Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

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!

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