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 :) 

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