Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

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 :) 

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