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!

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