Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Time of My Life

    Well, well, well, Good Morning! How are you all doing this beautiful March 24th day? It's a beautiful, windy day here in Finland. But the birds are still singing and the sun is out. I am not complaining. As Michael Buble says, "It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me, and I'm feeling good." That's such a good message. I don't know if he knows it or not, but that song is totally about repentance. Wow, someone needs to baptize him. He is sending hidden messages in his songs. :) So anyways, hahaha sorry for my rant. I hope Dad and Lauren had wonderful birthdays. I thought about you both on your birthdays and I hope you both know how much I love you! Thank you for everything.

    First off, I just have to say a couple of things I have come to appreciate about Finland. This is my "Something Finnish" for the day. First thing, I have come to appreciate their sense of humor. Let me explain. So like, in the past, I haven't ever tried to make jokes in Finnish A, because I'm not very funny, but B, because I never felt confident enough in my Finnish and I figured I would probably say something wrong and they wouldn't understand the joke anyways. Well, this week, I tried and totally failed to crack a joke to a Finn. We were talking to this woman at the train station and we were having a great conversation about church tours and stuff and then we asked her what her name was. She said, "Marika" and I said in my "Yes, I'm trying to be funny right now" way, "Oh, you mean like America." Granted, that joke sounds even lamer now that I'm telling you about it, but she just looked at me like I was the biggest loser on the face of the earth, and boy, I felt it. Sisar Rochette cracked up pretty hard at my failure to be funny, so at least someone laughed at something. The contact didn't end really well, hopefully not because of my joke failure, but I really do appreciate the Finns for their sense of humor and honesty. They don't laugh at anything unless they think it's hilarious. No pity laughs here. :) 

   Second thing, I love that the Finns don't pretend to be more excited than they are. I have always felt like a dummy whenever I would see people that I haven't seen for a long time, of course I get excited, but I am not exactly the jump and down, start screaming and running around in circles kind of a person. It was great though because this week at the temple, I saw my mini missionary Sisar K from Vaasa and the N family from Vaasa who are like my favorite people in the world, but when I saw them, I didn't feel obligated to jump up and down and "freak out." They just calmly gave me a hug and asked how I was doing and I did the same. It was so great. I feel like I am amongst my own here in Finland sometimes. It's wonderful!

    Third thing: I have come to appreciate peace and quiet as I have been in Finland. I would wager that there is not another place on the earth where you could go and sit on a train, completely FULL of people and hear literally nothing. Like not even coughs or sneezes or music or anything. They just sit there. The only thing you can really hear is missionaries trying to preach the word. :) This new found appreciation became apparent to me this week as we went and taught our new American investigator, P. She is married to a Finn and the Espoo 2 sisters had been teaching her for quite a while. She has a lot of family members who are LDS and she wants to join the church because of the "Light and Love in the eyes of the Mormons." Pretty cool. But anyways, we had our first lesson with her and she told us EVERYTHING about her life. Like literally. I was so shocked that someone was telling us so many personal details, and she was talking very loudly. Sister Rochette and I walked out of the lesson, which went really well, but we both commented on the fact that the lesson felt so loud and she shared really personal things. Well, the things she shared weren't too personal of course, but this culture is just rubbing off on us, I guess. Become one with Finland, you know? :) That's the way to be a missionary here. But seriously, I love that the Finns like the quiet. They really understand the concept of "Be still, and know that I am God." I am grateful I have learned that lesson from them! 

    Man oh man, thanks for letting me rant about this beautiful land that I love. But let's get on to the week, this week has been CRAZY. All the weeks are crazy, but this one especially. Let's start at the beginning. Let me just start by saying I have gained a new perspective on less-active members this week. I will explain later. But Tuesday night, we went out to a less-actives home that lives in the Espoo 2 ward. She is from Estonia and has been less-active for a long time. She is really friendly and likes having us over, but she says she doesn't feel welcome at church and told us she has no desire to read the Book of Mormon. It was actually a really funny experience, because she said to us, "When I joined the church, I used to go out teaching with the sisters all the time. I know how missionaries feel about less-actives. You are just so frustrated with me and you don't like coming to see me and I annoy you and you feel like I am a burden." We told her that we love her, which we really do, but it kind of clicked in my head after she made that comment that less-actives really want someone to want them to come to church. They want someone to notice when they aren't at church. Obviously other things contribute to them not coming, but I know that the chances of them coming would increase greatly if they knew that someone cared if they were there or not.

    My perspective continued to change as I read a talk from last conference called, "Rescue in Unity." Elder Wong shared the story of the man with palsy being brought to Jesus by his friends from the roof of the house. He said that the four people who lowered the man's bed to Christ could represent a member of the Relief Society, the Home Teachers, and a full-time missionary. I realized that as hard as we, the missionaries, try with less-actives, they aren't going to come back unless the ward is involved. We have such a wonderful opportunity as members to do missionary work in a very real way as we reach out to those members of our wards that have left. They just want to know someone cares. I know that love from everyone, including the missionaries and members, is such an important component of these members coming back to activity. Elder Wong made the comment that:

    "The work to assist Jesus Christ in saving souls, at least for them, was never too demanding. They came up with a plan—not an easy one, but they acted on it."

    That is one thing I am going to do when I come home. I want to ask my Bishop who in the ward needs a friend. I want to ask him who is struggling and who could use some extra help. We really can rescue these people if we work together. I know that is true.

    So that was Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, Sister Rochette and I woke up at 5 a.m. to get ready to go to the East Zone Conference in Mikeli. We were able to drive the 3 hours to Mikeli with President and Sister Watson. It was so great to get to know them better and Sister Watson was so cute and brought us snack bags. Man, we are so spoiled. They are the best. We have 4 zones in Finland and because of decreased numbers of sisters, Sister Rochette and I are the STLs for the Helsinki Zone, the East Zone, and the North Zone. So we were able to go to the East Zone Conference. The meeting went well. President started the meeting off with the question, "Elders and Sisters, how do you know that God loves you?" We talked a lot about prayer and I gained so many insights on prayer. I definitely can improve the quality of my prayers. I have made it a goal since conference to make time to say my prayers at night. I have started praying now at 10:10 instead of like 10:25 and I have found that has made all the difference. I feel so much closer to my Heavenly Father and I know that is all because of the quality of my personal prayers. Sister Watson shared 2 Nephi 32:8-9 which says:

 8 And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.

 9 But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.

    I love that scripture. I love the last part that talks about the Lord consecrating our performances as we pray in faith. So many things are possible through prayer, but it's really all contingent on our prayer of faith. President talked about those people that pray and pray and pray but don't do anything about their prayer and "never get an answer." He talked about how the prayer of faith is hope plus action. We hope that we will get answers, but then we get to work. We can't sit around and wait to be commanded in all things because the Lord doesn't work that way. Elder Oaks has a quote in Preach My Gospel that says:

    “[A person may have] a strong desire to be led by the Spirit of the Lord but … unwisely extends that desire to the point of wanting to be led in all things. A desire to be led by the Lord is a strength, but it needs to be accompanied by an understanding that our Heavenly Father leaves many decisions for our personal choices. Personal decision making is one of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances in which they pray for guidance and don’t receive it. For example, this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances in which the choices are trivial or either choice is acceptable.

    “We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning powers our Creator has placed within us. Then we should pray for guidance and act upon it if we receive it. If we do not receive guidance, we should act upon our best judgment. Persons who persist in seeking revelatory guidance on subjects on which the Lord has not chosen to direct us may concoct an answer out of their own fantasy or bias, or they may even receive an answer through the medium of false revelation” (“Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct. 1994, 13–14).

    I love Elder Oaks. He is so straightforward. All the apostles are. This quote is true. I have a testimony of it. President also made the comment that we need to talk to our Heavenly Father the same way we talk to our earthly father. Dad, you have made me cry, in a good way, many times this week. As President made that comment, I started thinking about you and how much I love talking to you. I thought about my favorite memories I have with you. There are so many, but honestly my favorite times were when you and I would do dishes on Sunday night or when we would play ping pong or when we would drive to soccer tournaments, just the 2 of us and we would talk and talk and talk about everything. I always told you exactly how I felt, whether you liked it or not :) and I loved hearing what you had to say. I loved hearing your ideas and your views and opinions and I really take to heart everything that you say. I wondered if that is always how my prayers are. Sometimes I have fallen into the trap of forgetting my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Yes, he is God, but first and foremost He is our Father. He wants us to call Him that because that is His most important role. I need to talk to Him like I talk to you, Dad. But I wanted to say thank you for helping me see what it means to love your children unconditionally. Thank you for talking with me and listening to me. Because you did, I know Heavenly Father does too! That knowledge really is priceless. I love you. I am so grateful for prayer and am excited to continue to learn about how I can make my prayers more effective and sincere. 

    So the Assistants are really great Elders and they taught us all about Finding People to Teach. They had asked Sister Rochette and I to do a demonstration of finding someone on the street through a church tour. They called us about a week before Zone Conference and asked us to do the role play, but they also asked us to find a new investigator before Zone conference with a church tour. Sounds pretty simple, but once Monday rolled around of this last week, we were starting to sweat pretty bad. We wanted to be able to testify that this approach to Finding would work. So on Monday morning, we prayed and asked Heavenly Father to bless us to find someone who would come to a church tour and become a new investigator. 

    Well, as we continued our work that day, the thought came to mind that we should call a potential that we had met about 2 weeks earlier. We had tried to call him a couple times before, but he hadn't answered. Anyways, we called him on Monday around 12:30 and he agreed to come to a church tour Monday at 15. So we hurried a found a member, and A came to the church tour and LOVED IT. It was one of the most spiritual church tours I have ever given and we focused completely on the Restoration. At the end of the tour, we were in the chapel with A and Sister Rochette asked if she could sing him a song. Well, I whipped out my skills and played the Children's Songbook version of "I am a Child of God" #skill and Sister Rochette sang. The spirit was there and A was totally feeling it. When I turned around after having played the song, his eyes were all teary and he said he wanted to come to church on Sunday. Guess what, he totally did! It was great! Prayer works. I know that the Lord blessed us, but only after we did all that we could do. It was pretty cool!

    So we got home pretty late Wednesday night. We had a great day Thursday. The Lord really blessed our area while we were gone. We were able to find 2 awesome investigators. One was P, the American, and the other was S, and old Finnish man who came up to us at the train station and told us he had a Book of Mormon and wanted to learn more about it. We had a lesson with him on Thursday and it went really well. He clicked very quickly with the member that we brought and we both thought, "SWEET. this is so great." Well, yesterday S called us and said that he didn't have time to read the Book of Mormon right now. We were pretty bummed, but then a scripture came to my mind that President had shared in zone conference. It was from D&C 42:8 

 8 And from this place ye shall go forth into the regions westward; and inasmuch as ye shall find them that will receive you ye shall build up my church in every region—

    We are called to find those that will receive us. It kind of sounds like an oxymoron, but I have taught so many people on my mission that "haven't received us." "Those that will receive us" are those that want to learn, that are willing to learn, that keep commitments. If they aren't ready to make and keep commitments right now, that is totally ok. We haven't failed, we haven't damned them to hell, they just aren't ready. They will be ready eventually though. We ended up giving a few of our investigators over to the Lord this week because we both felt like they weren't progressing. After praying and receiving a confirmation from the Spirit, we felt peace in our hearts about all of these people. Their time will come. We just have to find those that are ready to receive us and the Lord will lead us to them. It's such a comfort to me that the Lord knows each of His children personally and has their best interests at heart. He takes care of all of us.

    So then, Friday rolls around and this time we woke up at 4:00 to get to the airport on time to catch our 7:00 flight to Oulu. We were able to go to the North Zone Conference as well. It's about an 11 hour train ride from Helsinki to Oulu and about an hour flight so we were able to fly. It was so great. It felt really weird, however, but I love flying so it was fun. Sister Rochette and I went with the Assistants and when we got to Oulu, one of the members was there, all decked out in his chauffeur cap, ready to take us to the church. It was great. :)

    Zone conference was great, again. It was amazing how different both meetings were and how many questions I had answered, again. I learned more about Prayer. I picked up a good idea from a missionary to take a journal or notebook or something with you when you prayer. He said that he asks Heavenly Father what he needs to do better and then he sits. He listens. He writes down thoughts and impressions that come to his mind. Then he asks, "Is there more?" He repeats this process over and over until he feels that there is nothing left, at least for that evening. It was a really cool idea and I am working on implementing that into my personal prayers as well. I know that Heavenly Father isn't going to give us an answer unless we are going to do something with it and writing down the impressions we have is a really good way to guarantee that those answers will keep coming. "Knowledge carefully recorded is knowledge available in a time of need." Elder Scott said that. I think he is pretty wise. I am so excited to hear from all of the prophets and apostles next weekend. Oh man, it will be glorious!

    So update on Canada K, she is in contact with a member. YIPPEE!! She is going to family home evening with the member down in Helsinki so hopefully that goes well. We texted her on Saturday and just told her that we still love and care about her and she is always welcome to church, even if she isn't going to join. She actually texted us back and said thank you and told us she is working to figure out some family stuff right now! keep praying for her though! She is great!

    Well I think I told you about the woman we met running in the morning. Wanted to update you on her. She came to a temple tour last night and LOVED IT. Oh my goodness she kept hugging us and crying and saying she is so grateful that she found us. She said on that morning when we met her, as we ran past she and her daughter, her daughter said, "Mom, stop, I want to talk to those girls." It hit me so strongly yesterday, What if we hadn't followed the prompting of the Spirit? Her daughter knew that they needed to talk to us, and she stopped her mom. Kids, man, they are just way closer to the spirit than adults. They literally have to wait for us to get on the same wavelength as them. Anyways, we have a return appointment with A and her husband and their 2 kids. We are so excited!

    One more cool experience for the week. So yesterday, we dropped 2 of our investigators as I said before. We had 5 lessons with members present planned for the day which is literally like the best I have done on my mission in 1 day like EVER. Anyways, it all fell through. It was pretty rough, but we had good back up plans so we set out to find this potential. Well it was in the Espoo 2 area and we had no idea where we were going. We thought we had found the building, but it was completely wrong, As we were wandering around, trying to find this address, this woman comes walking up to the door of the building we were standing next to. We started talking to her and told her we were representative of the church and she said, "Oh, are you the Mormons?" We said yes and she proceeded to tell us how she had visited our church in Turku when she was a child but she didn't feel the Holy Ghost once. She then told us how she had found the Pentecostal church and she felt the Holy Ghost so strongly there. Well, we asked her if we could come and show her a video about Jesus Christ. She said, "Ya, well maybe some other day." We had the thought to ask her if we could show her like right then. I have never asked someone on the street if we could just go straight to their house, but she said, "Oh ya, absolutely." We went up to her apartment and we showed her the "Because of Him" video. The first time she watched it, she seemed pretty dazed. But before we could even do anything, she pushed play again and we watched the whole video again. She was totally feeling the spirit which was evidenced by the tears streaming down her face. Long story short...we have a return appointment and she is reading 3 Nephi 11. Man...see, drop 2 investigators and the Lord leads us to this lady. Wow. Her name is H. Great name, huh? :) 

    I have to tell you, I have loved reading the Book of Mormon through this time more than I ever have in my life. I read this week the story of Ammon and Alma and all of their missionary adventures. This morning I was reading Alma 26-Alma 28. Two verses really stood out to me. The first is Alma 26:16. Ammon has basically just ranted for about 56431 hours about how much he loves being a missionary and how much he loves Heavenly Father. Then in verse 16 he just says, "...I cannot say the smallest part which I feel." Another verse was Alma 28:14. It says, "And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord..." As I was sharing  this morning with Sister Rochette what I learned in personal study, I just started bawling. I love being a missionary. Seriously, I can't say the smallest part which I feel. Verse 14 of Chapter 28 touched my heart today. There really is not greater call than that of being a missionary. Every other calling in the church is basically saying that anyways. I am so grateful to be a missionary. 

    It's amazing how I didn't even want to be a missionary, but now I can't imagine life without it. It's in my blood. I think it's in all the blood of this generation. We were born to be missionaries. We have the same fire in our hearts for the gospel that Alma and the sons of Mosiah did. We are right up there with the apostles of old, preaching the word to a world that doesn't always want it, and why are we doing it? Because we love God. We love our Savior. We love this work. I wish I could adequately communicate how much love I have in my heart for my Heavenly Father and my Savior, Jesus Christ, for the Book of Mormon, for Joseph Smith, for President Monson, for the Plan of Salvation, for the commandments, just all of it. I love it all. I love sharing it everyday. I am so grateful for the time I have left. I really have had the time of my life on my mission and I will forever be grateful for this experience. Anyways, I love you all so much. Sorry that this email is kind of crazy. I will try to be more organized next week. Have a wonderful week. Read your scriptures, say your prayers, serve those around you, tell people that you love them, smile. This is a great time to be alive! I love you all. Have a great week!! Talk to you soon!


    Sisar Bitner 

The lady that makes the wool nativities...her husband should not have his arm around me like that, but I figured a nice punch to the face wouldn't be flattering... :)

Me and Elder Coffey and Elder Smith. Elder Coffey was in my MTC group. Last time I am going to see him 

A cool church in Mikeli

Our plane and the sunrise...beautiful!!!

Surprise guests at the temple. Sisar mini missionary from Vaasa.....

....and the Nåsman family from Vaasa as well! I love them all!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Another Testament

    Hyvää Huomenta! Happy St. Patrick's Day! Happy Birthday Dad and Lauren! Man, so many good things happening this week! How are you all doing? I hope you have had the most ihana week of your lives. Ihana means lovely. Or like Lilo says in Lilo and Stitch, Ohana means family. So moral of the story, Finnish is close to Hawaiian. haha psych. It's not. But Family is ohana and ihana so it's fine. I love you all so much. Dad, you are just getting younger every day. You are such a spry young sap. I tell people that my dad is turning 44....that's right isn't it? :) But they are floored that you are so young. Same with you mom. People ask if you are my older brother and sister. hahaha so either I look old or you two look really young...I think the latter is more flattering for all of us so let's go with that. And Lauren, oh my lanta, you are turning 14. WOW. That's just all sorts of weird. I am so happy for you. 14 is a good age to be. When I was 14 I was your age! :) haha did you catch my throwback Tuesday reference to our Disney cruise? Oh man, good times. But seriously, I love you both so much. I hope you have the most wonderful birthdays ever! I am working on writing you some letters and sending you some good old Fazer chocolate, so stay tuned! I love you both!

    Well we have had another grand old week here in the magestic land of Espoo. It's a wonderful place. I love living by the temple. I could get used to this. :) I am just going to jump right in to all the stories. There is so much to tell. So a couple of weeks ago, we met this man from Thailand on the street. He was really cool and told us that we could come over and talk about our church. He kind of seemed a little sketchy, but we had an appointment with him Tuesday night, and he called us that morning to make sure we were still coming. Wow. That's pretty cool. So his name is K. The lesson was kind of shaky in the beginning. He was pretty "aggressively Buddhist" as in our ideas about God and Jesus Christ were all wrong, but we really did our best to answer his questions and promise him blessings. The spirit was there so strong. By the end of the lesson, I asked, "K, are you willing to do your part to find out if what we have taught you is true?" At the beginning he had basically said he would never pray or do anything in a Christian church, but after that, he said, "Why not? What do I have to lose?" What a brilliant question, K! You have NOTHING to lose and everything to gain. He said the sweetest prayer I have ever heard and invited us back this week. We are really excited to teach him. I love Asians. goal in life, apart from like education, marriage, family, happiness, you know the usual is to serve a mission with my husband in Asia. I don't care where, preferably China, but just somewhere. He is a really cool guy and we are excited to teach him more. I love missionary work! I love seeing the change in people. Literally in 20 minutes, this guy went from no belief in God to saying his first prayer. Wow. The Spirit is amazing. He works miracles.

    So I am just going to get this sad story out at the beginning. I am still a little sad about it, but it's ok. So K, the Canadian girl we met last week who is golden and came to church? Well, that is still true! We had a lesson with her Tuesday night and she kept asking us over and over again to continue teaching her and to help her get closer to Heavenly Father. We really wanted to focus the lesson on helping her learn how she would receive answers to her own questions. We talked about the Holy Ghost and she said, "Well if the Holy Ghost is what I felt in church on Sunday, then keep it coming." Oh my goodness. She is like a member already. It's incredible. Anyways, we talked about baptism and she set her own baptismal date for May 2. I felt like I was pulling an Elder Rogers from The Best Two Years, having a baptism right before I leave, but it felt so good and right. The Spirit was there and we all felt it. She said a prayer at the end and just kept thanking Heavenly Father for sending these two "wonderful girls into her life." She kept saying over and over again that it was divine intervention that we met. Honestly, I have never been so happy or optimistic after a lesson that I was after that. She is so ready.

    So we had another amazing lesson with her on Friday. We had committed her to ready the Introduction to the Book of Mormon as well as the Restoration pamphlet and she did that and more. She came to the lesson and told us that she knows Joseph Smith is a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true. It was another amazing lesson. So this lesson was on Friday and they had a YSA lunch at the temple guest house on Saturday. We invited her to come to that. Oh, by the way, she brought us cookies to the lesson. #lovethisgirl haha it was great.

    And now the sad music Saturday morning, we texted her and asked if she wanted to meet us at the train station or the temple. Well she sent us back a text that literally broke my heart. She said that her parents in Canada had gotten wind of her intentions to join the church and that her family, dad specifically told her that she isn't allowed to meet with us anymore and breathed out some pretty serious threats. We aren't sure what they are exactly, but they were serious enough that she didn't respond back to our text, asking her whether we could meet and just talk about what they said. I am not going to lie guys, it about killed me. I was so sad. You come to love these people so fast. I just saw so clearly in my mind all of the wonderful things that were in store for K. I know they still are, just at a different time. Man, I really could have used a hug from one of you in that moment, but Sisar Rochette and I said a prayer and we both felt peace about K. It was a blessing to meet her. I really don't know why it happened the way it did, but I know that Heavenly Father will take care of her. We have plans to hopefully stay in contact with her. She made friends with one of the members, so we are hoping they stay in contact. Anyways, keep praying for her. I know something good will happen. I love her a lot and am grateful I was able to know her. It was just another witness to me that people really are ready. Although her dad is pretty against religion in general, God is greater than all and K will find the church again. Now she has the Book of Mormon. She knows it's true. She is one step closer! :) That's pretty cool when you think about it. But anyways, no more sad stories. We are happy and I hope she is happy too. Things will all work out. 

     So on Wednesday night, we had a late-coming new missionary come to Finland. She is a Finn, so she didn't need to learn Finnish...lucky her :) But she doesn't speak English, so that will be a good learning experience for her as well. She is so great. Since she missed the welcome dinner with all the other missionaries, President invited Sisar Rochette and I and the Assistants to come to dinner with Sisar Andersson and her new companions. They are a threesome which is pretty cool. We had a great night and got to know her better. Man can I just say how much I love the Finnish people. I was able to talk with her and get to know her and I have such a special place in my heart for these Finns. They are wonderful and she is such a valuable addition to the mission. I am so grateful for the Finnish youth and their desires to serve. They are going to change the culture of this country. We have a Sister returning home to the Espoo ward this week. Get this, I actually met her in the MTC. WEIRD!! She has been in France and I am really excited to get to know her. I love being around missionaries. I wish they had an MTC in Logan so I could teach at the MTC, but alas, I will just have to help Dad teach mission prep! That will be awesome as well! I can't wait!

    So we had splits on Thursday, my last splits in Helsinki. I was able to go with a brand new greenie, Sisar Hales. She is from Nevada and has been in Finland a whopping 10 days. Well I guess 2 weeks now. She is HILARIOUS. Oh my goodness, I have never seen a missionary with so much energy. It is great! She had a goal to talk with everyone effectively, meaning that she wanted to set up return appointments on the street. My goal for the day was to use the Book of Mormon more effectively in contacting. So, we combined both of our goals. We each carried a Book of Mormon around in our hand all day. I felt like Captain Moroni, armed with my Sword of Truth. It was legit. :) Anyways we talked with EVERYONE and had a great time with each other. She kept asking me for "advice" and "words of wisdom from a dying missionary" to quote her specifically. It made me smile. She is great. I told her to be herself. That's the best thing any missionary can do. Well, one of the best things. We are where we are for a reason. I know that is true. 

    One cool experience from splits. Ok, two cool experiences from splits. So we were in downtown Helsinki, standing at a bus stop. We started trying to talk to this lady. She was really nice, but not super interested. I noticed, however, that another lady was standing right behind her, totally eavesdropping on our conversation. So the first lady left to get on her bus and this other lady just kept staring at us so we asked her how she was doing. Her response was, "Can you tell me more about what makes your church different from other Christian churches?" TOTTA KAI! That's my favorite thing to tell people about! Anyways, we talked about the Book of Mormon and got on the same tram as her so we continued to talk. We told her that we would love to come bring her her own copy of the Book of Mormon. She was really excited. Ok this is my Something Finnish for the day. So as we were talking to this woman, she was helping us find directions to our next appointment because neither of us knew where we were going. She started looking at the map. Now Finns pretend that they aren't paying attention to what you are doing. They have some pretty intense poker faces, but as she was helping us, 2 other random guys from the tram came over, after completely listening to our conversation and told us where to go. Then they both started telling us about their families (we had asked the woman previously about her family) and wanted to show us pictures and tell us stories. I just had to smile. Everyone always says that Finns don't want to talk to anyone, but I am here to tell you, that is a FALSEHOOD. They are the kindest people I know, you just have to be willing to get to know them. But once you do, man, they are the best friends you could ever ask for. You make friends with a Finn, you're a friend for life. I love that about them. They are worth fighting for. Anyways, we got the woman's name and address and gave the two men our card. It was a great experience and I was glad Sisar Hales was able to experience what Finns are really like. 

    So second cool experience from splits, we were walking down the street and we saw this man approaching, pushing his daughter in a stroller. We stopped and started talking to him in Finnish, and he says, "You're from America, we can speak English" in perfect American English. So this guy's name is D. He is from Wisconsin and is here teaching English in Helsinki University. Way sick! Anyways, we started talking to him about the church. At first, he was pretty condescending towards the things we were saying. There were a lot of scoffs and coughs and lame sounds that people make when they aren't pleased with something. He started listing off all of these facts to us. I could tell by Sister Hales' body language that this was the first time someone had started ripping her head off for believing in God. Luckily, it's happened for me a few more times. :) So, instead of arguing, we did the only thing we can really do. We testified. We testified of God, Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, a living prophet, the Plan of Salvation, man we just testified the heck out of that contact. D got really quiet after that. We looked him straight in the eye and said, "D, you can know all of this is true for yourself. You are smart. You like experiments and evidence. Well, give this book a chance. Try it out for yourself and see if you get the same results as we did. If you really do it sincerely, you will get an answer that it is true. Are you willing to try?" Man, I felt like I was on fire. It was like the best black and white opportunity I have ever given someone to accept the gospel. The Spirit was SO stinking strong on the street, I felt like flames were coming out of my body. D looked at us and honestly, he looked kind of sad and he said, "No, I am not willing right now. But I am very grateful I met you today. Thank you for stopping and talking to me." 

    I have never felt so good about being rejected before. I gained such a strong testimony of the fact that when we do the work we are sent here to do as missionaries, that is when we find happiness. I have thought before on my mission, "Oh man, going to a movie or sleeping in or calling my family would make me so happy" But boy oh boy, how false that is. Of course, I would be happy to talk to you all, but it wouldn't last, because that's not what I am supposed to be doing right now. I am a missionary and that is what I have signed up to be for 18 months. I don't get why someone would go on a mission only to break the rules. That's never really made sense to me. So much happiness awaits us as we labor int he Lord's vineyard, but only as we try our hardest to be obedient and to allow our wills to be swallowed up in the will of the Father. I have never been so happy as I have been on my mission, but that happiness has only come in the times when I am trying my best to actually be the missionary that Heavenly Father expects me to be. Now let me just rant for a second, that is the common folly of so many people in the world. They look for happiness in all the wrong places. They want to be happy, but can't figure out how to do it. Why can't they? Because they are not turning to their Father, the one who knows them, created them, loves them more than they could ever imagine, and knows what they need to get back to Him and to be happy here and forever. It's so easy to turn to Him. It just takes a little courage! It takes courage to be obedient, but oh what blessings come as you are! It's pretty incredible! Thanks for letting me rant....I'm done now!

    So things went good on splits. It was the best day ever and I love Sisar Hales a lot. I was so grateful to be able to meet her. It was definitely a tender mercy!

    So things are going well with T. We weren't able to meet a lot last week, for various reasons. I think she likes us a lot, we are just working on getting her to love the gospel too. She is so hungry for truth and answers. We are doing our best to help her learn how to get answers. Continue to pray for her and her daughters. We hope to get all 3 of them to church this week.

    Way cool experience happened at 6:40 in the morning this past week. So, we decided to go running. As we were coming around the corner, a cute little Indian mom and her daughter came walking past us. We had the thought to stop and talk to them, but seeing as we were not clothed in proper missionary attire, we figured it might be kind of scary for them. So we ran past only to have the Spirit give us a good punch to the face. We both stopped and turned around. And guess what? The little girl had turned completely around and was staring right at us. We ran back to them and told them who we were and why we were here and the mom agreed to come to a church tour this week. WOW! Finding investigators koko ajan! :) All the time! We didn't have our phone, so we called our phone from her number and set up the church tour later that day. Heavenly Father is so funny sometimes. :) It was a really cool experience.

    Sisar Rochette and I talked this week about how we personally receive revelation. We dedicated one of our personal studies to it and had a really good discussion during companionship study. Sisar Rochette said for her, revelation comes strongest at the temple and during General Conference. I thought that was way sweet. I realized for me that revelation comes during my personal scripture study, specifically the Book of Mormon, and during Sacrament meeting. Of course I love the temple and General Conference and Sisar Rochette loves Sacrament and the scriptures, but it was cool to see how we both receive personal revelation. I think it's an important thing for all of us to figure out. Where do you go when you need to receive revelation? I have found that as soon as I said my revelation spots out loud, I was more eager to study and go to church. I knew that I would be receiving revelation. I would encourage you all to do it!

    We had a really cool lesson yesterday with just Sisar J and her visiting teacher Sisar V. We watched, "Because of Him" and talked about how prophets ALWAYS testify of Christ. That is their main purpose. I always love hearing President Monson and the apostles testify of Christ. I know that they know Him. As Elder Packer said, "He is no stranger to His servants." We  are really focusing on helping them get ready for General Conference. You can bank on the prophet, if you know what I'm saying? :) I think it will be really good for them. Sisar V shared a really special experience from her childhood. She said that she was about 12 and her family went to Stockholm because President Kimball was there. He was the prophet at the time. Well, they had a meeting and then President Kimball started to walk out of the room. Sisar V said suddenly about 30 moms ran to the front of the room with their babies and wanted President Kimball to touch them. It reminded me of my favorite Bible Video where the same thing happened to Christ. In the video, Peter and James tell the people that Christ doesn't have time to see them and he needs rest, but the Savior comes up behind them and says, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." It is the sweetest video I have ever seen. 

    Sisar V said she was so worried for those moms because President Kimball's bodyguards were pretty large and authoritative and looked like they had a place to go and were going to get the prophet there, but just as the Savior did, President Kimball stopped the bodyguards, and touched each of the babies that were there. He said something to each of the mothers. Even though they didn't all speak English, Sisar V said, "It was in that moment that I knew he was a prophet." I thought about that. What a powerful story. We have a prophet on the earth today that represents the Savior, Jesus Christ. Of course, we all do as disciples, but the Prophet is a special witness. I just pictured that experience in my mind and felt an overwhelming appreciation and gratitude for our living prophet, President Monson. He is standing in the place and stead of the Lord, Jesus Christ. He is the greatest example on earth of Christ--like service and love and we get to hear from him in a few weeks. How amazing is that? I am so grateful for prophets. I know President Monson is God's prophet on the earth today. I love him, sustain him, and am so grateful for him!

    Well my spiritual thought today is pretty simple. After everything happened with K, I had a pretty rough day. Not pertaining to missionary work, but I felt pretty low. I know Satan was working hard on me, but I just felt so stupid about everything. I felt like a pretty sad excuse of a missionary. I felt like what had happened was my fault. I felt like had I just taken care of her better, none of this would have happened. I didn't understand why Heavenly Father would even bring her into our lives if He was just going to take her out again. I have changed a lot on my mission, but sometimes I just wonder why I don't understand God's will. I know that His ways are higher than my ways, and His thoughts are way higher than my thoughts, and that just really frustrated me so bad for some reason on Saturday. It frustrated me to think that after how much I have changed, I am still like ions away from being who I need to be in the end of all things. I went to bed that night with a pretty heavy heart. I felt numb, in a way. I was letting Satan get the better of me, but honestly, I didn't really care. I wanted to be sad, so I cried myself to sleep that night and had a nice good whining session.

    I went to church the next day, still feeling pretty crappy. I was so grateful to be going to church, however, because REVELATION. I needed answers pretty hard core. I wanted to feel Heavenly Father's love and support. I wanted to know what He expected of me and what I was doing wrong. Well as I was sitting in sacrament meeting, praying my heart out...actually during the sacrament, I heard the song from Primary come into my head about President Hinckely and the North Star. The line, "Be constant as the North star that shines for you and me, anchored in the gospel with pure integrity. Steadfast in your service to God and fellow-man. President Hinckley has shown us that we can." Man...I am so grateful the spirit can bring things to our remembrance. I hadn't thought about that song in like a decade. But a lot of examples from President Hinckley came into my head. One of course was, "Forget yourself and go to Work." Man...can service really fix our problems? Was that really the answer to my question? Yep. Totally was. 

    I realized that I am forever a servant to my Heavenly Father and how wonderful that is. I realized that as I have served His children, I have grown closer to Him and that closeness has brought more joy into my heart than I ever could have imagined. I realized, once again, that the scriptures are always right. When they say, "When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God," they aren't kidding. But 2 other scriptures came into my mind during sacrament. The first was Mosiah 5:31 which says:

 13 For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?

    The next one was Matt 6:19-24:

19 ¶Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thievesbreak through and steal:

 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

 22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eyebe single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

 24 ¶No man can serve two masters: for either he will hatethe one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

    Service is the answer. Losing ourselves in the service of others and making the decision to serve one master, God, is the answer. I am so grateful for sacrament meeting and for the Holy Ghost. I am so grateful for reminders every day that help me stay on the path back to my Heavenly Father. I tend to wander...I am glad he keeps pulling me back. I know that the Holy Ghost is real. He will bring all things to our remembrance. He really is that peace that Christ promised to us all before He left. The Holy Ghost helps us remember Christ. You know those times when you feel the Holy Ghost and you're just like, "Oh man, is there anything better than this?" The answer is no. There isn't. There isn't because visitations from the Holy Ghost really are visitations of our Heavenly Father. That is just a foretaste of what our joy will be in the eternities. Wow. I can't wait to live in that state of never-ending happiness! What a joy that will be when we are all there together with all of our friends that we have helped find the gospel. How great shall be our joy! :)

    Well I just love you all so stinking much. Man, I look at your faces everyday and think, "How in the heck did I get so lucky?" Thank you for being my family. Thank you for supporting me in everything. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your thoughts. Thank you for your letters. Seriously, I am the most spoiled missionary to have a family like you! Thank you for everything you do. The song "Families can Be Together Forever" brings more joy to me than just about anything else. I love you so much. God lives. He is our Father. Christ lives. He is our Savior. This is the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth today in it's fullness. We are so blessed guys! Let's never forget that, Ok? Ok. Good. Well have a great March week and I will talk to you next week. Same time, same place. Be there or be square! :) I love you!


    Sisar Bitner 
Our church building in Espoo

Sisar Hales and I on splits!! I LOVE HER

Some graffiti in Finnish. I don't know what it says, but the picture is funny 
This is what happens at the bus stops late at night....haha way too fun

Happy St. Patrick's Day! My companion made us green breakfast

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

    Hello! How are you all doing this fine, spring morning? Ok, I just have to tell you, the most beautiful day of the whole year happened yesterday! It was like 7 degrees Celsius aka 44 degrees Fahrenheit, blue, clear sky, the birds were chirping, there was a light breeze, seriously I was too hot to wear a coat. It was glorious. Spring is in full swing here in Finland and I am so glad I get to see it! In the winter, they put this gravel down over all the snow so you don't slip and kill yourself, but when the snow melts, it's just this ugly, crunchy stuff that gets in the holes you have in your boots #workinghard But now, they have swept all the gravel away and it's just so great!

    I love the smell of Finland in the spring. Is that weird? I would try to explain the smell, but you just have to experience it....ok I can try to explain it. Let's just say whenever I smell wood for the rest of my life, I will think of Finland. A lot of people have wood burning stoves so that delicious smell of burning wood reminds me of Finland. Also the smell of wet wood...not like the nasty, "This wood has been rotting for 50 years" smell, but the "It just rained in the forest" kind of smell. It just smells fresh and clean. It's so great! Anyways, that's what is going on in my neck of the woods. From your pictures, it looks like Utah is blooming as well! Oh man...I can't wait to see the beautiful mountains again, all covered with green trees. Utah is the place, you know what I'm saying? I love you all! 

    So this week has been pretty great. Crazy, as usual, but such is the life! So on Tuesday night, Sisar Nyman and I headed down to Helsinki to drop her off and to pick up my new companion. We also had 4 sisters staying with us, so that was fun. Ok siblings, remember how I used to always make "princess beds" for you in the Summer and we would sleep in the bonus room and watch movies? Well those skills came in handy. I felt like I was running a bed and breakfast or something, but it was great. So we had me, Sisar Rochette, Sisar Woods who is training, Sisar Dixon who is training, Sisar Powell who is serving in Vaasa, and Sisar Segmiller who is training over for the night. It was great to be with them. They are all amazing sisters! 

    So let me tell you a little about my companion...she is hilarious. Oh my word, I have been laughing for a week straight. So her name is Sisar Tehina Rochette...way sick first name, huh? Her dad is full Tahitian and her mom is a mormon girl from Utah. She loves the most important things in life: movies and food, and she knows almost as many movie quotes as me :) She reminds me SO MUCH of my girl, Ashlee Hatch. It's like weird how similar they are. She is so happy and excited about everything and is ready to do work. She is very diligent and always wants to be doing something or helping in someway. She is a really good cook. She loves Polynesian culture. It's so funny because people always assume she is from Mexico or Thailand or China or really any place where people are "brown". It's hilarious because each time we contact someone or when we met the members, they always guessed wrong as to where she was from. Even when she tells people she is half Tahitian, they think she is saying's pretty hilarious though! We are already great friends and I know we are going to have a blast and do a lot of good work together!

    One funny story about Sisar Rochette, ok so we were coming back from a DA on Wednesday night and there was no one on the bus, so I got out my planner to try and make a dent in my to-do list. Well she grabbed her planner as well and started writing down all the things I was saying. I was kind of mumbling under my breath and I said, "Tomorrow we need to call....oh ratsies." I said ratsies because my pen fell off my lap so I had to lean over and pick it up. (I picked up ratsies from my last district leader...It's my new word) anyways we just made our way home on the bus. I had noticed all day that Sisar Rochette was really trying hard to be on top of things and way diligent, which I really appreciated, and as we finished planning, I said, "Ok, what's on the to-do list for tomorrow" to which she responded, "Oh...we need to call the Ratsies." hahaha I don't know if anyone else thinks that is funny, and maybe you just had to be there, but she thought when I said, "We need to call...oh ratsies" that I meant, "We need to call The Ratzies." haha man we got a kick out of it. We have just been making each other laugh all week. We have a quote board now on our wall so we write down all the funny things that happen to us. There are way too many to count. It was actually really funny, President Watson saw us both on Wednesday and he just smiled and looked at us and said, "This is going to be a good companionship." I think he is right. I am way excited that I have Sisar Rochette as my last companion! She is great!

    So we got to go and see all of the new missionaries that came in on Wednesday. We walked to Presidents...about 15 of us and all of the new missionaries were standing outside just staring at our big group coming down the road. I will always remember the look on their faces. I imagine that is what new soldiers' faces look like when they see the old soldiers coming back from battle. Their eyes were really wide and a few mouths hung open. :) I thought to myself, "I wonder if I looked like that." I know the answer is yes. As a new missionary, you feel like you are in the presence of giants when you see older missionaries. It was a great experience to meet them all. They seem like a really solid group. I just can't believe how amazing the missionaries are, but especially the new ones. They are so on the ball, it's not even funny. They are inspiring! 

    So we had a DA with the A family. She finished your wool socks and they look amazing. You should all be excited. I am kind of sad I didn't have her make me another pair, but you will all look pretty fly in your Finnish wool socks! haha I hope you are excited!

    So our new district is really cool. I love getting new districts and seeing the different dynamic of each one. This one, oddly enough reminds me a lot of dad's brothers and sisters. There are so many resemblances. It's great and I feel right at home :) I think it's going to be a great district!

    So we had a really cool lesson this week with one of our members Sisar S this week. She is so great and always comes on lessons with us. She is such a great example of a good mom and good member missionary. We had an idea to have a family night with A and her family and the S family, so we talked to her about that and planned it all out. It was so amazing to be with her and to see how willing she is to have people in her home. Honestly, I can't say enough about members and missionaries working together. We just all need to get over our fears and trust each other. That's when work will go forward. Sisar S is a great example of doing the Lord's work, the Lord's way. I want to be like her when I go home!

    We had a pretty intense weekly planning this week as we did our best to plan for 2 areas. It was the longest progress record I have ever had in my life, so that makes me happy :) We have almost been in contact with all of the people the sisters were previously working with while also keeping our area up and running. We got done teaching R his recent convert lessons this week though, so that frees up some time. He is so amazing. Our last "step" if you will was to get him to the temple this Saturday for the "Recent Convert Temple Day." We had a great lesson with him yesterday. The spirit was so strong as we all testified of the power of the temple. It really is the place where Heaven and Earth connect and I am so excited for him to go. He was one of the elect and is building the kingdom. I am so grateful for the opportunity to get to know him and his culture from Ghana. He is great!

    Oh you want to hear the best story of my life? Ok, here it goes. So on Saturday, we wanted to go contact some potentials in Espoo Keskus, or Espoo Center. So we got on a train and headed down there. We had made a decision that morning to talk with everyone and we had done really well up to that point, but we just kept getting slammed. No one wanted to talk with us. Well, we got off the train, and I had the thought to go to the ATM and get some money out for my bus pass. It was way random, but we walked across the street and I took some money out and then we started walking in the direction of our potentials. I am sort of familiar with this area, it being the Espoo 2 sisters area, so I really didn't know where we were going. It seemed logical to walk back through the train station in order to cross the tracks so we did that. As we walked inside, I saw this girl staring at the train schedules. She looked sort of confused. As we walked closer to her, the spirit said, "Go talk to that girl." I rationalized...big no no...and said, "Nah, she is busy, she looks really focused." I kid you not, I was like .05 seconds from walking away and the spirit said, "Go talk to that girl." So I turned basically 90 degrees on my heels and said, "Anteeksi, tarvitsetko apua?" or "Sorry, do you need some help?" She turned around and looked at me and said, "Sorry, I don't speak Finnish" in beautiful American english. Anyways, long story short, she is actually from Canada. She is 18 years old, in Finland as a nanny, and has a ton of Mormon friends back home. She was so excited to see us! 

    Well, as we continued to talk, we both felt inspired to invite her to church. She accepted about as happily as I have seen and even gave us both a hug and just went on and on about how excited she was. We arranged to meet her at the train station at 9:30 to walk with her to church. Well the next morning. there she was, all dressed in a skirt at 9:30, ready for church. Her name is K, by the way. She came to church, stayed all 3 hours, LOVED all the members and told us at the end, "I am so glad I came here. I feel so good. I feel filled. Thank you for inviting me." She literally was giddy the whole day. I have never seen someone so happy to be at church. On top of that, all of the lessons were like PERFECT for a person who doesn't know anything about the church. The Sunday school lesson was all about "What is a prophet?" and the Relief Society lesson was on Repentance and the Savior. She just loved it. It was like Heavenly Father planned the whole day of church just for K. I know He did!

    Anyways, after church, we walked her back to the train station and told her about the Book of Mormon and like, I kid you not, she was jumping up and down when we told her we could meet again and talk more about it. So like, we have a lesson with her tonight! I am so excited to teach her and know that she will get baptized. Maybe not tomorrow...but she will in the near future. She is so prepared! Pray for K. She is so great!

    So I just have to do a little insert here, Sisar Rochette just came from serving in Vaasa #promisedland and she told me all about the kids that we helped get baptized while I was there. As we have been talking to each other about our missions, she made the comment, "Wow, Sisar Bitner, you have taught and worked with a lot of kids on your mission." I realized how true that is. As I was praying the other night, I really had the strongest feeling that Heavenly Father has allowed me to work with kids A, because He loves me, but B, He knew how much joy I get from my siblings and cousins and primary kids and He has allowed me to have that on my mission. I am so grateful for that tender mercy. It was just another testimony to me of how well and personally Heavenly Father knows and loves us. I didn't know how hard it would be for me to be away from all my family and primary kids, but He did. I love Him so much and I hope my siblings and cute little cousins and primary kids all know how much I love and miss them. I am so grateful for you all in my life. I am so excited to see you all!

    Now that we are serving in 2 wards, we get to go to church for 6 hours every Sunday. YAY! I will admit, I felt like I was swimming in spirituality after the second ward ended, but hey, there really is no better place to be than church on Sunday! :) I had a really cool experience that I wanted to share with all of you. I hope this helps some people who may be struggling understanding the Lord's timing in their lives. I was sitting in Relief Society with K and Sisar Rochette and I felt so happy. I felt so content and peaceful. Everything at that moment was perfect. As I was sitting there, feeling so great, I thought about all those Sundays on my mission where I have prayed and prayed and worked and worked to have investigators there and no one has shown up. I thought about all the work that goes into getting people to church and just getting people to meet with us. I realized though, once again, how much this work is the Lord's work. He gave us K this week. We did nothing to warrant that, but she really is a gift from Heavenly Father. There have been so many times on my mission when I looked at our "lack of success" ,at least lack of success in my mind and thought, "What am I doing wrong? If I were perfect, we would have investigators and they would get baptized and everything would be fine." Boy, was I wrong. This work is not contingent on whether or not we are perfect. Thank heaven. Maybe that isn't a newsflash to everyone, but I have felt that way at times on my mission. I have been so frustrated that I am not, cannot be, and never will be perfect on my own merits. But the Lord doesn't expect perfection. Not right now. He expects effort. He expects faith and obedience. He expects our best...that's it. 

    As I was sitting there, it was as though the Savior put His arm around my shoulder and said, "Hey, I know you're not perfect, but I know you have worked really hard and have tried your best. Thank you for being patient. Thank you for working hard, even when you didn't see results. Thank you for believing that something good would come from being faithful. Take care of K for me. I love her a lot. Be strong. Be brave. I love you." It was such a special experience and I felt like I needed to share it with you. I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are so happy when we try. They really are. So let's all just keep trying. Try a little harder to be a little better. Let's do it for them! :) This is their work and they are with us every step of the way. I know it and have experienced it time and time again. They are real.

    Well, my heart is once again so full. A wise older missionary once said to me, "Make sure during the last transfer of your mission, you take time to recognize and be grateful for all of the miracles that Heavenly Father will give you, for there will be many." How true that is. I have felt His love and the love and strength of my Savior. I was reading in the Liahona this morning and I came across a talk by Elder Bednar in the section for the Youth. Now, I may be a little biased, but Elder Bednar is SO GREAT. He really has changed my life by the words he has said in so many ways and I am so grateful for him. The article is titled, "Strength Beyond our Own." I have been thinking a lot this week about so many things, but one prevailing thought has been, "I want to finish my mission stronger than I ever have, but I don't know if I, alone, can do it." I know that all missionaries and people in general experience that "Almost to the finish line" feeling. It's a strange emotion. It's strange because I want to run forward and finish strong, but I don't want to leave. I realized two things this morning while reading this article. 1, I can't finish this mission the way I want to finish it on my own, and 2, I can't leave Finland and all the memories and experiences I have had here behind on my own. I know that I need my Savior more now than I ever have. 

    Elder Bednar has a couple of good quotes that I wanted to share. He said, 

    It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us—that is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us—not only to direct us but also to empower us.

    We may mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves, through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities.

    The gospel of the Savior is not simply about avoiding bad in our lives; it also is essentially about doing and becoming good. And the Atonement provides help for us to overcome and avoid bad and to do and become good. Help from the Savior is available for the entire journey of mortality—from bad to good to better and to change our very nature.

    And it is eternally important for all of us to recognize thatboth of these essential elements of the journey of mortality—both putting off the natural man and becoming a saint, both overcoming bad and becoming good—are accomplished through the power of the Atonement. Individual willpower, personal determination and motivation, effective planning and goal setting are necessary but ultimately insufficient for us to triumphantly complete this mortal journey. Truly, we must come to rely upon “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8).

    Thus, the enabling power of the Atonement strengthens us to do and be good and to serve beyond our own individual desire and natural capacity.

    I love those words. I love how Elder Bednar teaches about the Savior. In all his talks about the Savior, there seems to be an overarching theme of "The Savior is here to help us through literally anything. But we have to work hard, really work hard, and then turn the rest over to Him. This isn't a one sided deal. We have to do our part, because He always does his." I love how he seems to address all of these thoughts and feelings I have in my heart. I feel like I have to just suck things up sometimes and just push through everything. I am horrible at letting people help me do things. I am horrible at delegating. I would just rather do it on my own. That is my "Something Finnish" for the day. Finns are terrible at asking for help. They would rather stay up for weeks and weeks doing something themselves as opposed to delegating. I guess I am more Finnish than I thought, but it's something I have noticed in myself. It's like I don't want Heavenly Father or the Savior or anyone to know that I'm not perfect. Well newsflash to Sister Bitner, they already do. 

    I realized while reading this talk that everyone knows I'm not perfect. Everyone knows how weak I am and that frankly, I need a lot of help. I don't always want to admit that, but it's true. I don't want to let the people down that I care about. I want people to feel like they can depend on me and trust me. I want people to know that I am always here for them. I think that's a good thing, but I also know that there is someone much much much much greater than all of us that we can rely on and turn to for everything. He can strengthen us to become more than we are. He can help us change. Once we realize that A, we aren't perfect and B, that because He is perfect, we don't have to be, everything gets easier. It's so amazing to me that He understands us all so perfectly. We can rely on and use His strength. It's already there, we just have to use it. How do we use it? REPENTANCE. Repentance to me isn't just admitting that we have sinned, but really an honest acknowledgment of all of our weaknesses and shortcomings, our worries and fears, our pains and distresses, everything. Just tell Him all of it and let Him heal us. That's what it means to repent and to be enabled by the Atonement. I teared up a little as I read Elder Bednar's final testimony of this talk and I wanted to share it with you:

    There is no physical pain, no anguish of soul, no suffering of spirit, no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior did not experience first. You and I in a moment of weakness may cry out, “No one understands. No one knows.” No human being, perhaps, knows. But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore our burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy in so many phases of our life. He can reach out, touch, succor—literally run to us—and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying upon only our own power.

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

    “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.

    “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

    I declare my witness of and appreciation for the infinite and eternal sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. I know the Savior lives. I have experienced both His redeeming power and His enabling power, and I testify that these powers are real and available to each of us. Indeed, “in the strength of the Lord” we can do and overcome all things as we press forward on our journey of mortality.

    I know Jesus Christ lives. He is our Savior. He is our best friend. He is with us every step of the way and I know that through His atonement, we can find strength beyond our own. We can do more with Him than we could ever hope to do alone. His atonement is real, not just to cleanse us from sin, but to enable and empower us. I love Him. He is my rock and my God. I love you all so much and am so excited to work hard and to leave it all on the field here in Finland and then to see you all again. What a glorious day that will be! Have a great week! I love you with all my heart!


    Sisar Bitner 
A beautiful Finnish sunset....this was taken at one of my sacred groves in Finland. It's so beautiful!

My companion....she said that was her glamour shot :)

She cleaned out the drain this morning....isn't it disgusting?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Actively Waiting
    "Good Morning, Good Morning! We've talked the whole night through, Good Morning, Good Morning, to you!" So ya, Good morning! haha that movie has been in my head this whole week as we have been experiencing the beautiful, rainy spring season of good old Suomi! Sisar Nyman is probably getting sick of me singing and whistling these songs, but must be done, you know what I'm saying? How are you all doing? First things first, Madeline...CONGRATULATIONS on your baptism! My word...I can't believe you are 8 years old. When did that happen? You looked so beautiful in your white dress. I am sorry I couldn't be there, but I am sure it was a wonderful day! I thought about you all day and hope you will always remember your baptism and how you felt. It's the best decision you could ever make and I am so proud of you! I love you!

    Oh my lanta, I don't even know where to start today. I feel like I have been running for a week, but that's good cause I need it #fattieforlife Just kidding. But it's been quite the week. I hope I can get it all in this email. My typing skills have become pretty refined over these past 16 months. These emails may look long, ok who am I kidding, they are insanely long, but it doesn't take me too long to type them, so that's good. Anyways, let's start at the beginning...

    Ok first off, transfers! So I am staying in Espoo! YIPPEE!! I am dying in Espoo. My dreams have come true :) I am so happy. My companion is Sisar Rochette. She is the same age in the country as Sisar Pace, so really young, but she is such a solid missionary. She gets here tonight and I am excited to start working with her. Another big change came with transfers this we have 2 wards in Espoo and there are 6 missionaries in our ward and 4 in the other ward, 2 sisters and 2 elders. Well as part of our change call, President took the sisters out of Espoo 2 and now we are covering both areas. That means a lot of crazy things like going to church for 6 hours every Sunday and having a lot more ground to cover. I am excited, but I also know, we are going to have to be way organized. But that's ok. :) I am excited to get to know the members of the Espoo 2 ward and also to start teaching the sister's old investigators. Stay tuned on them! I am really excited for this transfer though. I will tell you more about it all next week!

    So we had a dinner appointment every night this week...people really love Sisar Nyman and were sad she was leaving. It's so nice to have dinner appointments. I love being in member's homes and feeling the special spirit that is there. You really don't notice the spirit in the home of a member until you have spent so much time in non-member's homes. It's pretty amazing but I am so grateful for all the wonderful members here. They take really good care of us!

    On Tuesday night we had a DA with the Bullock's, a missionary couple at the temple. They are great and it was really fun to be with them. Sister Bullock made ranch for the salad and I about died. Her kids had sent her ranch packets from Canada. Did I tell you they don't have ranch here?'s the most tragic thing of my life, but it's ok! I was so happy to see it, I almost cried. Never take ranch for granted can't find it everywhere! :) Then on Wednesday we had a DA with the A couple...our besties. They are awesome. It was so scary though, we were eating soup with makara...sausage...and potatoes and carrots and stuff. It was really good, but Veli A kept saying that it needed more pepper. It's so funny to watch them as they interact. Sisar A kept saying that he was crazy and it was "perfect" the way it was. Well, Veli A proceeded to get up, go to the cupboard, grab some pepper and loaded his soup with it. I was impressed. Well, long story short, he actually started choking on the pepper. Like literally, Sisar A had to do the Heimlich. Sisar Nyman and I were about 2 seconds away from calling 112 (911 in Finland), but he ended up catching his breath. Holy cow, if you ever want to give the missionaries a heart attack, just start choking. haha wow, that sounded way insensitive of me, but seriously, we were so scared. I felt so dumb just standing there, but Veli A is 86 and Sisar A is 80. I was pretty proud of her for doing the Heimlich successfully. Anyways, random story...just thought I'd include that. You have all sorts of experiences on a mission. It's the best! He is fine though...all's well that ends well, and I think the pepper will suffice next time Sisar A makes that soup. :) #lessonlearned 

    We had our last district meeting with this district on Wednesday. I have to say, this has been my favorite district on my mission. We were all really unified and had a great time with each other. District meetings were really inspiring, and I always left feeling really excited to do the work. We had 3 missionaries going home from our district out of 10, so a lot of things are changing, but that's alright. Change is good. It's just so much fun to make friends with all sorts of people. It's been really great! We had a great discussion on Enduring to the End. I love what Preach My Gospel says about Enduring to the End. It says:

    Faith in Christ; repentance; making, renewing, and keeping covenants; and being cleansed by the Spirit become a pattern of living. Our actions in daily life are shaped and governed by these principles. Peace and joy come by following this way, and we gradually grow in Christlike attributes. Eventually, as we follow this way and “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ … and endure to the end,” we are promised, “Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20).

    I love the whole concept of Enduring to the End. I realized this week during District Meeting that knowing what Enduring to the End really means changes my view of my own personal weaknesses and trials. This life is a process. We are imperfect, natural men and women now, and our goal is to become like our Heavenly Father. Ya, it would be easier if He could just snap His fingers and we would all be as He is, but that wasn't Heavenly Father's plan, that was Satan's plan. Enduring to the End allows us to, as is said in Preach My Gospel, "gradually grow in Christlike attributes." No one expects us to be perfect now. Not even in 50 years from now. It's all about the progression. I love that. I love that I have enough weaknesses to keep me occupied for a long time. Hopefully that means I live a long and fruitful life, but we'll see. :) I am just grateful that the gospel really is a "increasingly rewarding pattern of living." We really do find so much peace and joy and we consciously decide to work and become more like our Savior daily. He blesses us as we do so and eventually, we shall have eternal life! 

    So one of the sisters from Sister Nyman's group, Sisar Knapp, had to go home a week early because of school. Because of that, President and Sister Watson had her over at their house the night before she left, which was Wednesday night. Because Sister Nyman and I are the STLs down here, they invited us over as well so that Sister Knapp would have a companion. It was really great to be there with them. We had nice dinner and then Sister Knapp wanted to watch "Meet the Mormons" so we got to see it again. Once again...SO GOOD. I love the spirit that comes from it. It is such a powerful tool for missionary work. I love it! Anyways, we went to bed that night and talked a lot about Sister Knapp's mission and how she was feeling. It was weird to think that I saw her in the MTC, and now she is going home. Time flies. Like literally, I don't even know what has happened, but it's going so fast. The next morning we woke up around 4:30 and went to the airport and said goodbye. It felt WAY weird to be in an airport again...especially Finland's airport. Haven't been there in about 14 months. But I was grateful we were able to go. It was also fun to be with President and Sisar Watson. They are great!

    We went back to President's and he interviewed Sister Nyman for her final interview and then he interviewed me as well. It was good to talk to him. He has helped me so much and I really want to be the kind of leader that he is. His goodness and righteous desires really are changing our missions. I appreciate and love the Watson's so much. They are great examples to me. 

    Later that day, we had a lesson with R. He is doing really well. We are working on getting him to the temple on the 14th. They have a recent convert temple day. He has his recommend and is set to go. We are so excited for that! Later that night, we had a Family Home Evening, if you will, with our less active family, the Js and his sister and her husband who are active members in the ward. It was great. They M family took care of everything, they just wanted us to be there. We had a really good evening though and it was so good for the Js to be in the M family's home. We watched a conference talk by President Uchtdorf and had a really good discussion. They didn't come to church again. We are really trying to figure out how to best help them come. It really comes down to the fact that they just don't want to...go figure...but I want to make sure we have done everything we can. We are thinking to get them more involved with a lot of different members in the ward for Family Nights and lessons so hopefully that goes well! Pray for them. They are such an adorable family. They need to go the temple! I love them a lot!

    So Friday was MLC. Sidenote: Sisar Nyman and I went to the Watson's Wednesday night and stayed the night, stayed on Thursday night because of MLC and then stayed the night again on Friday because of MLC. haha I felt like I was staying at a hotel or something. It was really funny. MLC was great, as always. We had a great discussion about the Spirit. We are focusing on Chapters 4 and 5 of Preach My Gospel, Recognizing and Understanding the Spirit and the role of the Book of Mormon. I am way excited. We talked about distractions and someone made the comment that "Satan wants our destruction, but he will settle for distraction." Wow...that's a scary thought when you think about it. I have pondered a lot about that this week. It's so easy to get distracted, not just as a missionary, but all the time. We have so many "good" things wanting our attention, it's so easy to forget about the "best things". Good thing we have the gospel to help us know exactly what the good things are. Being baptized. Reading the Scriptures. Becoming like Christ. Preaching the Gospel. Those are just some of the best things. I am really working with Heavenly Father to stay completely focused on my mission. It gets harder everyday, but I also feel that He is here with me now more than He has ever been helping me stay focused and determined. It is such a tender mercy in my life and I love my Heavenly Father so much. I need Him. We all do.

    Some of my favorite things we talked about regarding the Spirit were how the Spirit will not allow us to justify. Elder Bednar told us that, but ever since he said that, I have realized how many times a day I "justify" a thought away. That one line Elder Bednar said when he visited here has changed my life. Now, anytime I justify something away, I know that it is not coming from the Spirit. Just think about it though, how many times a day do you have thoughts and you think, "Oh, I don't have time to do that" or "I'll do it later" or "They will think I am weird" and on and on and on. We rationalize all the time. But guess what, that's not the Spirit talking. The Spirit is clear and direct. He invites us to do good, to believe in Christ, and to submit our will to the Father's. Sorry to rant about rationalizing, I am just so grateful that Elder Bednar said that and wanted to make sure you all heard it too. No more rationalizing. Just do it! :)

    President made another comment about the spirit that I loved! He said, "Being self-reliant means learning to recognize the promptings we receive from the Holy Ghost and acting on those promptings." If we do that, we won't be led astray. Man...that's so amazing. I learned so much on Friday, especially in the temple as I thought about all we had learned that day. Learning really is such an amazing thing. We can never run out of things to learn, and I am so excited to continue to learn about the gospel and other things that are important to know. It's an amazing world with so much knowledge. All good things, all good knowledge comes from God. That's pretty cool when you think about it!

    So I told you a little about T last week. She was found by the sisters, aka Sisar Fronk about a year ago. She is really good friends with a member in our ward and just showed up to church a few weeks ago. Well, we had a lesson with her on Saturday night with Sisar M. and it went SO WELL. The spirit was so strong and we both felt as though our whole conversation was completely guided by the spirit. I was a little nervous going into the lesson for some reason, but I really focused on praying in my heart the whole time, and I know that the Spirit lead the lesson. That's why it went so well. T is amazing. She has had such a hard life. She has 3 kids from 3 different men and she really is just trying to be the best mom she can be. It's really inspiring to see. Well, we invited her to be baptized, and she said she needs to learn more but when she knows it's true, she would definitely get baptized. Previously in my mission, I would have been way bummed, but I know that she has real intent and she will get answers as we continue to teach her. We invited her to church and she seemed pretty hesitant to come, but we told her we would love to see her. We texted her on Sunday morning and asked if she could come. She said she wasn't sure, but she would call us if she could. Ordinarily I would be bummed about that too, but I had a feeling she would come. Sister Nyman and I both did. 

    Well, we were standing in the foyer, talking to some members and in comes T with her member friend. We were so happy to see her. She stayed for all 3 hours of church and loved it! She invited us over to her house to meet her daughters, a 16 year old and a 12 year old which was HUGE because she had said previously that her daughter didn't want us over there because she is a "hard-core atheist." Well we went over last night and got to know her daughters and we really clicked well with them. Personally, I love atheists. I really believe that they only call themselves atheist because they don't know what to believe in. In other words, they are searchers of truth, whether they know it or not. Her daughter was no exception. We asked her if she would like to join us in our prayer and she looked straight at me and said, "I don't pray. I don't believe in God. I don't believe in anything." I think it shocked her a little bit that I didn't respond to what she said, but asked her again to join in our prayer. She joined reluctantly and after the prayer was over she started talking about all of these experiences she has had with prayer and dreams and feelings in her heart and all of these things. Man...ya right she's a hard-core atheist. :) It was a great experience and we have another appointment with them on Thursday. I am so excited to teach them! I know they will get baptized!

    Little shoutout to Sister Fronk. I know she will be mad at me for doing this, but think about it, a year ago Sister Fronk met T and T did not want to be taught. She wouldn't come to church or do anything, but Sister Fronk loved her and served her in spite of it, and now, a year later after a lot of God's influence in her life, her heart has been softened and she came to church on her own. It just goes to show that we never know what our efforts will bring about. I am so grateful for all the missionaries and members who have been kind to people in spite of whether they accept the gospel or not. That's really what makes the difference. Thanks Sisar Frog! Minä rakastan sinua!

    So we had a way fun DA with A and her cute family on Saturday. They made us some legit Indian food. It was so good. I love Indian culture. The host/hostess doesn't eat with the guest, but they serve you food and then sit and watch you eat! haha it was way funny and the food was so good. Really spicy. I drank like 10 glasses of water, but it was fun. They eat with their hands as well which is very different from the polite, fork and knife with pizza and hamburgers culture I am used to in Finland, but it was fun to experience a little of their culture. She was so happy that I liked her food. I like all food, but I didn't tell her that! :) She said she was honored that we enjoyed her food so much! Man, if that's all it takes to honor people, I'll eat all day. Good food and the gospel...nothing brings people together more than that! We are really working to start teaching her husband hopefully. Pray for him that he will be receptive to the message. They need to go to the temple!

    So last story for the week, Luke, I gave away your Book of Mormon this week, well the Book of Mormon with your testimony in it. So I was sitting at a bus stop, and this lady came and sat down next to me. She was probably around 75 years old. I started talking to her and came to find out that her husband passed away about 1 year ago. Her eyes teared up as she told me about how hard it was and how she knows he is in a better place, but she still wonders if she will ever see him again. Well right as she told me that, our bus came, so she hopped up and got on. I got on after her so that I could sit next to her and continue our conversation, but there was no room next to her or anywhere around her. Well I went and sat in the back, kind of discouraged. I tried to talk to this lady, but she didn't want to listen. I said a prayer that Heavenly Father would provide a way for me to talk to her again before she left. Well, He heard my prayer. The next stop after I prayed, the person sitting next to her got up. I went over and sat down next to her and got out the Book of Mormon. I told her that in Alma 40 she could learn about what happens after this life. I told her that my little brother wrote his testimony of the Book of Mormon and that this book has helped me to know that I will live with my family forever! Well, she just sat there and stared at me as I talked, but she started crying afterwards and kept saying "God bless you." I have never seen anyone take the Book of Mormon so gratefully. I know it was this Book of Mormon was a very special one Luke. Thank you so much. We got her phone number and are trying to set an appointment up for this week. There is power in the Book of Mormon friends! Thank you all for your testimonies again...this week it's Lauren's turn. Stay tuned :)

    So, I really love the Book of Mormon. It is wonderful. I have had so many thoughts this week about patience and faith, especially as I have read about Alma and King Mosiah. I was reading in Mosiah 24:13-16 this morning which says:

 13 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

 14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

 15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

 16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.

    I was struck again by the power of covenants. Once we have made covenants with the Lord, he is bound when we do what he says. Think about that. We really are entitled to receive His help and strength as we remain true to the covenants we have made. All throughout my mission I have felt the Savior ease my burdens, so much so that I couldn't even feel them on my back. I still can't. There are a lot of responsibilities on us as missionaries and members in general, but I am having the time of my life. It isn't easy, but I am happy. My burdens are light. I was thinking about why that is and verse 13 came into my mind, it is because I have kept my covenants. Not perfectly, but I have tried. That brings to mind the point, what about those who haven't made covenants. Well, of course Heavenly Father can bless them, and he does because he loves them. But covenants increase our access to the power of God. Covenants literally bring us closer to him. Does that mean all our problems go away when we make covenants? Absolutely not. It means that they are easier to bear and they become lighter. That is one of the greatest truths I have learned from my mission. He has borne my burdens for me. I have felt myself literally getting lighter as I have turned more and more things in my life over to Him. It's not easy, but it's easier. It's not perfect but it's perfecter haha more perfect. That's why covenants are so important.

    But that's not all there is to it. I love the last part of verse 15 where it says, "they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord." I have learned that being patient and happy and keeping the commandments as best we can NOW is such a big part of this journey of life. I know, because I have experienced it, that as we try our very best to be happy and to do what is right, even when we have to push ourselves sometimes, Heavenly Father will magnify our efforts. He will help us be patient. He will help us be happy. He will help us keep the commandments. He helps us as we actively wait on him and make the decision to try. In the Ensign this month, President Uchtdorf has a quote about patience that says:

    “Patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something … even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!...“Patience means accepting that which cannot be changed and facing it with courage, grace, and faith. It means being ‘willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father’[Mosiah 3:19]. Ultimately, patience means being ‘firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping

    I love that principle of "waiting actively". To me, it gives us so much power. We have the power to be patient. We can make that choice. We have the power to be cheerful and happy. We can make that choice. We have the power to keep the commandments. We can choose that. It just takes a decision. I know that on the days when I wake up and am tired and don't want to move from my bed, I roll out of bed, sometimes drop out of bed and I pray that Heavenly Father will help me to be positive and will help me to be patient and happy. I pray that He will help me avoid temptation. At night I pray that He will help me wake up the next day and have a good day. And you know what, He usually does. Some days are just hard, but that's a part of life. But I know that we control a lot more about ourselves than we think we do. We can choose to be happy. And it's worth it to fight to be happy sometimes. Sorry, my thoughts are all over the place today, but I hope this has made some sort of sense. I just want everyone to be happy. I know that if we pray and ask for help, Heavenly Father will help us with everything and I have especially gained a testimony of praying to be happy this week. It works. Anyways, I love you all so much. I am so grateful to be where I am and I am so grateful you are where you are! I love you with all my heart! Have the greatest week ever. Talk to you soon! :)


    Sisar Bitner

    P.S. "Something Finnish" Did you know that Finland was the only country that paid back it's World War 2 debt to America? hahahaha way funny! The Finns are honest...most honest people I know. I love them and you all!!

Taking Sisar Knapp to the airport

How Norwegians pour their cereal :)

Dinner with the D family S in the background :) I will tell you their names when I get home :)

I'm singing in the rain :)