"..Of such is the kingdom of God."
Heido! What's up family? How are you all doing this fine morning? Is it nice and snowy in Utah cause it sure isn't here in Finland. It is pouring rain as I speak. It's been really weird weather this week...my hair is nice and frizzy because of the humidity, but hey, that's the price you pay, you know? :) It's all worth it. I hope you have all had a great week. We have had a good week in good old Espoo. It's the place to be this Christmas season! :) I love being here and feel especially blessed this Christmas season!
So this week has been really good. We have seen a lot of miracles with the "He is the Gift" video. It's an amazing thing. The church is so cool! It's so true. That video is amazing. But anyways, back to the week, so I have been excited to go on splits this week for like....6 weeks since I have been here because guess who we were going to see? Sister Thayne! Man...I just love her. She is so great! Anyways, we headed to Pasila on Monday night and met up with Sister Thayne and her companion Sister Dowd. We had prayed about it, and both felt like Sister Nielsen needed to go with Sister Thayne and I needed to go with Sister Dowd! Sister Thayne and I had a great time reminiscing and talking about where we were a year ago and how much has changed. It's incredible to see how much we have both grown. She has really been such a good friend to me during my mission. I love her so much and it was great to catch up.
So on Tuesday, Sister Dowd and I set off. She is in the same group as Sister Pace and it was fun to talk to her and get to know her better. We really wanted to focus on being ourselves...in finnish...not the easiest thing to do as everyone learning a language knows, and on using the "He is the Gift" video in our contacting and talking with EVERYONE. Well Sister Dowd is amazing. She definitely showed me how work is done, and she just talked with everyone and shared the joy of Christ with ALL the people. It was so much fun. We went to contact this one potential they have had for awhile and she let us in. She was really nice and wanted to talk, but when we brought up the church, the atmosphere in the room totally changed. She kind of turned on "defense mode" and wasn't about to hear anything we had to say. We asked her if we could show her a little video about Christmas that had just come out from our church. She reluctantly said yes, but as the movie started, the spirit in her apartment flipped 180 and the warmest, most peaceful feeling came into the room. It was incredible. We both testified of Christ and that this is His church and at the end of the meeting, we had a new investigator and a return appointment to discuss the Restoration the following day. I am telling you people, Christ is changing the world and we are helping Him do it through sharing this video! It's SOOOO cool!!! I love it!
So coolest contacting experience ever happened to me while we were on splits. So finns are pretty private...did you all know that? But about 99% of them walk around everywhere with headphones in...you better believe I have made a pact with myself NEVER to wear headphones when there are people to talk to, but anyways, it makes it kind of hard to contact sometimes because they don't hear us. Well, I got on a bus and sat down next to this girl, she looked like she was about 20 years oldish. I asked her how her day was going and soon realized the dreaded headphones were in full force. DANG IT. I was so tempted to pull them out and ask her again, but thankfully the spirit isn't stupid and he told me not to do that :) But for some reason, I felt prompted that I really really needed to talk to her. So I know I have said this before, but there is no such thing as "awkward" as a missionary. I don't even know what that feels like anymore. But I wanted to get her attention in a non-weird way. I kind of leaned forward and smiled...no dice. I coughed obnoxiously loud. No dice. I even bumped into her, no dice. Then finally I prayed. I said Heavenly Father, help me not be awkward (too late) and talk to this girl. I kid you not, right then, she whips out her headphones and says, "I like your bag." I was like, oh my gosh...when will I learn? But we had the best conversation EVER and it ended up with HER asking for MY number and wanting to meet with the missionaries again. WOAH. God answers prayers...even prayers to help us not be awkward. Sometimes a little awkward is good though. :) Prayer works!
It was definitely overall one of the best splits experiences I have had on my mission. Us 4 together taught 25 solid teaches about the "He is the Gift" video, found one awesome new investigator, and we were just buoyant with the love of Christ. It was an amazing day! Those sisters are incredible! I love them a lot!
So I told you about the interview we had this week....it went really well. The guys name is M and he is actually a swedish speaking finn so the interview was in english. He asked a TON of questions about the process of becoming a missionary, why we wanted to be missionaries, how we felt about Finland, what it was like when we first came to Finland and all sorts of other things. The spirit was really strong and I was so overcome with emotion about the process and journey I have taken of becoming a missionary. The more I remember how I felt and what state of mind I was in when I left, the more amazed I am that I am here, one year later, LOVING being a missionary. I can't wrap my head around how much Heavenly Father and Christ have helped me. It's amazing. But at the end of our interview, you could totally tell that M wanted to learn more about the church and what we actually believe in. He sort of beat around the bush and said, "So hypothetically, if one wanted to learn about the church, how would they go about it?" Man...that was the best question of the day. I said, "M, do you want to come to a temple tour on Wednesday?" and he said, "Oh ya, I wasn't even thinking about that, of course I would love to." hahaha He is so funny. I mean, he is writing his article for his school paper about Mormon missionaries...we are cool, but we aren't that cool :) People just know there is something cooler that we have to share with them! So pray that our temple tour goes well with M! :)
We met with the J family again this week. Only the mom was there with her 2 kids, but she really opened up to us and expressed her feelings about the church and how she wished she could be more active. She was baptized about 10 years ago and really hasn't been super active since so she really doesn't know the doctrine of the church at all. We told her we wanted to go through the lessons with her again and she said, "I would love that. You always bring the spirit into our home. It's the only time I feel it." My goodness. I wanted to cry. She is such a good mom to her two ADORABLE little girls. You can just feel her goodness and her desire to do what's right. I really believe so strongly that people don't keep commitments or don't keep commandments because they really don't understand them fully. It's so important that we as members of the church increase our understanding of the doctrine of the gospel. That's why I love Preach My Gospel so much. It sets out the gospel so simply and plainly and that really is what you need to know and focus on. I really hope that everyone has a copy of Preach My Gospel, whether you are preparing to serve a mission or not. It really is scripture from living prophets. I love it!
So Saturday was Finnish Independence Day. They don't go as hard as America, but let's get real, no one goes as hard as America! Sister Nielsen and I were decked out in our blue and white though to support our second motherland! :) That is one of the things I love most about finns...they love their country. They fought for their country. They really do love Finland and have a lot of Suomi Pride! I love it so much. But we went to a member family's house and had dinner and had a history lesson about Finland! :) It was really interesting and it was so fun to see how Finns celebrate their freedom!
So our ward in Espoo is built up of 2 cities, Lohja and Espoo. Lohja is about 40 minutes away from Espoo and ALL of the families with kids in our ward live out there. Last week when we helped in primary, there was this CUTE little girl in the front row who just kept smiling at us. Like I kid you not, the entire hour, she was smiling. After church when we were standing in the foyer, she ran up to us again and just stood there and smiled and smiled. We were both like, "Whose kid is this?" But then her mom came up and said, "Sisters, my daughters REALLY want you to come to our house for dinner next Sunday, but we live in Lohja. Could we give you a ride to our house, you could eat dinner with us, and then we can drive you home?" Uh...yes. That would be great. Well we went out to the B families house yesterday and it was SO much fun. My goodness, I love talking to little finnish kids. I just love talking to kids. I love treating them like there are adults and asking them questions about things and just hearing how they respond. It's so stinking cute. I also realized how much I miss all my cute little siblings and cousins. Gosh dang it...I miss you all. But it was good to be able to be with their family. There are so many great examples of strong, eternal families in this ward. I love being able to visit with them and be in their homes! The spirit in the home of a member family is so tangible. It's so real. I love it!
Well, Jesus the Christ got me again this week folks. I just learned you are supposed to italicize book titles so sorry for my lack of know-how in previous weeks! :) But anyways, I am going to try not to cry writing this because I have already cried way too many times this week while reading this story. So my FAVORITE story of all time from the New Testament is when Jesus blesses the little children. Speaking of, have you all watched the Bible Videos the church has released? Oh my gosh, if you haven't, go to lds.org right now and type in Bible Videos and watch them all...but especially the one about the little children. I cry every single time. Anyways, I just want to basically quote the whole story of this from Jesus the Christ because it is pretty much the sweetest thing I have ever read:
"The next event of record is one of surpassing sweetness, rich in precept and invaluable in example. Mothers brought their little children to Jesus, reverently desiring that the lives of those little ones be brightened by a sight of the Master and be blessed by a touch of His hand or a word from His lips...The disciples, zealous that their Master be not troubled unnecessarily, and conscious of the continuous demands on His time and attention, rebuked those who had so ventured to trespass...Jesus was displeased over the misdirected zeal of His followers, and rebuked them. Then He uttered that memorable sentence of infinite tenderness and divine affection: 'Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.' Taking the children one by one into His arms, He laid His hands upon them and blessed them. Then said He: 'Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein."
I am so grateful, especially at this Christmas time of year for my parents, and my siblings, Jocelyn, Anne, Lauren, Luke and Caroline. As I was reading this story, I knew in my heart that if Christ were here right now, mom, you would do ANYTHING in your power, just as these mothers did to make sure that your children would be blessed by the Savior. Even though Christ isn't here, right now, in the flesh, you have done everything you could to make sure that Jesus Christ has been a part of my life. I have always known He is my Savior and I owe that testimony in large part to you. You taught me about Christ. You showed me pictures of Christ. You told me that He loves me, but most importantly and powerfully, you have lived a Christ like life. Mom, you are the most Christ-like person I know. Stop shaking your head, it's true. :) I have 7 other witnesses....probably like 423723 other witnesses of people who know and love you who can back me up. I know you aren't perfect, but every time I watch this video and see the look on those mother's faces as they bring their children to Christ, I know that you would have been right there, on the front lines, with all 6 of us in tow, "reverently desiring that the lives of those little ones be brightened by a sight of the Master." Thank you so much for teaching me about Him. Thank you so much for loving Him. I know He loves you! Dad...you are obviously included in this. The story was just about mothers :) But I love you all so much. Thank you for loving me with Christ-like love. I know I do and have done so many stupid things in my life, but thank you for looking past that and loving me anyways. Your love keeps me going. Christ's love keeps me going. It always comes back to love, you know? The Beatles really knew what they were talking about! All we need is love! But not just any love, the love of Christ. It changes us. It is changing the world! I love you all so much! I know Heavenly Father lives and loves us. Christ is His son. He is my Savior. I love Him. He lives. You are the best! Have a great day and I will see you all SO SOON!! More info on that to come...stay tuned! :)
Sisar Olivia Bitner
P.S. Something Finnish...they have the most bomb awesome thrift stores here called kirppis...I don't even like thrift stores, but man, these are pretty legit! :)
|Sister Dowd...my companion for the day :)|
|MY BESTIE Sister Thayne!!!! Sorry the first one is fuzzy and tilted....|
|Our temple!!! YAYAYAYAYAY!!!|
|This is what a train looks like in Finland...it's a commuter train...it was late at night....|
|Sister Nielsen....she's really tired :)|
|Happy Finnish Independence Day!!! :)|