior, I open the Book of Mormon and read and I feel their love...every time. That was an answer to my prayers...I know those were not my words. Heavenly Father was speaking through the spirit to me to D and back to me to confirm in my heart that I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know God loves us. I just wish you could all be here in his lessons with is incredible!! The spirit is so real and strong. I learn SO much each time we teach him and my heart is so full...all the time. At the end of our lesson, we invited D to pray about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. He kind of sat there, all quiet like and then he said, "I will pray, but I already know it is true." Then he said, "I just want to tell you sisters, I am not making this up, but I feel like I have heard all of these things before. When you tell me these things, it rings in my mind like I have heard it all in a dream or something." Oh my gosh. I have wanted someone to say that my whole mission. It was the most incredible lesson ever.

    K...everyone grab some tissues now...after our lesson, we were walking back to the bus stop with D and we were just talking about his wife and son and he says, "Actually, I have to go move all of my stuff into my new apartment so it will be ready when my wife and son come." I didn't really think anything of it but Sister Nielsen said, "Where did you move?" Guys....D doesn't live in our area anymore :( I literally cried later that night when we got home. He moved like 10 minutes away but is now in a completely different ward. We had to pass him over to the elders there. I am so sad. Seriously, I have never loved teaching someone so much in my life. He is so honest and pure in heart. He loves the gospel and has been searching and wanting and waiting for this his whole life. I know it is all about building the kingdom, and obviously D is supposed to be where he is. It is selfish for me to want to teach him, but he is the most prepared person I have ever met. He is still getting baptized on the 29th though, so I will send you a picture. Please pray for him. He is so special and is going to be the most amazing member! The church is true!

    We taught S and L this week, our friends from Taiwan. They are both hilarious and so cute! We taught S about the Word of Wisdom and both of them together about the Law of Chastity. I don't know if I have told you their story yet, but they are foreign exchange students here and they are going back to Taiwan in June. They want to get baptized, but they wanted to wait until they got home. Well, Sister Nielsen and I have just felt way unsettled about that, so we have prayed and prayed about them. We both felt very strongly that they could be ready to be baptized on December 6. We invited them both to pray about it and we set that date as a goal. I know they are both so ready. The Lord has prepared them as well. Just pray for them that they will feel ready for that day. I love them both so much. Especially S. She has my heart. We were friends before this life, I know it! You meet the most amazing people on a mission. It's amazing. I am so blessed! heart is so full. It's always so full. I just feel full of the Love of God. His love is so incredibly powerful and can change us...our very natures. I have been thinking a lot this week about building our foundation on Christ and not depending on or trusting in the arm of the flesh. I think that's just been the theme of my mission :) But we have this member H, who is from Vietnam. He is an incredible person and has a strong testimony, but he has been sending us texts lately, trying to argue with us about the gospel. Every time we are around him, he says things about the church to try and get a reaction out of us. It's honestly really annoying, and I have prayed so hard to be filled with the love of God toward him. I have been praying for him so hard, every day, and this week as I was reading the Book of Mormon, I realized that H is dependent on missionaries. He needs missionaries for his spiritual nourishment. He doesn't know how to get answers for himself or how to rely on Heavenly Father. Sister Nielsen and I had a HUGE discussion about this and we realized that the greatest injustice we can do to a person is to allow them to become dependent on anything other than their Savior. He is literally the ONLY sure thing in this world. Family, friends, health, financial standing, possessions can all be lost in the blink of an eye. We can't depend on our parent's testimonies, we can't rely on our friend's knowledge of Joseph Smith, we can't trust in the arm of the flesh if we want our faith to last. It won't work.

    I am reading Jesus the Christ and there is a part where Jesus is in a synagogue and tells the people "I am the Bread of Life". In JTC, Elder Talmage talks about how this was such a crucial point in the Savior's ministry. It was a crucial test. Jesus testified of himself as the Savior of the world, and He really put it in the hands of his followers. What were they going to do with that knowledge? The sad thing is, so many of his "disciples" left him. They stopped following him because their faith wasn't in him as Savior and Redeemer, it was in his miracles and in the things they could see. It was a time of sifting. They hadn't allowed the Holy Ghost to witness to them that this man, this person they walked and talked with really was the Son of God. The only way we can know Jesus Christ is our Savior is through a manifestation of the Holy Ghost. 

    After many people left, Christ turned to his apostles and said, "Will ye also go away?" I love Peter's reply:

66 ¶From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

 67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go?thou hast the words of eternal life.

 69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God

    Peter is such a rock. To whom shall we go? If Christ fails us, all hope for eternity is gone. Honestly though, living the gospel is not for the faint-hearted. It's not for the passive-believers, but for people who are willing to step out of the dark, into the light and to stand up for what we believe in. I feel like in the past it's been easier to live in the gray area as a member of the church. We didn't really have to "choose ye this day whom ye will serve." Those days are so over. We have to choose. The world and the church are completely opposite from each other. It's like all barriers are coming down. Only the truly converted will survive all that is coming. When Elder Bednar was here, he said, "If you go home from your mission and find something that the brethren have been 'hiding from you' in church history or some commandment you didn't 'fully understand' and you leave the church because of that, you were never really converted in the first place."

    Dang. How scary is that? We have to become converted...not to missionaries, not to church programs, not to the tabernacle choir, not to anything else but our Savior. He is the bread of life. If we live His gospel, we will never hunger. It is amazing how true that is. I have felt His strength come into my life so much as I have learned about Him. As I have learned more about Jesus Christ, I have realized that almost immediately when a situation comes up, the first thought that comes into my mind is "What would Jesus do?" People joke about that saying but like for real guys, What would Jesus do? If he were here right now? What would he say to this person? What would he do? We can't know what He would do until we learn about him. That is something I know I skipped a lot in my life. But as I have read about different situations in his life, I have realized how we really can know, for sure, how he would respond to any situation by reading the scriptures and other good books about Him. I know that doing what He would do will never be wrong. He is the only constant thing in this world. Peter and the other apostles knew that there was nowhere else to go, because He has the words of eternal life. He is the Christ, the Son of the living God and he has burst the bands of death. He is the reason we will all live again and have the possibility of living with our Heavenly Father again as families. It's only through Him. I love Jesus Christ. I am his disciple and representative, not because of my name tag, but because of the covenants I have made. I am his missionary. He leads this work. This is His church. It's all true. 

    I love you all so much. Sorry if my spiritual thought was like all over the place...I just have learned so much this week and I try my best to share as much of it as I can with all of you. Thank you for your goodness. Thank you for being examples to me of true discipleship. You all live the gospel, you don't just believe it. It is a part of who you are and that's what the Lord needs. He needs us. I know He does. I love you all so much and hope you feel my prayers for you. I have the most wonderful family in the world! 

    Have a beautiful week and recite this in your head before you leave home in the morning, 

 13 Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.

   I love you all! You are the best! 


   Sisar Olivia Bitner 

At the train station waiting to go home with S and L :) 
My friends from the MTC! I love Sister Thayne and Elder Hunter

Monday, November 10, 2014

We'll Bring The World His Truth

    Hello! That's as clever as my intro is getting this week...sorry about that! :) How are you all doing? Thank you so much for all the emails and pictures. I can't believe how much you all have grown up...all my cute little cousins and siblings aren't so little anymore! I just hope you all remember me! It's only been a year, but man, when you see your family as much as we see ours normally, it's amazing how much everyone has changed. Also, Mom and Dad, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! Holy cow you too, 21 years...geez. That's insane! That means I am 20...which is also insane! I remember last year writing you a card in the MTC and now I am in Finland...what is this? I am so grateful for both of you and for the example you are to me. Thank you for being married in the temple and for setting such a good example for me! I have always known that you two love each other and that is such a great blessing. Thank you for that and I hope you have the best day together! I thought about shipping you some chocolate, but I am saving that for Christmas, but know I will be thinking about you all day! :) 

    First off, I wanted to give you all a weather report live from Helsinki,'s actually not too cold! Heavenly Father loves us! :) It's not cold, but boy oh boy is it dark...I think that is really what's so hard about living in the Scandinavian countries. It's really not the cold so much, but the darkness that will get you. It sucks your energy like none other. It doesn't get bright outside until about 10 and the sun sets completely by 4. It's basically overcast all day.It's pretty incredible. I get so excited when we can see the stars or moon because it reminds me that I still live on planet Earth. But don't worry,we are taking care of ourselves. We have these lights that we call "The Happy Light". I don't even know what it is, but we turn it on whenever we are home and it really boosts our energy. I am taking my Vitamin D in ample supply and exercising and trying to eat right. It's amazing what you have to do to kestää loppuun asti here in good old Finland...that means endure to the end, by the way! :) But Dad and Mom, you have asked a lot about weather and how I am doing health wise so I just wanted to let you know! All is good! :)

    Well we had a pretty amazing week this week. Sister Nielsen and I have become really good friends, fast. She is great! We actually found out this week that we are third cousins...or something! So her great great great grandpa is Breneman Barr Bitner...guess what...he's also my great great great grandpa or something. One of her family members actually wrote to her about it and so yep...we are cousins! :) We joked this week that we are really excited that we get to spend Christmas with our family! It's such a small world!

    We wanted to really focus this week on inviting our investigators to be baptized. They have had so much success in this ward recently, in fact, we are working really closely with two recent converts, A, and R who have been baptized within the past 2 months. Don't you love their names? :) Anyways, A is from India. She has THE CUTEST daughters, S and S....hahaha man this is hard not to say their names, anyways, they are super cute. A was baptized about 1 1/2 months ago. We had a really good lesson with her this week about the apostasy and the Restoration. I just love when gospel principles click in people's heads. It's so amazing to watch the look on their face when it finally makes sense. We had this way brilliant idea to talk about the apostasy and then turn the lights off in their family room for "dramatic effect" and then when we talked about the restoration, we were going to turn the lights on again. Well A's youngest daughter super busy. She is always putting everything in her mouth and is definitely a button pusher so as we are in the middle of talking about how dark the world was and confusing it was after the death of Christ and his apostles...with the lights of...S2 runs over and slaps the lights back was super funny, and the desired affect was not achieved, nevertheless, we had a good laugh and still felt the spirit very strongly in that lesson. I am so grateful for the restoration of the gospel, especially the priesthood. Even S2 couldn't stand the "world without the light of the gospel." She was just way ahead of us! :) It was super funny!

    On Tuesday, we were able to do splits for the first time...well my first time as a Sister Training Leader. We went to Haaga which is about 10 minutes away from Espoo...haha it's so amazing because in Vaasa, you could drive 100 miles in any direction and you would still be in our area, now it's like 5 minutes and you have already passed through 2 areas. It's amazing. Anyways, I was able to be with Sister Schellenberg for the day. She is in the same group as Sister Nielsen so she has about 7 weeks left on her mission. We had a great day together and I learned a lot from her. She is definitely one of those people I just felt like I have known forever. We hit it off way fast and laughed a lot during the day. We were trying to contact a former investigator and she wasn't home, so we decided to knock some doors in her building. Well, as luck would have it, every single person whose door we knocked was very scantily that how you say that? :) I don't know, but we had a good laugh over that! Oh the joys of being a missionary! We were in a building of a less active later that night and this little old, african woman walks through the door. She was talking on the phone and spoke finnish REALLY well. So after she hung up, we said, "Hey, where are you from? You speak finnish incredibly!" Well, she looked up at us...she was really short...and said, in English, "I don't speak Finnish. You can't convert me. What you all doing here, trying to convert people, I am an ORTHODOX. You hear me? ORTHODOX!!" Man, it was hilarious. We just meet the most wonderful, most hilarious people on a mission. It is really fun to talk to them and I really learned a lot from Sister Schellenberg about getting our street contacts to the gospel, FAST. She is very good at transitioning from small talk to the gospel and it was a great learning opportunity for me!

    We had a couple of DAs this week with members in the ward. The S family was the first. So Sisar S is awesome. Want to know why? Ok, so she went to America with her family and they ate at the one and only, Cafe Rio. Yes, my home away from home! :) Anyways, she and her brothers came back to Finland and thought, "Hmmm...why don't we have that here?" (Brilliant question, I have been asking the same thing for months) but anyways, they decided to start up their own rendition of Cafe Rio in downtown Helsinki. It's called Tortilla House. So I have heard for months from other missionaries how amazing Tortilla House is and I was always like, "I need to go there, NOW!" So Sister Nielsen took me this week. Since members own it, missionaries get half off on sweet is that? But friends, I kid you not, I about cried as I tried the delicious sweet pork burrito with real live Cafe Rio ranch on it...guys, it's Cafe Rio! Oh my goodness! Anyways, just wanted to let you all know...I was a very happy camper! :) But her family is amazing for so many other reasons. Their youngest daughter M is just like Caroline...seriously they are the same person. It was so much fun to be able to talk with her, I felt like I was talking to Caroline the whole time! I will admit, I got a little teary-eyed, but it was so fun to be with them! I have been blessed to serve in the most amazing wards in the world! I love these members!

    So, want to hear the best story of the week? Ok, so last week I wrote about D...D is the best! He is my favorite. Anyways, we had our first lesson with him this week. We taught him with a couple from the Temple, The S family in their apartment. Sister Nielsen and I had both prayed so hard that the lesson would go well and that D would feel the spirit. I have to tell you, I have never felt the spirit so strongly in a lesson as I did on Saturday. Seriously, I felt it like radiating through my body. I was in awe at how strong the spirit was there. I love teaching with Sister Nielsen. It is so easy and we play off of each other really well. It was amazing because I would be sitting there during the lesson and a thought would come into my head and immediately after, Sister Nielsen would say the exact thing I thought. She said it was the same way for her. We gave D a Book of Mormon in chinese and he was so grateful for it. When he took it, he looked like we had given him a million dollars. I have never seen anyone so grateful to receive a Book of Mormon. He said in China, he had looked for a church before and even bought the King James Version of the bible in english, but it was too hard for him to understand. He was so excited to read the Book of Mormon. Then we invited him to be baptized and without any hesitation at all he said, "Yes, of course I will." His baptismal date is November 29th and I KNOW it is going to happen! He is amazing! I have never experienced the spirit that strongly as I testified to someone about God's love for them. I could feel it in my heart. D is so special and he is one of the elect if I have ever seen one. I am so excited for him!

    So this past Sunday was Father's Day in Finland so dad, Happy Father's Day! :) But it was also the primary program! Oh my was hands down the CUTEST thing I have ever seen. I love primary programs. They are the same wherever you go. Someone always waves at their parents, someone is teasing someone else, someone always sings REALLY loud, someone forgets their line, but always, more than anything, the spirit is there so strongly. One of the first songs they sang was "He Sent His Son". The girls and the boys split up. It was so cute to hear the boys with their varied tones and depth of voice and then to hear the sweet little girls all singing so purely. Oh man, I was bawling! haha The best part though was at the end. M, or in other words, mini Caroline, and some other kids got up at the end as a group and they sang "We'll Bring the World His Truth." Of course, I got excited when the piano started playing, cause Hello, I love that song, but they sang it in ENGLISH. Oh my gosh it was hands down the cutest thing I have ever sing. I have never felt the spirit that strongly during that song! I realized at that moment that the gospel is for everyone. Little finnish kids sing the same songs as little american kids and little japanese kids and little mexican's all the same. We all have the same Heavenly Father and we really are His army. We have been taught by our parents and have been saved for this time so that WE can bring the world HIS truth. Afterwards, M told her older sister R that she watched the sister missionaries the whole time she was singing the song and she said, "R, the sister missionaries loved our song! They were both smiling so big and they were crying!" It was such a special sacrament meeting. D was there as well as S. I know they felt the spirit. Nothing is stronger than the testimony of the primary children and they were all so wonderful!! 

    This week I have really realized the reality of all of the prophesies that prophets have made throughout time. I am reading in the Isaiah chapters of the Book of Mormon and as I have read them with a focus on Christ, I have learned SO much more than I ever have before, especially about the second coming of the Savior. There are so many signs of His coming. One of those is the hastening of the work of Salvation. We have watched that "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go" video from the broadcast with a couple families this week (that song still gets me every time :) but I have just been in awe this week about the fulfillment of that prophesy. President Rawlings told Sister Nielsen that over the past year, the patriarch in Finland has given patriarchal blessings to 11 of the 12 tribes of Israel....just think about that for a second...11 OUT OF 12. Like Holy cow's really happening! I have felt this week stronger than ever before in my life the reality of the second coming of our Savior. He is coming back in power and glory and we are preparing the world for that day. I don't know if it's just because we taught S this week about the Word of Wisdom and other commandments, but I have been so disgusted this week with how much sin is in the is terrible. But honestly, that's another sign of the's just evidence to the fact that He really is coming. I found myself this week being so incredibly excited, but also I gained such a greater desire to talk to ALL the people about the gospel. They all need to know. We have what they don't and because of that, it's our responsibility to share it:

1. We have been born, as Nephi of old,
To goodly parents who love the Lord.
We have been taught, and we understand,
That we must do as the Lord commands.
2. We have been saved for these latter days
To build the kingdom in righteous ways.
We hear the words our prophet declares:
"Let each who's worthy go forth and share."
3. We know his plan, and we will prepare,
Increase our knowledge through study and prayer.
Daily we'll learn until we are called
To take the gospel to all the world.
We are as the army of Helaman.
We have been taught in our youth.
And we will be the Lord's missionaries
To bring the world his truth.

    We are NOW the Lord's missionaries to bring the world His truth! We are living in the last days before the Savior comes again! How lucky and blessed are we! It's like Elder Bednar said to all of us finnish missionaries..."as bad as the world is now is the BEST it will ever be in your lifetime, but when you look ahead to your future, NEVER BE AFRAID." Those words really changed my life. We are all here for a reason. I know that. But I also know that the majority of us, if not all of us feel SUPER inadequate. Honestly there are so many days where I have woken up in the morning, gone into the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror, and been like "What the heck? Who do I think I am? What right do I have to tell people how to live their lives?" But you know what, those thoughts aren't from my Father in Heaven. Those thoughts are from the devil. He wants us to be miserable. How rude is that? Like for reals though...who does he think he is? What right does he have to tell us how to live our lives? He doesn't know jack squat. He always tries to push us down and make us feel terrible and usually when that happens, something amazing is just around the corner. I saw that again this week. We can't ever stop fighting against him. We are the army of our Heavenly Father. He needs us! How cool is that? I know the church is true. The Holy Ghost has been so strong this week in good old Espoo and I have felt a new sense of determination and strength. There will always be opposition, but thank heaven for that! Thank heaven we have a chance every day to strengthen our faith and to come closer to our Father. That's what it's all about! I love you all so much! Never be afraid! Be the kind of person that when you wake up in the morning Satan thinks, "Oh crap, he's/she's up". Yes, I stole that quote from Pinterest, but in my defense, they didn't put an author so I am claiming it as my own! :) But for real, I love the gospel. It's so true. The church is true. It's all good! You are all wonderful and I hope you have a great November week! Keep praying for the people in Espoo! We are in miracle territory folks! Big things are coming! :)

    Minä rakastan teitä!


    Sisar Olivia Bitner

    P.S. Something Finnish...They have really cool wood paneled...I think I am going to bring it home with me to ''s way classy! :) Love you all!!

Sisar Schellenberg and I 
The the dark :) 
The famous lutheran church in's really beautiful...too bad it isn't true :) 
Sister Training Leaders for the mission 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I think I'm gonna like it here :)

What is up minun perheeni? My goodness...the halloween party was this week! I hope it was so great! Mom, we made taco soup in honor of your wasn't quite as good, but I did dress up as a's not a costume, but it was still way fun to think about all of you that day! I hope you had a great time. Oh and Tay and Ash...ONNEKSI OLKOON!! :) Your costumes were pretty great! I have missed this party two years in a best believe I am coming next year though! :) I even have some costume ideas already...Finland has inspired me! Plus, I have a feeling I will need the prize money, so that's another bonus! haha just kidding! I just love you all so much and, can I just say how grateful I am that family parties are important to us? There really is nothing better than family and we are so blessed that we live so close to one another. There are so many people in Finland whose family live in America or Sweden or England or France or all these random places in the world and they never see each other. I am just so grateful I have always been so close to my family. It is such a great blessing!!

Man...I don't even know where to begin. I have to tell you when I write my emails, my fingers start to cramp up because I write so much and I try and write so fast. It's worth it though...take one for the team! :) I really look forward to writing you all. It helps me to reflect and be grateful and to think about how much Heavenly Father has blessed me over the week. President Watson challenged each of us missionaries to take 5 minutes at the end of every day and just to be completely still. He told us to just sit and think about our day and remember all the times that Heavenly Father blessed or touched our lives. I am repenting now, and recommitting to do that daily, but on the days I have, I have noticed a huge difference. I feel more at peace. I feel more tranquil. I feel reverent and I feel close to my Heavenly Father. It's an amazing thing!

So on Tuesday, I got all my stuff together in the morning and then I headed off to Helsinki at about 3:20. Sisar Pace and I said goodbye, which stunk, but she is going to be great! I have no doubt about that. The train was super quiet as I was riding, it was just really peaceful. I was grateful for that time I had to look at Finland...look at the North...look at Vaasa and Seinäjoki. I was so blessed to serve there for such a long time. I love how peaceful and beautiful it is. I realized this week that I am not as much of a city girl as I thought...don't worry, still love New York, but I LOVED being in the North of Finland. Everything is so spread out and it's so wonderful to have peace and quiet. Man, I just loved it. But anyways, I got to Seinäjoki and switched trains there, thankfully the elders serving there helped me. I had a lot of junk :) But then I set off again. It was super funny though, when I got to Helsinki, I have quite a few bags...not a lot, but they are just big. Finns are just so hilarious. I was struggling super hard to get all my stuff off the train and they just sat and watched me. Then, without saying anything, like 4 different guys come, take my bags, get them off the train and then leave. Literally didn't say a word. It made me laugh so hard. Finns love to help, but try and get them to talk...that's a whole other kettle of fish! :) I was grateful for their help though, and then I looked down the platform and Sister Nielsen and Sister Heggie come running over to help me. It was great to see them both. We were going to miss our train to Espoo, so we grabbed all of my stuff and sprinted to the train. Man, if I had a dollar for every time I have had to run to catch a train or a bus in Finland...I'd have a lot of dollars :) good times though. Anyways, we made it to Espoo and got all my stuff situated. Transfers are always a struggle but it's so nice to feel like you have made yourself home in a place. I love unpacking! :)

So a little information about ESPOO. First off, two of my former companions have served here as sister training leaders, Sister Fronk and Sister Egan. It's great to be in a place with so much family history! It's been crazy looking through the area book and seeing their handwriting on all the records and stuff. It's amazing how fast time flies :) Well Espoo is beautiful. SOOOO different from Vaasa, but it's good. It's actually the second largest city in Finland under Helsinki and above Tampere. The temple is here...10 minute walk from our house...I could get used to that. :) It's so beautiful and sticks out so much in the dark, cold, winter of Finland. There is such a special spirit here in Espoo and I know a large part of that is because of the temple. It is a beacon of light and hope to all of these people. It's a great contacting tool as well because many people from Espoo were here when the open house was occurring, so a lot of them have seen it. It's a very special place. We teach a lot of our lessons in the guest house of the temple...they have a guest house so people from all over can come stay here. It's really fun just to be so close. But more on the temple later. We live about 15 minutes by train away from the church. It's a cute little white church. Definitely a keeper :) I am serving in the Espoo 1 ward. It's a lot bigger than Vaasa...about the same size as Tampere, but it was fun to be back in a full-blown ward again. In Vaasa, we only have Sunday School and Sacrament meeting...just 2 hours...but now we are back to 3. I felt like a little kid yesterday at church felt so much longer, but I am so grateful to have all 3 hours again. It's amazing how much I missed it! The title of my email should have been Calf Ripper X...that's a workout right? Something like that anyways :) but Espoo is quite the "hilly" place. We walk a lot and there are so many hills. My calves have been burning this week...they have been out of commission for awhile, but it's so great to be in a big city again! There is a good energy down here, always something going on! We live about 20 minutes by train from Helsinki. I love the area. I have just been so amazed again by how many foreigners live down here. Helsinki is a pretty big melting pot. We were in the train station buying my bus pass and I was just looking around and thinking, man...I wonder how many countries are represented in this building. SO MANY. It's great though! I think I'm gonna like it here! :)

So Sister Nielsen is awesome! She has 2 months left on her mission, but is going way strong. I am excited to serve with her. She is originally from Chicago, but her family lives in Salt Lake now. She has 3 little brothers and is going to BYU next semester. She is a really solid missionary. She works hard and follows the spirit. I am really excited to be her companion. I have already learned so much from her. :) Funny thing about our companionship...ok so Sister Nielsen is really 5'11''. As such, she has really long legs....sooooo when she takes one step, guess how many I have to take to keep up with her? like 4! It reminds me a lot of when Courtnee Wood and I used to run, she would be "jogging" and I would be sprinting just to keep up with her. Love you Court :) haha I never felt like a munchkin before in my life, but man...I have been hustling along this week! Sister Nielsen and I laughed way hard about it, but we have established a good pace and I think it will work out. :) short little legs...what to do? :) 

So the people down here in Espoo are AWESOME! They have had at least one baptism every month for the past 6 months down here...oftentimes more. We have so many recent converts we are working with. One, H, is actually someone that Sister Fronk taught when she was here. We met him this week and I remembered hearing a lot about him from Sister Fronk, so we had a great time talking about her and laughing about all the good times we both had with her. It was really fun to get to meet him finally. He is from Vietnam and actually hit his "year as a member mark" yesterday" so I guess he isn't a recent convert anymore! We are still working with him though. We are having him teach us the lessons. Last time, he taught us about the Restoration and it was so good. He is a pro! We challenged him this next week to focus on prophets, especially President Monson and that we would come and discuss more about that. I love Vietnamese people! My goodness! Vietnam and China...two places that have come to be very dear to my heart. Who would have thought?

Speaking of China...I sometimes forget I don't serve there...especially in Espoo. We have 2 chinese investigators! They are all seriously the best things ever. We have S and L who the sisters have been teaching for awhile. They are so golden. We haven't been able to have an official lesson yet, but they both came to church yesterday and are coming with us to FHE in Helsinki tonight! We are super excited. We only have 4 investigators right now, but I like that so much better. The Lean Machine man, it works! :) So we have S and L and then T...he is from Vietnam. He has been taught all the lessons, but told Sister Nielsen and Sister Heggie last week that he wants to investigate other churches now. The funny thing about him though is that the sisters have given him to the Lord so many times, but he just keeps coming back. He keeps wanting to learn more. He just can't get enough. That's one thing I have been thinking a lot about this week...the gospel never runs out. We will never EVER fully know or understand the gospel. That's what is so incredible about it. Each and every one of us, even President Monson, learn more and more and more every single day. That's the purpose of it. That's why it is "the living waters". That's why Christ said that as we drink of the water which He can give us, aka the Living Water, we will never thirst. We can always receive more knowledge and more testimony. It's one of my favorite things about the gospel! :) 

Super cool story of the week...definitely a tender mercy. Ok, so on Wednesday evening, we were heading up to T's house and we saw this guy standing at the top of the hill looking at his phone. He seemed confused so we stopped and asked him if we could help him. He turned around and said, "Oh no, I was just chatting with my wife, she is still in China." Anyways, we proceed to talk to this guy. Turns out he just moved here about 2 months ago, he has a wife and son in China who are moving to Finland in about a month, and they decided to move because they wanted a better life for their son. It was funny though because the conversation was kind of dying, but, we later came to find out, Sister Nielsen and I were both praying that we would be able to get this conversation to a gospel subject. Without us saying anything, D...the guy...said, "Actually, I have wanted to move away from China for about 10 years now. My mother died 10 years ago and that is when I started believing in God." uh...what? This guy didn't even know we were missionaries at this point. Talk about answering prayers! :) We had such a great conversation with him. We told him about the temple and how in the temple we can be sealed to our families forever. His eyes got super wide and he said, "When can I go to the temple?" We told him we would love to give him a tour of the grounds and the guest house and we also invited him to church. You should have seen how fast he whipped out his phone. "What time is it?" "Where is it?" "How do I get there?" He was just rattling off questions and was SO excited to come. Anyways we scheduled a time to meet him at the train station on Sunday so that we could go together. We get to the train station on Sunday, and he wasn't there. I was SO sad. I was like "What? He was practically begging to come to church!!" But we had to leave so we got on the train and set off. Well, about 3 seconds later, we get a text from him. Apparently he was under the bridge, just about to make the train, but he missed it. We were both super bummed and, probably wasn't a good way to think but I thought, "Oh well, better luck next week." Then he calls us and says, "Sisters, I will be at church...I am catching the next train." Man...this guy is golden! Well, as luck would have it, he made it just before the sacrament. We never really had a chance to explain that church was 3 hours and all that good stuff. He had scheduled an appointment for right after sacrament meeting, but he came up to us and just kept apologizing and saying how sorry he was that he couldn't stay for all 3 hours and he promised to stay for all 3 next week. This guy is awesome! We set a vision for our area and we both felt like our next baptism was going to be on November 29. It's going to be D! I just know it! :) We have our temple tour with him this week so pray for him. I am really excited!

Anyways, I am sorry this letter is kind of crazy...I know they mostly all are, but I am so happy to be here. Oh man...a little bit about being a sister training leader. So basically our biggest responsibilities are to go to Mission Leadership Council with President and Sister Watson, which we just had on Friday, to go on splits with all of the sisters-we have our first splits on Tuesday, and to help run zone training! I am really excited for the opportunity. I don't know why, but I know this calling is from Heavenly Father. All I can do is my best and hope that everything else works out. I know it will. It always has! :) But I really am so grateful for the gospel. I am grateful for change. It's been a really good week, but also a rough week. I felt like I gave my whole heart to Vaasa and then I had to leave it. Sometimes it's really hard for me, and I'm sure other people as well, to understand why Heavenly Father tells us to Love Love Love things so much, and then we have to leave them. Heartbreak is pretty common in life, but Sister Nielsen and I were talking yesterday about how during those times in life when we feel like we can't go on, we can't open our hearts again, we can't give anymore, that's when God steps in and takes our little tiny amounts of love and magnifies them and enlarges them. I love Espoo and the people here, but I know that as I continue to pray for the pure love of Christ to fill my heart, it will. That's really the only way missionary work even works. When we are filled with God's love, miracles happen. I have seen that so many times on my mission. On the front of my planner I have the scripture Moroni 7: 48 which says;

 48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.

I love that scripture. I think that when all is said and done, the more love we have in our hearts, the more comfortable and familiar we will feel when we all see our Savior again. He loves perfectly. He loves fully. His love is real and because of that love, He is pure. I have felt His love purify and change my heart so many times on my mission, and I know He can do it again. I know that all our "losses" can be made up. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The enabling power of the atonement is real. His love is real. I know it is. I am so grateful for all the opportunities I have had in my life to really love people. To get to know them, to hear their stories, to share experiences, to serve one another, to spend time with each other, and to love people for who they really are. I think the best thing about Christ-like love is it changes our view of the world. We see people as God sees them. That makes it so much harder to let go, but man...that love is so real. It's tangible. It changes people. I love the gospel. I love you all so much. I hope you know that. Thank you for loving me and for all of your support. I know God sends us angels to be our family members and friends. You all really don't know how much good you do everyday, but as a benefactor of your goodness, I just want to thank you all for who you are. You are all children of our Heavenly Father. You are children of God. Never ever forget that! I love you so much and hope you have the most wonderful week! I know this gospel is true. I know it because it's changed me and I've seen it change others. It is real. God is real. He is good. Christ is our Savior. He lives and because He lives, we will all live again one day! "Oh sweet the joy this sentence gives, I know that my Redeemer lives!"

Minä rakastan teitä!!


Sisar Olivia Bitner

P.S. Something Finnish...they have the most tricked out light fixtures I have ever seen...they have this simple plain houses and then look up and there is a chandelier hanging above your head...someone had a chandelier in their bathroom...hahahaha I guess in a place this dark, you need to make the light something special! :) I love you all!!

Oh one more thing, dad, I met my first South Korean on my mission!! I told her the 2 korean sentences I know, "Don't make me laugh" and "Do you wanna die?" She laughed for like 25 minutes and said to tell you thank you for serving her people! So thank you for serving her people! :) I love you!!!