Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Believe in Christ

    Hey guys! What's up? How are you all doing? First off, I about died when I saw the picture of you and Sister Nielsen....that is the coolest/weirdest thing I have ever seen. Every time I see pictures of you with former companions, my brain doesn't quite register what is going on. I feel like I have 2 different worlds! :) But I am so glad you got to meet my trainer, Sister Egan and Sister Lund as well! Aren't they just the greatest? Man, I have been blessed to meet the most wonderful missionaries here in good old Suomi. I love them all! Second off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY LUKE AND CAROLINE! My goodness, you two are so old. I cannot believe it! I remember the day you two came home like it was only brother and my baby sister! :) I love you both so much and hope you have the best 11th birthday ever! I will be thinking of you on Saturday!!

    Well, where to even begin this week...there are just way too many miracles to even start. This is why I make lists. :) Can I just say, I have such a strong testimony of lists. I did before my mission, but man, I will have a planner for the rest of my life! So you know how last week I told you we found like a zillion investigators? Ya, it was true...guess what? All of them live outside of our area :( That is the hardest thing about living in Helsinki area. We talk to so many people on trains and buses and it's great...but we gave 15 referrals last week of potentials and investigators to missionaries that live around here as well. It's great though, cause we are building the kingdom everywhere!

    We have been teaching a lot of first lessons lately. First lessons have always stressed me out. There is so much to get into those lessons. But Sister Nyman and I set a goal at the beginning of the change to follow the spirit. ALWAYS. No matter how crazy the prompting or what, we have prayed so much together and really feel as though the Lord is guiding our work. That's why we are seeing so many miracles. Anyways, our first lessons this past week have all gone extremely well. We taught 6 and they all accepted to be taught 3 times a week for 20-25 minutes...but we gave them all away. But it's fine! :) I am just so grateful that we have met so many prepared people. The work is changing here. There is such a buzz in the air!

    One of the people we gave over to the sisters in Haaga is B. B is from Ethiopia. We met him on the train a couple of weeks ago. I may have already told this story...I'm sorry if I have. I'm getting old guys, I don't remember things...oh wait, I remember, I told this last week. Ok so B is the one that said, "Religion is just something people do to make themselves feel better." Well, we had a lesson with him at the temple guest house with a temple missionary couple and the spirit was so strong. We really focues on God's love and how much God loves B. We all felt the spirit so strongly and he really opened up about how he doesn't like religion because he feels that everyone is just arguing with each other and they have totally forgotten about God. He told us that is what surprised him most about meeting with us-when he met with us, no one argued with anyone. In his words, "It was very peaceful and calm and I felt the holy spirit of God." There is nothing better than hearing that. I have a lot of faith in B. I know he will get baptized.

    So our less actives are doing pretty well. The J family is great. They are just young parents trying to make things work. I think they get stressed pretty easily, so any commitment we give is hard for them to keep, but we really want to set a "temple date" with them, sort of like a baptismal date. Both of the parents are baptized, they would just have to be worthy and then they could go to the temple. We are hoping to do that this week. A, our recent convert hasn't been coming to church lately. We are really worried about her. It has snowed so much recently, so it takes a long time to get anywhere with buses and traffic and everything. She says that's why she doesn't come to church, but just pray for her. She is so great and has a calling and everything. We are really focusing with her on the Book of Mormon right now. Man, I love the Book of Mormon so much. You get a testimony of the Book of Mormon...a real, burning testimony, and you won't ever fall away. Every single less active I have talked to throughout my whole mission has stopped reading the Book of Mormon and praying. Those are the first things to go and lead to inactivity. I am so grateful that my testimony of daily prayer and scripture study has increased so much on my mission. It really is incredible!

    On Thursday last week, we had a leadership training meeting at President's house and it was so great. I learned so much and always feel uplifted during those meetings. They wanted all the missionaries to stay at the mission home, meaning all district leaders, zone leaders, and sister training leaders. Well Sister Nyman and I live like 20 minutes away by bus, so we got to work all day and then we had scheduled to catch the 20:55 bus to their house. I know I have lived here for 2 months, but I still am pretty new with the bus schedules. Overall, I haven't gotten us too lost. So we had plenty of time to get to the bus. Anyways, long story short....I thought I had packed all the things I would need, but I guess I got a little distracted during packing so as we were walking down the road, I screamed "Sister Nyman...I forgot everything!!!!" And then I turned around and started sprinting back to the house...Sister Nyman is a champ, but she HATES running. I felt so bad. It was so cold and windy and I just ran into the house like a tornado and grabbed all these random things and shoved them in my pockets and hood of my coat and my side bag and all the places and we literally sprinted back to the bus. We barely made it and we were just the biggest, sweatiest messes in the world! It was so hilarious! Anyways, I thought that was funny...if no one else does, that's ok! Just don't tell me you didn't laugh and then I won't feel bad :) haha

    But for real, leadership meeting was great. We focused a lot on exact obedience, commitments to sisters and elders after we do exchanges, and preparing really well for meetings. I know I said this last week, but I just feel that this group is so unified and so ready to move forward. I am so excited to be here right now and to still have so much time left on my mission to see how far we can go! 

    So one exciting thing that is going on this week is that we have zone training meeting tomorrow. Sister Nyman and I and the Zone Leaders, Elder Keddington and Elder McKnight (yes mom, I know Elder Keddington...he is a great missionary) :) are in charge of this meeting. We have had a couple of meetings over this past week and have decided to focus on The Gospel of Jesus Christ and specifically how faith in Christ raises our vision of missionary work and especially the new Standards of Excellence. We are using 2 Nephi 31, Ether 12, and Hebrews 11 as our scriptures and I am just really excited for the meeting. It's going to be great!

    Man, Sister Nyman and I are just doing great. She is so solid. She is so nice. She is teaching me so much. We have seen so many miracles this week. I just can't even write about them all...I don't know where to start. But I have realized this week that President Hinckley's quote from PMG is so true. It says: 

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

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

    “You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit—that which enlighteneth, that which buildeth up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley,260–61).

    I love that quote so much. I have noticed this week that every thought I have that is good is from the spirit. I used to wonder a lot, earlier in my mission, "How will I know if something is a prompting?" Now, I just act on every good thought I get and it always works out. We have found so many investigators and cool potentials this week as Sister Nyman and I have followed the spirit. Two examples:

    So on Sunday we had a little bit of time before we had to leave for church, so we decided to go contact a potential that lived close to us. It was really cold and snowy and we saw this lady brushing snow off her car. We both looked over and smiled and kept walking past. Then, at the exact same time, we both stopped. The thought had come into my mind, "Hey, go ask her if she needs help." I made a goal for myself that I will say out loud every prompting I get." So I said, "We should go see if she needs help." Sister Nyman said, I was thinking the exact same thing." So we turned around and asked this lady if she needed help. Well, we helped her brush snow off her car and then she proceeded to tell us that she lived in America for 3 years and met and loved a Mormon family there. She told us that we could come over sometime next week and that it would be "lovely to talk more with us." Her name is P :) It was really cool and definitely inspired us to do it again...

    So, later that night, we were about ready to go home, like literally outside our building, and there was this kid smoking about 20 yards away. I was cold and tired and wanted to go inside, but the thought came to my head, "Go talk to that kid." I awkwardly hesitated as my natural man and The spirit battled it out, but Sister Nyman stopped me and said, "We should go talk to that kid." Boom. I knew we had to. So we went and asked him about his religious beliefs. He said he didn't believe in anything. We then asked, "Have you ever thought about how religion could help you?" He said, "No I haven't. Can it help me?" Oh boy...golden question! Anyways, he is our new investigator. His name is J and we have an appointment with him on Friday! The Lord is in this work. Getting out of the way of the spirit really means following the spirit! It's just been a week full of miracles like this! I love being a missionary!

    For zone meeting, I have been studying a lot about how faith will raise our vision. I was reading in Preach My Gospel under "Faith in Jesus Christ." This paragraph really stuck out to me:

    "The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Having faith in Christ includes having a firm belief that He is the Only Begotten Son of God and the Savior and Redeemer of the world. We recognize that we can return to live with our Heavenly Father only by relying on His Son’s grace and mercy. When we have faith in Christ, we accept and apply His Atonement and His teachings. We trust Him and what He says. We know that He has the power to keep His promises. Heavenly Father blesses those who have faith to obey His Son."

    As I was reading and rereading that paragraph, the 6 words that I bolded really stuck out to me. I sort of stopped studying and just sat their pondering those words. I didn't realize it but 30 minutes later, I realized those words make up the pattern of how we turn belief into knowledge. In Ether 3, Moroni is talking about the Brother of Jared's faith and he says:

 19 And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.

    That line has always stuck out to me. I have always thought, "How can I get that kind of faith?" I realized this week that it all starts with belief. Belief that Christ is the son of God. Then we recognize what we are doing may not be exactly in line with His gospel. Then, we acknowledge and recognize and pray to know in what areas we need to improve...aka...we repent. Then we accept and apply the gospel in all aspects of our lives. Then we trust that as we do these things, something good will come of it and anything we are "giving up" or "letting go" in order to be obedient is nothing compared to the joy and blessings we will receive. Then, after time, we have faith no longer, for we know, nothing doubting. It works. This pattern is true. It can and will work for anybody that really tries it.

    I felt so blessed this week as I realized this and found an answer to a question I have had, basically my whole life. This applies so well to our standards of excellence. All the missionaries here are so ready to change. We all believe in the standards. We have all started, and will continue to look inward and figure out what we are doing that is not in line with Preach My Gospel, the Missionary Handbook, or counsel from leaders. Then as we accept, apply, and trust in the counsel and direction, we will see miracles. It's so simple. So many people want something for nothing. One of my favorite lines in Preach My Gospel is where it says that Christ didn't eliminate our personal responsibility when He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane. It's SO true. We can't expect to get blessings unless we are doing everything in our power to be obedient. It really is kind of an arrogant way of thinking. We feel entitled to blessings...I know I am so guilty of this. I was frustrated that we didn't have investigators. Was I talking with EVERYBODY as it says in Preach My Gospel? No. Was I asking for referrals from everyone like it says in Preach My Gospel? No. There were so many things that I was doing that were stopping blessings from coming. In D&C 130: 20-21 it says:

 20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—

 21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

    The blessings are already there. They have always been there and will always be there. God doesn't change. We do. God doesn't withhold things from us. We put up barriers. We put on blinders. We get in the way. Honestly...I have felt that so many times on my mission. Things haven't worked out and I have been frustrated and mad and then I pray and think about it and I realize, every single time, that I wasn't being exactly obedient. I wasn't doing everything I could. I know that God loves us. He wants to bless us. He knows what we need to learn, do and become in order to be where He is. I want nothing more than to feel comfortable in the presence of Heavenly Father and my Savior and I know that living the gospel as perfectly as I can is what will get me there. I am so grateful for the gospel. I am so grateful for repentance. It really is a joy to repent. Not because it's easy, but because of how it feels when you finally acknowledge, "Ok Father, I am not perfect. I don't know everything. In fact I don't know anything. Take me and make me what you will." 

    I am really just done fighting my life. I am doing fighting the process of refinement. There is so much joy to be had as we turn our lives to the Lord and really seek His will. Life has purpose when we do that. Life has meaning and it's SO HAPPY! I have never been so happy in my life! I love being a missionary. Yes, we have hard days. Yes, It's cold. :) But I am happy. Our happiness is not dependent on our circumstances. In fact, we can make our lives whatever we want. I know that true happiness comes from living the gospel of Jesus Christ and I feel so blessed to know that. I just want to shout it from the rooftops, but I'll just settle with buses and trains and the frozen streets of Finland...for now! :) I love you all so much. Thanks for your prayers. Seriously, all of you are amazing. You have blessed my life so much and I am so grateful for each and every one of you. I hope you have a great week! You are the best. I love you!


    Sisar Olivia Bitner

    P.S. Something Finnish...They bag and tag their produce...let me 'splain...they put their own produce on scales and then push a button and the sticker comes out so the checkers just have to scan the bar code. It makes me feel totally insignificant as an ex-checker! :) Hyvää vikkoa teille!!!

Missionary work...finland style :) Using the snow to preach the word!!

Me and my norwegian companion!!

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