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 Thailand....it'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 man...do 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 anything...like 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!
|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?|