Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

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 :)

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