Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I Need a Hero

   Wassup guys? :) How the heck are you all doing? First things first, thank you so much for your wonderful testimonies of The Book of Mormon. Wow. I would be lying if I said I didn't tear up a little bit reading your testimonies. They are perfect and are just what the Finns need. This is so cool, now it's like you are all here doing missionary work with me. I will let you know what happens to the Book of Mormons I give out with your testimonies. Pray for them. The person I give your Book of Mormon to could get baptized. How do you feel about that? :) They will be forever grateful to Justin, Celeste, Jocelyn, Anne, Lauren, Luke, or Caroline Bitner. WAY SWEET. Thank you so much! I love you all.

    Also, shoutout to my friend Turn aka Taryn starting her mission. She may have already started it, but Taryn, I love you so much. You will do such a great job. You are in my prayers! I love you!

    Well, this, where to even begin. This has been a crazy week full of surprises and amazing experiences. So let's begin...a little background information. So Espoo is an awesome area. It really is. We cover a lot of ground and there are so many people here. It's the second largest city in Finland. We serve in Espoo North which is where the temple is...holla....anyways, it's an amazing area. The area we live in is the area where most of the investigators have been found in the past. We have a lot of "outlying" areas that don't have a ton of potentials or formers or really anything, so Sister Nyman and I decided that we wanted to go out and try and build up those areas. Most of the people surrounding our house are students, and the people in the outlying areas are families. Find the Families. That's what we are trying to do!

    Anyways, on Tuesday night, we went out to one of those areas, contacted some potentials and some formers and had an appointment with a member. I was kind of feeling weird and I didn't know exactly why. But anyways, we did some inspired tracting, aka "10 doors" and found a couple really cool potential investigators, got mistaken as Jehovah's witnesses, almost slipped and killed ourselves on the know, the usual. :) Anyways, we had an appointment with a member Sisar T. who lives out there around 20:00 in the evening. Well, Sisar T has a reputation of stuffing the missionaries with as much food as she can find in her house. Tonight was no exception. By this point I was feeling really lousy. I felt so sick to my stomach, but unfortunately, my "sick stomach" vocab isn't very impressive nor convincing, and so Sisar T wouldn't take no for an answer and kept putting food on my plate. I about died. Sister Nielsen, Sister Egan and probably Sister Fronk will know exactly who I am talking about. :) Anyways, we were going to be late for our bus leaving from Sisar T's, so we ran as fast as we could. Now I am not going to get to graphic...nor give too much information, but I felt like I was going to die. Anyways, we made it home and I spent the night sleeping on the bathroom floor. It was the sickest I have been on my mission, so that's good. It was a rough night, but hey, all's well that ends well. :) 

    The next day was district meeting, and I felt alright, plus we needed to go to the store to buy me some B.R.A.T. diet food, so I figured I could go to district meeting as well. I just felt horrible all through district meeting, so I spent the rest of Wednesday sleeping. Sister Nyman is a saint and took really good care of me. But I am really sick of bananas, rice, applesauce, toast and Sprite, I'll tell you that! :) But it's ok. We had a couple of slow days, but I feel really good now. I have been way blessed to be healthy on my mission. I joked to Sister Nyman that I think Heavenly Father is helping me start my diet before I come home, but she didn't think it was very funny! :) I love Sisar Nyman!

    So the next day was Thursday and I was not about to stay inside another day. I overestimated my capacity to do work a little bit, but it totally paid off. We were trying to contact some potential investigators pretty close to our house. We didn't have a ton of succes elikä no one was home, but as we were walking out of the complex, this girl started walking towards us. We stopped her and started talking to her. Honestly, I kid you not, this was like the best contact of my mission, hands down. It was amazing. Her name is L. She is studying to be a Lutheran priest and also to work specifically with the youth of the church. She is 23, is the way, can we all just stop and appreciate the fact that she is married. That is unheard of for a 23 year old, Finnish girl. I about cried when I heard she was married! :) Anyways, the spirit was SO strong as we were talking with her. We basically taught her the whole Restoration, got out the Book of Mormon, she read the entire Introduction on the street, we helped her see how the gospel would apply to her, answered her questions, established our expectations, and set up a return appointment. All in like 5 minutes. It was incredible. It was way funny actually, when we asked her when we could come share more of this message with her, she said, "I was literally just about to ask you that. I would invite you over right now, but my house is a mess and I am going to work. How about tomorrow?" Wow. It was great! Sister Nyman and I walked away, both basically in shock. We got out of sight of L and then started jumping and hugging and skipping and cheering and was so great! We both couldn't stop smiling for the rest of the day. Heavenly Father blessed us so much to find her and to be in the right place at the right time. He is so funny sometimes :) We had actually planned to be in that area on Wednesday after district meeting, and I know we wouldn't have met her had I not been sick. There is a reason for everything, folks. No coincidences! :) 

    L is great though. We had our first lesson with her and she said she is looking for "concrete answers" that she can't find in the Lutheran church. She talked about how much it annoys her that people don't understand the scripture, "Faith without works is dead." She said she has always felt as though faith wasn't enough. She says she feels like she has to do something, but she doesn't know what. It as amazing. She said all the right things. We brought up baptism and she said that she wanted to think about it more and learn more, but we gave her 2 Nephi 31 to read and told her this is the concrete answer she is looking for. She is gone this week at a Lutheran Youth Camp...basically it's their "Confirmation Camp". They call it "Riippikoulu" and all the Lutheran Finns go there when they are 15. So she is there this week, but we have an appointment for next Monday when she gets home. I am so excited to be teaching her! She is awesome!

    I had a really cool realization this week. I was reading The Book of Mormon. Don't even remember what I was reading, but the thought came to my head, "This is all for them." I knew it was from the Spirit and it was Heavenly Father reminding me that everything He does, has done, and will do is because He loves us. That's what it all comes back to. Always. It's always about His love. I realized that I tell people a lot how much this gospel has helped me and the changes it has brought about in my life, which is totally true, but I have really focused this week on promising people blessings for them. I have made that a goal each time I talk with someone, I am going to promise them blessings from living/learning about the gospel. It's been pretty amazing and I have really felt such a powerful love for these people I have talked to. The spirit of contacting has changed as I have completely focused on these people and asked them questions like, "What are you looking for in life?" "What are you looking for in a church?" It's amazing to hear their answers and then to apply a gospel principle to them. I also have been amazed at how cool it is that I can literally promise everyone that if they really want to know if, for example, the Book of Mormon is true, they can read it, pray about it, and get an answer. Every time. It works. It's not a game. It's not a test. God isn't trying to test our abilities or righteousness or spiritual sensitivity, it is a simple formula that works. It doesn't matter who you are or what situation you are in, you will get your answer and it will change your life. It's pretty humbling to promise people that. I know it's true. My testimony of the Book of Mormon has never been as strong as it is now. It is the foundation for my testimony. Everything, for me, hinges on the Book of Mormon and I am so grateful for it.

    So we were able to go to Lappeenranta this week for splits. I was with Sister Hyde for the day who was trained by the one and only, Sister Nyman! She is great. We did service for a family in the morning. This family lives in a refurbished's way cute and old and we cleaned all the windows. It was painstaking labor, let me tell you...just kidding it was really fun and Sister Hyde and I had a really good opportunity to talk and get to know each other. She had a very similar experience as me of getting on a mission, and it was great to connect with her. We decided that we are kindred spirits, which is always nice :) She is an incredible teacher and has such good desires. She has only been here for 4 months, and she is just on fire. I can't wait to see all the good things that she does here. It was a wonderful day. Lappeenranta is such a beautiful place. It is a little town close to the biggest lake in Finland, Saimaa, and it was BEAUTIFUL as we drove and walked past it. I love the nature in Finland. Seriously, it's so beautiful. As cheesy as it sounds, there are times when it literally is breath-taking. Like I have to stop whatever I am doing and just stare at the beautiful lake or sunset or clouds or trees. Ahhh...I love this place so much. It will always have a huge room in my heart!

    We had a great day in church this week. We sang "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" as missionaries. It went super well. Guess what guys, I actually sang the alto part and didn't totally ruin the song. It was like the first musical number I have been a part of that was a success. :) I am still floored every time I do a musical guys, you know me, I don't sing. At least not well. I love to sing, but I can't sing well. But there were some tears shed during the song. I know angels were round about us, bearing us up. haha It was a really cool experience. Sister S, our less active from Veikkola, was also there and I was so happy she got to hear it. She made friends with so many people at church and just had a great time. We were so happy to see her there! She had on a SICK fur coat. That thing has definitely been around since the Plague, but it was beautiful. She looked way classy. Just thought you'd all want to know that! :) She called it her "Kirkko takki". Her "Church coat". haha I love her!

    So I have acquired a new nickname this week....self-proclaimed...I am "The Giant Slayer." Want to know why? I have been the last companion for 3 of the most amazing missionaries, people, women, friends, sisters I have ever met in my life. All 3 of them, Sister Fronk, Sister Nielsen, and Sister Nyman are spiritual giants. They are the most wonderful examples to me. They are my best friends and I love them all. Sister Nyman is getting ready to leave me next week. She goes home on March 5, and then my last transfer as a missionary starts. Wow. Way too much crazy stuff happening. I thought I would be comfortable with change by now, and I am so much better than I was, but it's still way hard to see them go, especially Sister Nyman because I don't know when I will see her again. I have a great excuse to go to Norway now, but I am not made of money...unfortunately :) Good thing we have skype, but I really love Sister Nyman so much. She has taught me so much about "quiet dignity" (I hope all of my returned missionary friends catch that reference haha) but really, she is so wonderful. She is kind. She is loving. She is patient. She is meek. She is humble. She is hilarious. She is the literally the nicest person I have ever met. She hates being complimented so I have made it my goal to compliment her profusely over these next few days :) She deserves all the compliments in the world, but I really have become a better person as I have known her. Heavenly Father really knew I needed her. He knew I needed all of my companions. The ways they have each blessed me are so personal and special to me. I am really humbled and grateful that I have had the opportunity to serve in the "midst of giants", as pertaining to things spiritual :) Sister Nielsen and Sister Fronk are taller than me, so I guess as to things physical as well. haha :) I love my companions and I am excited to see who my last companion will be. Stay tuned! These are my last change calls, that's gross. I am really excited!

    Man, my heart has been so full this week, but especially today as I have read your testimonies, seen pictures of my newest little cousin...(congrats Spencer and Morgan-Anne, he is the cutest thing I have ever seen) written this letter and just thought about my life. God is good. Dad, you always say that...I am borrowing it today. God is good. Life is good. Everything is good. I am so grateful for each and every one of you. I have a picture of all of my family members hanging by my desk and every night when I go to say my prayers, I kneel down and look up at your pictures and my favorite line from my favorite hymn comes to my head. It's from "Lead, Kindly Light." The line says, "And with the morn, those angels faces smile, which I have loved, long since and lost awhile." You are my angel faces. I am so humbled to be your daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, friend, and missionary. I really wish I could express how much I love you and since Finns don't say "I love you" very often, It means a lot more in Finnish so minä rakastan teitä! :) Thank you for everything.

    You all know I have been reading the Book of Mormon through once more as a missionary. These week I came to my favorite chapters in the entire Book of Mormon. Mosiah 2-5. Oh my word. I can't even express how much I love these chapters and the feelings that are in my heart as I read them. First off, I have 3 Book of Mormon heroes (not including Jesus, haha), Number 1, Nephi. I love Nephi and have grown to love him even more on my mission. I love his "real-ness" and his faith and forgiving heart. Number 2, Captain Moroni. He is the greatest thing to grace the planet. I love his passion and desire to do what's right, regardless of what anyone else says or thinks. And last, King Benjamin. King Benjamin is my hero. King Benjamin is the kind of leader, parent, and teacher I want to be. He is the one who introduced me to my Savior as I was a teenage kid, trying to find my testimony of the Book of Mormon. I read Mosiah 2-5 and it was then that I knew the Book of Mormon was true. I feel like he is speaking to me and the way he teaches really touches my heart. 

    Anyways, I read these chapters this week, a few verses stuck out to me. I just wanted to list a few of them for you. 

    1. Mosiah 2:41. My favorite scripture of all time. I believe this is on my mission plaque, if I remember correctly. From my study journal: "Best scripture ever. If you keep the commandments, you are blessed. You are happy. You are blessed in all things. If you remain faithful, your potential is to live with God in a state of NEVER-ENDING happiness. Like we will always be happy. I can't even imagine that, but I am going to get there. I need to use this scripture on the street and tell people that we teach about the commandments of God so that they can find this happiness."

    2. Mosiah 3 Chapter Heading: from my journal, "Men can put off the natural man and become saints through the Atonement." Think about that...through Christ, we become Saints. We become fit to live with our Heavenly Father. I am so grateful for Him.

    3. Mosiah 3:12-13,26: from my journal, "We can't do anything without Him. He is my joy and my song. By day and by night, He leads, he leads me along. It is not necessary for us to carry our burdens alone." 

    4. Mosiah 4:7-8: from my journal: "Because of my covenants I am free. I am a child of Christ. I will know the name by which I am called. I will be on His right hand. I love Him. I don't have to be perfect, because He is. I just have to try. I need to fulfill His expectations of me. Not my own."

    My heart is so full of love for my Savior. He is my joy. He really is. I have come to know Him in a way that I didn't think was possible. He has helped me and strengthened me. As Nephi puts it, 

19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

 20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

 21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

 22 He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.

 23 Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.

 24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him;yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.

 25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.

    He really has always been with me and I know He is with each of us. We have never fallen too far to be out of His reach. Today I read in the Ensign and article about Family History and this paragraph really stood out to me. It says:

    As these reflections show, the vastness of family history is tempered by the personal. We learn of not only the scale but also the depth of the Lord’s love, for He cares for the individual. The Lord who sees the falling of the sparrow and seeks after the one lost lamb out of ahundred (see Matthew 10:29; Luke 15:4) does not redeem us en masse, but one by one, just as Head ministered to the people during His earthly ministry and just as He blessed the people gathered at the temple in Bountiful (see 3 Nephi 17).

    Similarly, the Lord taught the early Saints a meticulous standard of record keeping for proxy work done for each individual (see D&C 128:1–5, 24). Thus, we undertake painstaking work to identify individual ancestors, not just catalogs of names. Through this work we glimpse God’s mercy, His compassion, and the worth of an individual soul.

    Christ deals with us one by one. He blessed the children one by one. He healed people one by one. He loves us each, one by one. And now we are hear doing missionary work, one by one. I am so grateful for the personal relationship that I have with my Savior, Jesus Christ. I am grateful for the knowledge that I have that anyone can obtain that relationship as they learn of Him, keep His commandments, and live as He would live. I am so grateful that becoming like Him is a process. I am really glad that I am so far away from perfection. I will always have something to work. :) God lives. He loves us. Christ lives. He loves us. His church has been restored. At the end of the day, nothing else matters. Thank you all for who you are! I am so pumped to see you at some point in time, but I am even more excited to start this last transfer out and to do my very best every day. The Finns deserve nothing less. They are all my Heavenly Father's children and they deserve the best! So do all of you. That being said, I hope you have the BEST week ever. Fill it with the BEST things. Love everyone in the BEST way you know how. You are the BEST. I love you so much. Minä rakastan teitä!


    Sisar Bitner

    P.S. "Something Scandinavian" for the week...I have realized as Sister Nyman is my companion that Finns, and also Norwegians will bend over backwards before they ask someone to get out of their way. We were in the grocery store and Sister Nyman was standing behind a guy and we were waiting to go through the aisle, but this guy was in the way. I was walking behind Sister Nyman, not really paying attention. As I bumped into her, I realized that he was blocking the way. Well, I stood their, expecting Sister Nyman to ask him to move, politely of course, but instead she turned around and walked all the way around the aisle, came up the other side in order to get something that guy was standing in front of. This observance of mine led to a long discussion about asking people to get out of the way. I have learned that is total an American or at least a non-Scandinavian thing to do. So, if you want to be Scandinavian, be as accommodating as you possibly can! I love you!

Our district

Splits with the Lappeenranta Sisters

Sisar Nyman's signature cracks me up

Snacks on the way back home from splits...our train was late :) 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Because I Have Been Given Much

    So like, what's up? How are you all doing this beautiful Tuesday afternoon? Thank you all so much for the wonderful emails. Wow. I am spoiled. And for the pictures! I love seeing all of your beautiful faces! Speaking of pictures, my two best friends got home from their missions last week? What the heck? That literally blew my mind when I saw that picture. Well Elders Hale and Obray, I don't know if you even read this, but if you do, I am so happy that you two are home! You look so happy! I can't wait to see you both. I am glad you got to go to their homecomings as well, family. Thanks for being supportive of my friends. :) Your tennis picture looked way too fun! How warm is it there? It looks like its like 75 degrees! Way nice!

    So way funny story, this is for Shweeda Shweeda, Ok Caroline, so I got on the bus the other day and no one else was on it, so I sat down in a seat toward the front and all of a sudden I hear on the radio, "Sweet Caroline." Oh my goodness, tears came to my eyes as I thought of your sweet face! I love that song and I love you. But don't worry, I didn't listen to it...I started whistling, "Called to Serve" instead. Got to stay focused you know? :)

    Ok way good news on the a woman in the ward is going to knit you all your very own pair of Finnish wool socks! WOOHOO! Man, these things are legit. You can't buy these. Totally Finnish. She made me a pair for Christmas and I LOVE THEM so I asked if she would make them and she said, "Totta kai!" or "Of course!" She is really excited. Also, the Kalevala rings are on the way...had to order them from the factory. Just wanted to give you an update. 

     Oh, one more side note before the email starts...hahaha so when we give out Book of Mormons to people...not Books of Mormon....:) We like to have testimonies of members in the books. Well, Sister Nyman and I had the idea to ask our families to type up your testimonies about the Book of Mormon, or anyone else who wants to, and then you could send them to us. We will either keep them in English or translate them into Finnish for language study. Would you all do that this week? I would love to give a Book of Mormon away and tell someone that this is my little sister's or brother's or mom's or dad's testimony. How special is that? Anyways, just a little favor! Maybe you can do it for a late family night...or next week! :) Thank you so much!

    Well, my goodness. This week has gone by so fast. I feel like I just barely wrote you all. We had a great zone meeting on Wednesday. The spirit was really strong and I feel like we said what Heavenly Father wanted us to say. To quote one missionary, my district leader, "Zone Meeting was a slap to the face with the gospel." hahaha that's what I like to hear. Nothing like a good lesson on repentance to wake everyone up. Just kidding. It wasn't harsh, but it was really good and the spirit was strong. No one likes to realize that they have things to repent of and work on, but that's how we change and grow. Sister Nyman and taught with the Zone Leaders and did a role play and observed role plays of other missionaries. It was really great. I can't believe how on the ball these new missionaries are. I guess just all the missionaries are just amazing. They are great teachers and know how to bring the spirit into a lesson. It was amazing to see! I love being able to help teach and train. It pushes me to a new level and really is making me a better missionary. I am so grateful for the opportunity.

    We had a couple of really good appointments with members this week. My favorite couple in the ward, the A couple, are 86 and 80 years old. They are way sharp and hilarious and I love talking with them. We have been working with them, as they are ward missionaries, to give away a Book of Mormon to their neighbors, a family from India. They are so excited to do missionary work. Honestly, the A's shut down every excuse that any member has about doing missionary work. They are on fire and love working with us and giving out the Book of Mormon to basically everyone. It's great. We went over and talked with them about how we were going to invite their neighbor to meet with us, and they had a huge spread on their table of riisi FAVORITE FINNISH FOOD OF ALL TIME. So what it is is a rice pie...sounds gross I know but hear me out...then you take eggs and mix it with butter to make munavoi...egg butter and then you put it on the piirakka. Oh man...guys it is so good! Anyways, that is Something Finnish for the week..riisi piirakka. SO GOOD. But the lesson was great and we are meeting with the family this week for a "Family Night". We are way excited!

    So the J family is doing well. We had a really interesting lesson this week. They both had a lot of questions about hell and Satan which was good. haha The lesson ended up being really spiritual though and I think all 4 of us had a lot of questions answered. Let the Holy Spirit guide....that's the only way these lessons are successful! :) They didn't come to church, again. Sister Nyman and I really don't know how else to help them. Agency is so wonderful, but it's such a kick to the face sometimes too. We know we have done all we can do, however, and now it's up to them and the Lord. So many blessings are waiting for them, they just have to accept them! But we are still going to work with them and continue to teach them. I don't know what will make the change for them, but something will. God loves them so much. Whether their time is now or 5 years from now, they are in His hands. I am so grateful for that!

    A is doing really well. Her testimony of the Restoration is growing. Want to know how? THE BOOK OF MORMON. I love the Book of Mormon. Works every time. She said her faith is growing stronger each time she reads the Book of Mormon. She hasn't been to church in a few weeks, due to illness and vacation, but we are helping her teach Sunday School on Sunday so hopefully that goes well.

    So this week we did splits in Haaga, our neighbor city. I was able to go with Sister Hansen who was actually my host missionary on my first day in the MTC. Small world, huh? Our MTC group and the group ahead of us overlapped a week, so I actually met Sister Hansen and her MTC companion, Sister Nyman, my very first day as a missionary. I remember thinking they were fluent in Finnish already. I actually still think that. They both speak Finnish incredibly, but it was fun to be with her for the day. She is stinking hilarious and we laughed basically the whole day. It felt way good! :) We focused on being positive and upbeat during contacts and not taking no for an answer. It worked so well and we got 4 return appointments and like 6 people's numbers. It was amazing. Splits days are miracle days. I love them. We met with a member family in their ward. The mom is from Brazil and the dad is Finnish. They have 8 kids under the age of 14. WOW. I had little half brazilian kids trying to climb all over me. I subdued them by showing them my photo album and they all couldn't get over how beautiful you all are. They especially thought Luke and Caroline were really cool. They didn't know that boys and girls could be twins too! :) You two are way sweet! We contacted this Ethiopian man after we left the member's house. Get this...this guy moved to Haaga from Tampere 3 months ago. When we stopped him he said, "Ya, I actually talked to two girls from your church a year ago." I did a double take as I realized where I was serving a year ago....Tampere. I asked him where he lived and he totally lived in our area. I contacted the same guy twice! haha way funny. Last year he didn't accept a return appointment, but this year he did! WOW. We really never know what kind of effect the things we do will have on people. It was a cool tender mercy!

    Well, splits was a huge success. We left Haaga and just felt great about everything that had happened. We were definitely on cloud 9. I think Satan must have seen that, cause Friday was one of the hardest days of my mission. It was really strange. Like everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong. I won't go into detail, but we were just getting rejected right and left and pretty aggressively at times. A man even barked at us...haha it was the scariest thing of my life. I have never been so consistently rejected on my mission. It was amazing. Sister Nyman and I just kept looking at each other after we would talk to people and we were dumbfounded. Well, the day ended much as it started, despite all our efforts to stay positive and happy. By the end of the day, I was pretty discouraged. It was such an intense feeling. Going from Cloud 9 to the bottom of the pit in 24 hours doesn't feel so great. As I was praying that night, the thought came to me to read Elder Holland's talk from April 2014 conference. I went out to my desk, grabbed the Ensign and read it. This paragraph really stood out to me: His talk is called "The Cost and Blessings of Discipleship" by the way. Anyways he said,

    Surely the angels of heaven wept as they recorded this cost of discipleship in a world that is often hostile to the commandments of God. The Savior Himself shed His own tears over those who for hundreds of years had been rejected and slain in His service. And now He was being rejected and about to be slain.

    “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” Jesus cried, “thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

    “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”5 

    And therein lies a message for every young man and young woman in this Church. You may wonder if it is worth it to take a courageous moral stand in high school or to go on a mission only to have your most cherished beliefs reviled or to strive against much in society that sometimes ridicules a life of religious devotion. Yes, it is worth it, because the alternative is to have our “houses” left unto us “desolate” desolate individuals, desolate families, desolate neighborhoods,and desolate nations."

    I realized that it really is worth it to be rejected...again and again and again. It is worth it to do all we do as missionaries and members of the church. Why? Because option B is desolation. It was a really good reminder for me that we really are called to endure some opposition as members of the church simply because we are members of the church. But that's ok. Elder Holland has another quote that came to my mind as well while I was reading this. He says, "If for a while, the harder you try, the harder it gets, Take Heart. So it has been with the greatest people who ever lived." I know that is true. Satan is diligent in his work, and you better believe I am trying my best to be diligent in mine. I know you all are. We can't let up until all evil is gone from the world. We know that will not happen until the Savior comes, so until then, we work. We work hard. And good things will come. I know they will.

    So I had a talk in sacrament meeting this week. My second one as a missionary. Pretty impressive huh? I have dodged that bullet quite nicely! haha Just kidding, I really love speaking in church. Finnish presents a bit of a challenge, but it's alright. I had a couple of people comment on my Finnish accent...they said it was really good, so I've got that going for me I guess. Maybe you all were right, I must have an accent. haha I talked about Faith in Jesus Christ and how we strengthen our faith. I have gained such a strong testimony over the course of my mission of daily family prayer and scripture study and family home evening. I tied all those things into strengthening our faith in Christ. I owe a large part of my testimony of Christ and His gospel to the daily family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening that we did. Thanks again Mom and Dad. I love you both and am so grateful for you!

    So we have a "neighboring city" that is our area here in Espoo called Veikkola. We went out there yesterday to have a DA with a member and a less active. It went really well. Sister S is the less active's name and Sister S is also the member's name....Finnish laws man, they'll get ya! :) But bear with me on their names. So less-active Sister S has been less active for a long time. She has had quite the exciting life and has basically experienced everything you possibly can. She kind of put up a front and made it seem like she was just living the life, but you could just tell that she is really sad and needs the gospel. It's so amazing how apparent that was. We had a really nice lunch and then had a great lesson about God's love and prayer, church, and reading the scriptures. The spirit was very strong in that lesson. God's love was SO strong and I know Sister S and Sister S felt it. We committed her to come to church and to read the Restoration pamphlet. She said she didn't even remember Joseph Smith's story so we figured the Restoration is a good place to start. She is so wonderful and I am excited for her to come. We are actually doing a musical number, all the missionaries in our ward...all 6 of us and we are singing "Joseph Smith's First Prayer." I am way excited for her to be there. Nothing brings the spirit like church music. I love the Hymns!

    Two little random sidenotes about this beautiful land I love so much. So first off, the weather this past few days has been amazing. It is perfectly clear, blue sky, sunshine, and it is freezing cold. Overcast days are gray, but they sure are warm! We love it like this though. The only problem is when we stand at bus stops, if we stand in the same place, our boots freeze to the ground. fix the problem, I have been teaching my non-American companion some good old fashioned American line dances. For example, The Boot scootin' that how you spell it? haha the Cha-Cha slide, and of course, the Bitner family original, Mambo number 5. hahaha it's been so much fun and she is getting really good! :) Sister Nyman said when she comes to visit us, that is the first thing she is going to do, Mambo number 5 so everyone get ready! :) 

    The other thing has to do with my bucket list. At some point in my life, I am coming to Finland, renting a car and driving all around this beautiful country and sleeping in a tent. Whoever wants to join can come, but Finland is like THE PERFECT road-tripping country. The nature and cute little two lane roads....oh man. I am so doing it! It's going to be great!

    So we had a wonderful lesson with R this week about the Priesthood. He is doing so well and the lesson went really well. We watched the Bible video where Jesus calls and ordains the 12 apostles. One line that He said in the video really stood out to me so I looked it up in the scriptures. It's found in Matthew 10:8

 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

    I love that line. Freely ye have received, freely give. That line inspired a very humbling and spiritual personal study this morning. As I was studying this morning, the thought really came to my mind, I have done absolutely nothing to warrant all of the blessings I have been given in my life. Like nothing. I have so many blessings and why? I really don't know. It puzzles me every day. I realized however that we are given so much so that we can give back. I want to live a life of giving. Giving my time, my love, my testimony, my friendship, my food, my money, my allegiance. Everything. I want to give it all back to my Heavenly Father. I remembered this morning one sacrament meeting about 2 years ago when I had just barely decided to serve a mission. I was still frustrated about going, but I had started my papers. I was sitting in sacrament meeting one day, next to Lauren, and the closing song we sang was "Because I have Been Given Much." I didn't think much about the song, but my voice choked half way through the first verse. Read the words:

Because I have been given much I too must give
Because of thy great bounty Lord each day I live
I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me

Because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care
I cannot see another's lack and I not share
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread, my roof's safe shelter overhead
That he too may be comforted

Because I have been blessed by thy great love, dear Lord
I'll share thy love again according to thy word
I shall give love to those in need, I'll show that love by word and deed
Thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed

    What a humbling personal study I had this morning. Oh it was wonderful! :) Not even humbling in a, "Wow, I am an idiot" kind of way, but humbling in a, "Because I have been given much" kind of a way. It really reminded me of who I am, where I stand, and what my role is here as a disciple of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I love Him. I love Him more than I can say. He is my Rock. He has changed my heart and I love Him for it. He lives and He loves each of us. We really don't understand the depth of His compassion and love. We barely scratch the surface of it. But I hope you all know that He loves you. He cares for you. He is there in all aspects of your lives. He wants to bless and protect you. I know this is His church. We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Woah. That's way cool guys! It's all true. It's such an honor to be a missionary and a member of this church. I love it with all my heart. Thank you all for your testimonies and examples of "lives of giving." I have so much to learn from each of you. Have a great week and I will talk to you all soon! :)


    Sisar Bitner

Beautiful sunrise...guys...the sun is rising again....

The temple literally's so beautiful!

Nobody was on the bus...we got bored :) 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Spiritually Self-Reliant

    Good Afternoon brothers and sisters! How are you all doing today? How is spring looking in Utah? I hope it's good cause let me tell you, it is BEAUTIFUL in Finland today. Oh my gosh. I walked out the door this morning and I literally couldn't see...the sun was shining SO bright and the sky was perfectly clear and blue. Sister Nyman informed me that the "Scandinavian spring birds" are singing and I have spring fever pretty hard core. I never really liked spring until I moved to Finland, but man...It is so nice and sunny here. No complaints to be had on spring in Finland. It is so beautiful. I hope you all had the best week. Mom and Dad, your trip looked SO fun. I bet you are way tan. Not going to lie, I'm pretty jealous. I haven't been this pasty since birth so no one can judge me when I come home. My skin is basically translucent. I am like a vampire! haha ok that's taking it a bit far, but for real. I hope you all had a great week!

    First off, thank you so much for the wonderful package!! Oh my goodness, it came at just the right time! I was so excited to see the beautiful Mrs. Cavanaugh's chocolate covered cinnamon bears and pretzels and of course, the giant peanut butter heart! Ok, way funny story...a few days ago, Sister Nyman and I were talking about Valentine's Day and she asked me what we do for Valentine's day. I told her all about the waffles with strawberries and whipped cream and, since I have never had a Valentine, that's about it. My Valentines Days have consisted of food. But hey, that's all right :) Anyways, I also told her about the giant Mrs. Cavanaugh's hearts and I just went on and on about how good they are. So needless to say, when we opened the package, I freaked out. Sister Nyman teared up when she saw you ordered one for her. Thank you so much for that! She was way happy :) But really thanks so much, especially for your sweet notes. I love the cards when you all write on the same one because I can like literally hear your voices as I read through them. It's the best! But hey, Happy Valentine's Day everyone, or in Finnish, Hyvää Ystävän Päivää! They call it friend day here...don't ask me why! But hopefully it's a great day for everyone!

    So we have had probably the most spontaneous week of my mission this past week. I don't always do well with spontaneity, but I am getting better :) It's been a pretty stressful, crazy week, but I have learned a lot and have also been especially grateful for my wonderful parents this week. I will talk about that more later, but so many things have come up this week that have made me so grateful for you two and all the good that you do. So thank you! I love you both!

    So on Tuesday night, we had planned to go visit that family I talked to you about with the little girl on his shoulders and tattoos. Well, we went there, knocked on the door, and the grandma of the family answered. We were both pretty confused and Sister Nyman asked, "Is your husband home?" to which the grandma responded, in a very sassy tone, I might add, "Excuse me, I don't need a husband. I am an independent woman and the grandmother of this family and don't you ever forget it..." after which the door was slammed in our faces. Uh....hahaha we both about died laughing. Definitely not what we were expecting. I expected a cute little girl to open the door and to invite us in to a totally prepared, ready for baptism family, but alas...not this time. It's ok though...we didn't have a chance to go back last week, but we have them scheduled in this week at a different time when the grandma hopefully isn't there. Anyways, it was pretty funny. I will keep you posted on them!

    We then had a lesson with K from Vietnam. It was a good lesson. We asked him why he thinks we are here and he said, "to baptize people." least he understands :) but it really was a good lesson. He still is hesitant about baptism and coming to church and actually as I was writing that, we just got a text from him informing us he is going to Vietnam for a month. Well....there you go. Dang. Oh well, we will pick him back up in a month. Keep praying for K though. Hopefully we get to meet with him before he leaves so we can encourage him to continue reading and praying every day. Such is the missionary life :) It's the best!

    So we have another zone training meeting this week...I can't believe it's already here again. So we have had a couple of coordination meetings about that this week. I just can't believe how much time we spend in meetings. It's pretty incredible. I am really excited about this meeting though. We are talking about Repentance and change and aligning our will with God's other words, the good stuff, the wake up call! :) No but seriously, we have a lot of good plans...discussions, role plays,'s going to be really good. We are using Mosiah 4 and 5 and Preach My Gospel pages 5-6 focusing on how repentance is key for us as missionaries and also that we help our investigators repent. Isn't repentance the greatest thing? There is a line in Preach My Gospel that says "You will find great joy in repenting daily." I remember reading that at the beginning of my mission and literally laughing out loud. I thought that was the dumbest thing I had ever heard. But's so true. I don't always like admitting at the end of every day all of my shortcomings, and I am definitely not perfect at doing it every day, but I notice that the times in my mission when I have been really good at repenting, fast, have been the happiest times. I don't think that's a coincidence. Repentance is hopeful. That is the message we are hoping to leave in this meeting. That's tomorrow at 11 so hopefully it goes well!

    So Interim training for the new missionaries was this week and President asked Sister Nyman and I to come and do a role play of "Companionship Inventory." Let me just tell you about companionship inventory....I LOVE COMPANIONSHIP INVENTORY. Oh my goodness, I have the strongest testimony of comp inventory, I can't even tell you. It is brilliant. So during our weekly planning session each week, the last thing we do is companionship inventory and this is what it is:

    "At the end of your weekly planning session, share with your companion appropriate goals, and ask for his or her help to accomplish them. Discuss the strength of your relationship with your companion. Discuss any challenges that may be keeping your companionship from working in unity or from being obedient. Resolve conflicts. Share with your companion what you think his or her strengths are. Ask for suggestions on how you can improve. If needed, set goals that will improve your friendship. Conclude with prayer."

    Man...doesn't that just like blow your mind. I have always loved talking and, as you all know, I really find joy in expressing myself :) but Preach My Gospel really teaches us how to communicate effectively and in a mature manner. It's amazing how well this works. Every single time my companion and I do comp inventory well and fully, we are so much happier, the work goes better, and we really grow to love each other. I love it so much and was so grateful for the opportunity to train the missionaries in that area.

    So Sister Nyman and I did a little "mock" comp inventory and it went really well. The spirit is always so strong when you tell people that you love them. That's how Sister Nyman and I have tried to start every comp inventory. We just tell each other that we love each other. Not in a creepy, stupid, "this is dumb" kind of a way, but we just express our love for each other. We did that during the role play and the spirit came in SO strong. It really wasn't anything we said, but when you think about the scripture, "God is Love" it makes sense that when we express love, His spirit is felt. It is a pretty amazing truth. That was one of the things I wanted to thank my parents for today...we have ALWAYS told each other we love each other. I remember as a kid...and a young adult...when my siblings and I would fight...which happened very rarely...right mom? :) JK but anyways, I remember specifically with Jocelyn. Whenever we would fight, we would talk with mom about it and Mom, you wouldn't let us leave until we had given each other a kiss and a hug and told each other that we loved each other. I remember being SO mad sometimes, especially as I was staring at Jocelyn's face...trying to be angry for something that had happened. Joce, I am only saying this to illustrate a point...every fight we ever had was my fault :) but Mom, you taught us such a powerful lesson. You taught us that it really isn't worth it to be mad at people you love, and also that we have to express our love for each other. I can't remember a time in my life when I left the house or talked to one of our family members on the phone and we didn't say "I love you." We said it all the time. Not everybody does that, I have come to learn, but I am so so grateful....that was and always will be a part of our family. What a powerful lesson. Thank you both for that.

    After our role play, President said something really nice that really humbled me in more ways than one. After we had done our little shpeel, President said, "Ok missionaries, take a look at these sisters. These are really, really good sisters. They have both learned a lot from their missions and what you just saw is what is possible for each of you. You can be at this point one day and you can build lasting relationships with your companions that will mean the world to you. So learn from them." Man, that was way nice of him to say, but I was just so humbled to see this group of missionaries. They are exactly at the same point I was a year ago and I am literally FLOORED at how much I have changed. I know I sound like a broken record, but this mission really is a miracle. It's a miracle in my life and I love it more than anything else in the world. 

    So we had a great lesson with the J family this week and one not so great lesson, but that's ok. The first lesson was amazing. We did a brief overview of the Plan of Salvation and we had a member there with us. We really just focused on how the Plan really is a plan of love. It all comes back to God's love. How incredible is that? Anyways, the spirit was really strong and they all committed to continue reading and praying. They have been doing that every day as a family and it's amazing to see and feel the difference in their home. They are all happier and have more energy. The spirit is so strong. Family prayer, scripture study, and weekly family home evening really are indispensable components of the gospel. Which brings me again to thanking my parents. That has ALWAYS been a part of our family. That isn't a part of a lot of active member families, I have come to learn, but I know that my testimony of the gospel is due in large part to our daily family prayer and scripture study and weekly family home evening. That has kept us safe. Thank you both so much for making that a priority. It has done more and does more for your kids than you could ever know!

    So we went on splits in Marjaniemi this week. It's the neighboring city to Helsinki so it was fun to be in "the big Finnish apple" again. I went with Sister Knapp whose trainer was the one and only Sister Fronk. Lots of good family history there :) But we had a great day together. Sister Knapp goes home with Sister Nyman so in a couple weeks from now. We did some service for a family in the morning and then went and contacted some potential investigators. We had a DA with some members that night and as we were going to their house, we stopped a man on the street because that's what we do, but mostly because his dog looked just like Mack. I about cried. He was so cute. Anyways, we had a way good conversation with this guy. The neighborhood we were in was pretty ritzy. Turns out this guy was a rep for Finland in the 2002 winter Olympics. He totally lived in Utah for like 2 months. He heard ALL about the church, but no one every gave him a Book of Mormon or anything. Don't worry though, we changed that. We got his address and number and they are way excited about him. It's amazing how much contact people have with the church. He is totally going to get baptized. 

    We had a couple of DAs this week. The first was with G, our member from the Philippines. We made spring rolls with her and H, our member from Vietnam. It was really fun. Then, we had a DA with the cutest couple in the world, the M family. They got us Chinese take out and taught us how to use chopsticks. Veli M gave up on me halfway through the meal...I am not coordinated enough, evidently. :) But it was really fun. Sister M is actually Veli J's sister...our less active. We planned with them to have a FHE with the J family coming up really soon. They got way excited about it and wanted to plan the whole thing. It was great! :)

    So after we made spring rolls, me, Sister Nyman, H and G were all standing at the train station when all of a sudden I heard an Australian accent. I haven't met an Australian on my mission so I turned around immediately and saw this guy with his son walking towards us. Well we started talking with him, and he is just the coolest guy I have ever met. He was married to a Finn, but divorced her. They have 1 son. He hates Finland, but decided to stay so his son would have both his parents close. You could just tell when we were talking to him that he had a good heart. He loves his son a lot. Well the train came and we hadn't said anything to him. He walked to the very back of the train and since there is no thing as awkward as missionaries, we waited for a second, followed creepishly behind, and gave him a Book of Mormon. We talked about how much this could bless his family. His eyes teared up and he thanked us over and over again. We got his information and everything. Guess what...turns out he isn't in our area, but this guy was amazing. He is definitely going to get baptized!

    So yesterday, I was brushing my hair and I realized how disgusting it is. I remembered that Sister Nyman had told me that she has a really cool trick for cutting hair. So, I went out and asked her to show me. Well I sent you a picture of the trick, so basically, you flip all your hair into a ponytail and then you just cut the dead ends off....sounds brilliant right? Man...just writing that, I am realizing how stupid it sounds. But anyways, I love and trust my companion and her hair looks really nice, so I figured, hey, if it works for her, it will work for me. So I put my hair up in a ponytail, grabbed my dull scissors, and chopped it right off. Well, I felt pretty good as I was getting ready, but as I started straightening my hair, my eyes bulged out of my head as I realized what I had done. It looked SO HORRIBLE. I had literally cut out a chunk of my hair, right in the front. Oh my gosh...I was so horrified. I hope you all think it's funny...I hoped you would, but oh man....aren't I brilliant? Man...sometimes I wonder about myself :) But I hope you liked the pictures. Anyways, one of our YSA in the ward is a hairdresser, thank heaven, so I called her, panicking, on the phone yesterday and she helped me fix it last night. Apparently I didn't learn my lesson as a 4 year old, that you aren't supposed to cut your own hair. Oh man, the joys of a mission. Thankfully it looks all right now. Still weird, but better. Ya...that's my embarrassing story for the week. I hope it made you smile! :) But, on the plus side, on our way home from getting my hair cut, we met the coolest man in the world! We have an appointment with him on Friday. He used to be way hardcore into drugs and actually went to prison, but he was pushing a stroller with the cutest little baby in it, holding his wife's hand and they just looked like the most perfect family in the world. I am so excited to meet with them!

    So the Europe Area Presidency has goals for all of the members in Europe this year. This is something they do each year, but the goals this year are:

1. To bring someone to church aka to double active church membership in Europe this year

2. To become spiritually and temporally self-reliant

3. To do the work for an ancestor and take their name to the temple

    Aren't those way sick goals? I love them and we are so excited to work with our members on this. The one that has really stuck out to me this week is to become spiritually self-reliant. As I was thinking about it, a letter that you wrote me, Mom, came to my head. I don't even know if you remember, but it was when I was in the MTC. I went back through and read the letter and of course I was bawling, but you wrote 6 things down that you learned in Stake Conference. They are SO brilliant. As a matter of fact, I wrote them down on a piece of paper when I was in Vaasa, and it's been hanging by my desk ever since. But I wanted to share it with everyone...hopefully that's ok! :) But the things are:

1. Learn and internalize who you really are. "I am a Child of God" is not a trite statement.

2. Be in control of our thoughts and behavior. Science supports repetition of mind. We can train our thoughts and behavior. "When you control your mind, you shape your reality." President Uchtdorf. Also, Carrying negative thoughts will only wear you and everyone around you down. President Hinckley said, "Stop looking for the storms and enjoy the sunshine."

3. Make peace with our past so it won't ruin our future

4. Relationships are opportunities to grow and improve

5. Be a beacon of joy and happiness

6. Forgive everyone everything. Look to yourself to change. You, yes you, have much to overcome. Stop criticizing and look for others goodness. If you don't like where you are, you can change it, but you have to do some things differently.

    Wow. Imagine if we all lived our lives according to those things? It would be a wonderful world. But I have thought a lot this week about how important it is that we look to ourselves to change. It really goes along well with our zone meeting because that's what we are focusing on. It's so easy to point fingers at people and to blame everyone for our lives, but the reality of it is, we need to forgive everyone everything and focus on becoming the people Heavenly Father wants us to be. That should be our quest. In Mosiah 4:9-12 it says:

 9 Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has allwisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.

 10 And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask insincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if youbelieve all these things see that ye do them.

 11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodnessand long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

 12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.

    I love those scriptures. You may get something different out of them, but what I got out of it as I was preparing is that we have to humble ourselves and repent daily. That is how we become more like the Savior. So many people think it's just doing good things that helps us become Christ-like. That is true, but that's not all. We have to be actively involved in our own spiritually progression. That is SO KEY for every member of this church, especially as we move forward. The accountability for our lives is on our heads. Granted, we can't and don't choose what things happen to us a lot of the time, but we can always be in control of how we respond. But as we repent and humble ourselves before the Lord, we have a promise in verse 12 that we will always rejoice and be filled with the love of God and retain a remission of our sins and we will grow in knowledge and we will be happy. Those are the results of repentance.

    I have come to find great joy in repenting and I am so grateful for the possibility of repentance. I am so grateful for my Savior. I love Him. I want to be comfortable in His presence. I want to recognize Him when I see Him. I know however that if I don't work on making myself as clean and pure as possible now, I won't be comfortable around Him. As wonderful as He is, I won't want to be there if I haven't done my best to become clean. He makes up for what we can't lack, but He expects us to work hard as well. I love that. That is what it means to me to be spiritually self-reliant. That independent of anyone else, I can improve myself and I can get revelation and I can change and become better. I don't have to wait for parents or leaders or anyone to tell me what to change, I can go straight to my Father in Heaven. Elder Bednar told us when he was here, "Be careful it you ask the God what you can change and do better, because He will tell you exactly what you need to change." I know that is true. I also know it's not always fun to hear what He has to say, but it is always worth it to listen and to make those changes. We really are so much happier when we do that. Anyways, I love you all so much. Thank you for everything you do. I love each of you so much and I am really humbled and grateful for the relationships I have with each of you. Thank you for your goodness. Thank you for your faith. I love you so much and hope all is well! :) Have a great week!


    Sisar Bitner 

    P.S. Something Finnish: The Finns love juice more than any other people I know. The juice aisles in the grocery stores are packed full of every juice you could ever imagine. I have not been to a DA in Finland where juice wasn't offered as the first option. It's pretty hilarious. My favorite is pear's delish! :) I love you!!

The long and winding road

Workout on splits....hulla hoops for dayz :)

Thanks for the package!!


Spring rolls with G and H

H making salad

I'm still pretty....hahahahahaha JK

The Norwegian hair trick....don't try this at home

the result

Thankfully our members are so kind and cut our hair at 8:30 at night!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Better Way

    Hey guys! What's up? I have to start off this email by telling you all thank you so much for your prayers. I have noticed your prayers all throughout my mission, but especially this week. I will explain a little more about that later, but I just wanted to say thank you! The power of prayer is real and at least from my end, I have felt so many blessings come from your faith. I love you all more than I can say! :) Also, I have the list of souvenirs now! Good choices will not be disappointed! :) Ok, I love you all!

    SO...this oh man...where to even begin. It's been so great. I think this has been one of the busiest weeks of my mission and I am feeling it! I am pretty exhausted, but that's ok! Nothing better than collapsing into bed every night! :) On Wednesday, Sister Nyman and I were doing companionship study and we got a call from President Watson. He asked us if we could take care of some Russian sister missionaries that had come to Finland to renew their visas and had missed their plane! haha We said "Totta kai!" (that means of course by the way...I say it like 4384 times a day) but anyways, we had Russian companions for a day. Well, they aren't Russian, but they are serving in Russia....actually Siberia. Man, doesn't that just sound cold? They were super cool though and we got to be with them for a large part of the day. I went with Sister Larsen from Utah. She goes home in about 6 weeks and it was really fun to talk with her and get to know her. As we walked around and talked to people, she kept commenting on how nice Finland is and how clean and how new the trains are and how the people are really friendly and how warm it about slap to the face. I really felt so grateful to be serving where I am. It is such a wonderful place and it was good to be reminded of that.

     It was so funny also to be with someone who doesn't speak Finnish. She was just amazed at Sister Nyman and I and that we could communicate with the Finns. It was an interesting realization to remember that there are people in the world that don't speak Finnish...ok, like no one in the world speaks Finnish. :) But we had a great day and became friends really fast! I loved talking about the similarities and differences of our missions. It's so cool how we do the same work, everywhere. The church is the same. I have had a lot of people on my mission say to me, after they have come to our church, "Wow, I have visited Mormon churches before and it is always the do you do it will different bishops leading the congregations?" Well, we do it because the bishops are presiding over their wards....God leads this church. It's the same everywhere because it's the truth. I am so grateful for that!

    So after our surprise day of splits on Wednesday, we packed up for 3 days and headed to Kerava for splits. Kerava is about 20 minutes away by train. I was able to go with Sister Reynolds. She has been in Finland for about 3 months. She is so amazing and we have become such great friends over these past few weeks. She is really strong and one of the bravest people I know. She does things because she knows they are right, not necessarily because she knows the reason why. I love that about her and really learned a lot from her. We found 2 really cool new investigators and talked to EVERYONE. It was really fun. It snowed all day...none of that sissy snow, but big, fluffy, beautiful flakes. Needless to say, my hat and hair and face and everything was soaking wet, but we had a great time. They don't really have public transportation out their so we walked EVERYWHERE. It was really fun to walk and talk with her and to get to know her better. I have realized again this week the amazing truth that everyone has a story. Everyone has their own tale to tell and I love hearing them. That is one of the things I love most about being a missionary....hearing all the stories. It's so amazing. Sister Reynolds is an amazing missionary. She is going to do great things! :) 

    So Thursday night, we took a train all the way down to Helsinki and got picked up by the APs to go to President's house for MLC. Although we live like 10 minutes away, President has asked everyone to stay the night before and after MLC so we met up again with Sisters Dixon and Johnston, Sisters Woods and Pack, and all the elders! It was so fun to see them all. I don't know if I have told you about this, but when I was with Sister Jones in Tampere, we developed this thing called, "One for the days". Basically at the end of every day, you say one thing that you appreciate about your companion or a strength that they have. Well, we did a combined "One for the day" session with all the sisters there, and man, a few tears were shed. It just feels so good to be here serving with my best friends. They are the most amazing women, sisters, friends that I know and I am so grateful for all of them. I am going to do "One for the days" forever. :) It's a great thing to end your day on.

    We had MLC all day Friday. Oh my goodness, it was so amazing. Such a powerful meeting. The first thing we were able to do was to watch "Meet the Mormons". HOLY COW, that movie is SO SICK!!!! I was so emotional as I watched it and it just made me so happy to be a member of the church. How lucky are we to be surrounded by such wonderful people. Dad, remember when you said that the first time I see the American flag when I come home, I will cry? Well, I totally bawled when we watched the Navy football coach's story and I saw the beautiful football field, the flag, and the old American culture..nothing better! I really loved all of the stories, but I loved at the end of the Nepalese man's story when he said, "You know, I'm not perfect, but I am perfect at one thing. I am perfect at trying." I loved that. That's a good ambition to have. We can all be perfect at trying!

     I will talk more about the rest of MLC later, but I wanted to write about the rest of the week. So on Saturday, Sister Watson asked Sister Nyman and I if we would be willing to do some service for her because President was out of town that day. She needed to go grocery shopping in order to make 10 meals for 30 people this upcoming week. So Sister Nyman and I said absolutely...we didn't have any set appointments until the end of the day. So we studied with Sister Watson and shopped with her and then we ate lunch and she took us home. It was such a fun day and it was so great to get to know her better. I love the Watsons so much. They are the most wonderful people in the world.

    So church this week was awesome. We had our investigator K there from Vietnam. He is way cool. We invited him to be baptized last week and he said "I have already been baptized." He is Catholic so he was baptized as an infant. We have a lesson with him tonight and are really hoping to focus on helping him see that this is all for him. The gospel, us serving missions, everything is because Heavenly Father loves him. I think he needs to hear that. So stay tuned on K.

    We had two random people show up at church on Sunday, "seeking for truth" in their own words and wanting to learn more about the church. One of them is a friend of the Elders recent convert, P, and she is way sick. Her name is H and we have a lesson with her tomorrow. Hopefully that goes well. The other woman was a former investigator who Sister Fronk met....holla...:) and she wants to learn more as well. President Rawlings used to say that he had a vision for Finland of people lining up to get in the church. We saw a mini version of that this Sunday. We are way excited to be teaching all these people. 

    So we had a DA with the B family that lives in Lohja again this week. They took us home with them after church. My gosh, their kids are so cute. I love them so much. Their daughter E and I are officially besties. We made up a handshake and everything :) She told me that she is going to send me birthday gifts for the rest of my life and she wants me to send her birthday gifts from there you go. We are buds! It was so great to be with them!

    Our recent converts are just tearing it up. My goodness. They are rockstars. A taught Sunday School for the first time this week an really has been making progress with the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. R is going to the temple for the first time this week with a member in our ward and is so excited! I am just so happy for them. This week R said, "Ever since I have been meeting the missionaries, I feel like a part of my heart is touched that I didn't even know existed. You have something good here. This is all true." Man. R is so sick! He has so much swag...he walks with a bounce in his step ever since he's been baptized :) He is so cool and I love them both.

    We had such a cool lesson with J and L last night. Their mom still wants them to learn "all the lessons before they decide" which is cool. We can work with that! We taught about the Restoration and J said, "How can I get an answer? How can I know that God loves me?" We asked her if she had ever asked him and she said, all frustrated, "Yes of course, I ask him like 100 questions a day and he never answers me." We then asked her what kind of answers she was expecting to get. She told us that she wanted to see an angel like Joseph Smith. We explained to her that most of our answers come through the Holy Ghost and are quiet, warm, peaceful feelings we feel in our heart. She sat there really quiet and then said, "I just prayed in my heart and I felt those warm, peaceful feelings. I JUST GOT MY FIRST ANSWER." She literally screamed that last part and was so excited. There was such an amazing spirit in that home and I know she will remember that experience forever. I know I will.

    Man, it's been such a good week. Especially MLC. I had a lot of really cool realizations this week I am not going to lie, I have been so tired lately. It's kind of been scaring me a little bit. The changes we have made and the way we are now doing work is much more demanding then it's ever been. I am so happy, but so tired. I have been doing my best to eat right, exercise, drink water, sit by the "happy light" go to bed on time, get up on time, but nothing has been working. One of the questions I had going into MLC was "How can I combat this? I still have a long ways to go and I am exhausted. What am I going to do?" Through President, the spirit definitely answered my question. President said that it's ok to be's a good sign....hahaha not what I was expecting...but we had a discussion about how we need to be tired for the right reasons. Am I working harder now than I ever have because of numbers? Am I doing it to be the best? Or to achieve goals? Those are all valid reasons to work hard for something, but as were were talking, my favorite scripture from the New Testament came to my mind:

 28 ¶Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

    I love that scripture. But I realized this week and President commented on the fact that the word rest in that scripture doesn't necessarily mean what we think it means. Rest means joy, satisfaction, relief and contentment. I have experienced that over these past few weeks. I am way more tired than before, but I am so much happier. It's amazing the peace, joy and contentment I have found as we as a mission have aligned our wills with the Father and really done His work, His way. I have felt that rest.  

    I also felt during MLC a sense of increased accountability. Heavenly Father has shown us all a new way to do missionary work. We have such a tendency as people to turn back to our old ways once a challenge arises. I do it all the time. But as I have been tired, I have found myself not necessarily wanting to go back to the old ways, but thinking about it. I realized that I can't ever go back. Not even just as a missionary, but as a person. There are so many things that have changed about me. Things that are going to affect who I am when I come home. I am not the same person and I know that it's going to be strange to sort of "reestablish" my place in our family and in the world. But I realized this week that I am not ever going to be who I was before. Not only that, but I literally can't. My nature has changed. I am still the same, personality wise...for better or worse :) but my accountability has increased. Uncle Ben in Spiderman says it so well, "With great power comes great responsibility." hahaha :) Now I don't mean that I have power...but I have the spirit with me, and that gift also comes with responsibility. Sister Nyman said something way cool this week as we talked about this. She said, "Progression in the gospel is like climbing a tree...the higher you get, the more dangerous it is to fall off." that deep or what? This is my companion folks...she is incredible. But it's so true. The higher up we go, the more important it is for us to do what the Lord is telling us to do. He knows how to get to the top of the tree safely and he will help us all the way up, but we can't go back. I can't go back. My heart has been changed. A couple of scriptures really stood out to me as I was studying this more fully. They are Mosiah 5:12, 2 Cor 3:3, Ezekiel 11:19. They say, 

12 I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.

 3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

    I love those scriptures so much. I can't go back. I know a better way now. None of us that have had spiritual confirmations and experiences can go back. We all know a better way now. But how exciting is that? We all get to progress and go forward...forever! :) We always have something to live for. I think that is what so many people nowadays are missing. That hope that something could be better, that we can be better. But we have that hope because we live according to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's the secret to success. 

    President testified really powerfully about these truths and told us all that we have just barely experienced the joy and abundance of the Spirit that are available to us. Wow. That is such a powerful statement. It really made a difference to me and made me want to progress even more and to bring more people to the knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel through doing the work of the Lord. If I have just scratched the surface of the happiness and spirit available to me as I have served a mission, then as it says in 2 Nephi 2:3:

 3 Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men.

    My days shall be spent in the service of my God. I know that when we keep the first and great commandment, to love and serve God, everything else works out and we really are happy. I don't know how it works, but it does. I can only testify to what I know and have experienced and that's it. :) The gospel=happy. Loving the Lord and serving Him=happy. I know that is true. God lives. He loves us. He knows us. He is with us. Our Savior, Jesus Christ lives. Because He lives, we too shall live again. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. The church has been restored through Joseph Smith, the prophet. President Monson is a prophet today. We all have been blessed to know a better way, but how lucky are we? I love you all so much. Mom and Dad, I hope you are nice and tan. Anne, Lauren, Luke and Caroline, take care of Grandma. Joce, don't party too hard up at USU! :) I love you so much. Thanks for all you do! Nähdään pian! :)


    Sisar Bitner 

    P.S. Something Finnish....they have this unspoken rule that if they find a glove or hat or scarf on the ground, they hang it up on the nearest tree so that the snow doesn't bury it and the owner can come back and find it. There are gloves and hats everywhere on the trees. It's hilarious! :) Love you!
hahaha nacho never dies :) 

Our Russian sister kind of got cut off..but she was cool!
Sister companion for a day

Lunch with Sister Watson