Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Live to See the Miracles

    Wow. Guys. I don't even know what to say. I love you all. I am really humbled to be here, writing this second to last email of my mission. What? Where in the world has the time gone? I am speechless....can you believe it? It finally happened :) Nah, I'm just kidding. But seriously, I wish I could effectively communicate over email how grateful I am for your support and strength over the course of my mission. I am astounded at how blessed I am to have such wonderful people in my life. You are all my "angel faces" and I am so beyond excited to see you. I am grateful that I have a week left in Finland. There are so many emotions running through my head, like all of the time, but mostly, I feel peace. I feel hope because I know that my Father in Heaven and my Savior and you all are going to be with me...forever. Like what? How cool is that? The gospel is true. It's all true. You are all great and I love you so much!

    Well, we have had a really good week this past week. We have been incredibly busy which is always appreciated, but it's been so good. First things first, last week after we emailed, we went to the mall and met with Canada K! We got to give her your bracelet Grandma. She absolutely loved it. The best part about it was, other than the fact that she actually met with us, was that her dad is not against just our church, it's just all churches in general. He has kind of calmed down and K has been watching conference and reading the Book of Mormon and loving the church. She is meeting with the sisters next week on Friday because she is out of town this week but can you believe it? Oh my gosh, I about died when she told me that she could still learn about the church! Dreams do come true. She is definitely one of those people I will remember forever. She told me I could come and visit her in Canada. She lives on Prince Edward Island #carrots I am so grateful for all of the friends I have made on my mission. They are eternal friends, that's for dang sure! Thanks again for the bracelet Grandma. That was our key to meet with her. You saved the day! Happy Late Birthday by the way! I have a Finnish present for you, so stay tuned! :) You're the best!

    So I don't remember if I have told you about our investigator S before. If I have, bear with me, if not, here's the story. So this guy has been calling the temple repeatedly over the past few weeks asking, no wait, more like begging for missionaries to come and teach him. Well the temple called us because this man lived in our area. They told us, "Hey there is a guy that wants to get baptized, would you have time to go and teach him?" You don't have to ask us twice! :) So we set up an appointment and went over there about 2 weeks ago. Well, we had never been anywhere near the address they gave us and when we got there, we realized it was an old folks home/mental hospital. We were a little confused, but went inside and asked if he was there. We went in and met him and had a great first lesson. He seemed very coherent. He answered all of our questions and knew about the church. He had visited the temple open house and had wanted to join the church since then. His nurse said that he was free to continue meeting with us so we thought, "Ok sweet, he is just an older man, but he can still be baptized." The member that was with us got his number and we thought all was well.

    Well, we have realized over time that S is probably not capable of taking the lessons. Nothing seriously bad has happened, but S has been calling us about 10 times a day as well as our member, asking when we are going to visit him and when he can be baptized and all of these things. It's kind of a mess. The frustrating thing is we went to the place where he lives with a member and talked with his nurse about his mental state and she said he was totally fine and would be free to learn. But then after he had called us a lot, we called the home and the other nurse said that he isn't mentally stable enough to take the lessons and that she wouldn't recommend us coming back. So now we have this awkward situation where we don't know who is telling the truth. He seems to be normal when we are there and we think he is calling us because he is lonely and really like to have anyone come over. We have talked to our WML and have him coming with us to our next lesson to talk to S and see what kind of state he is in. It's just really rough because S wants to get baptized. He remembers enough to remember how he felt in the temple, but at the same time, we obviously have to be careful. It's an interesting phenomenon, I never thought I would have to tell an investigator that they couldn't be baptized...go figure! But anyways, we are trying to figure things out with him. Pray that we can figure it out. We don't want it to be a burden to anyone.

    Our investigator E is doing SO WELL. Holy cow, she is like the best investigator in the world, expect for the fact that I don't speak either of her languages! She has read about 25 chapters in the Book of Mormon already...keep in mind, we gave it to her 3 weeks ago. We had a really good lesson with her about baptism. We completely used the pamphlet in Swahili and then had our member translate. She told us that she wants to get baptized when she knows it is true. It's seriously been amazing to see the hand of the Lord in this. Swahili and French speakers have literally been falling out of the sky as we have tried to fellowship her. The members love her, she is learning Finnish, and it's just all going really well. Plus, little sidenote: Our recent convert who is from Kenya and speaks Swahili and E have become really good friends. Neither are married...who knows? The Lord works in mysterious ways. :) It's amazing to see how much the Lord does just to bring one of His children back to Him. I am so grateful to be a part of it. Another sidenote: E came to church on Sunday with a wig on and it was the biggest afro I have ever seen in my life. I about died when I saw it. She was rocking it though. If you got it, flaunt it, you know what I'm saying? :) It was really funny!

    So our little Indian family is doing well. We watched the Restoration video with them during our last lesson. The Spirit was so strong. I love that video so much. Their little daughter K who is 5 years old was running all over the place, bouncing on everything, but when the first vision part came, she completely stopped and just sat there and stared at the T.V. You could have heard a pin drop in that place, the spirit was so strong. After the video, we asked A what she thought of the video. She said,"I believe it's all true and it's exactly what we teach in our church" meaning the Catholic church. That is our biggest struggle with her right now. She agrees with everything that we say but then puts it into her own frame of mind. She came to church on Sunday which was awesome, but she was really stiff and uncomfortable the whole time. She was trying to explain to us all of the saints in the Catholic church and how she goes to the church of Saint Mary but they still believe in Christ and talking about ceremonial burials and recited prayers and on and on. Honestly, I was confused listening to her and you could tell that what she said was confusing herself. The spirit is teaching her truth, she just doesn't have "ears to hear" quite yet, but that's ok. It's so amazing to see how the Spirit literally can't go into someone's heart unless they want Him there. A has felt the spirit so many times, she just isn't allowing it to penetrate her heart. She is afraid. It makes sense though. I know if I found out or started to realize that something I had completely devoted my life to didn't make sense or wasn't true, I would be terrified. We are really working on helping her overcome those fears by helping her gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. My favorite line in the Restoration video is when it says, "The gospel was back in beautiful simplicity." I am so grateful for the beauty and simplicity of the gospel. It works. It's simple. It's true. 

    So this week we have had two random numbers call us and ask to meet with us. As we were talking to the people, we realized that they were people to whom we had given a pass-along card with our number on it. One woman called and said she wants to meet with us and wants to meet our bishop as well. Another couple called us and said they had many questions for us and they want to meet with us. Like what? So many miracles. As a matter of fact, on our way to the temple guest house to email, we were walking on the street and we saw this woman who I have talked to many times before. We stopped and I said, "Have I talked with you before?" She told me yes and seemed SO HAPPY that I actually remembered her. We had a great conversation and at the end, we had a temple tour set up with her for next Thursday. Wow. So many miracles. I am floored at how much the Lord is blessing us. It makes me so happy. He really does love all of His children and we have a front row seat to watch it. I love being a missionary! :) 

    We had our last "New Convert Lesson" with A last week. It went really well. We asked her the baptismal interview questions over again, and she was able to answer YES to all of them, especially about Joseph Smith and President Monson. Prophets has been a hard concept for her to grasp in the past, but as we asked her the questions and asked her how she knows Joseph Smith was a prophet and that President Monson is a prophet, she said, "I have read their words. I have read the Book of Mormon. I have listened to President Monson and they Spirit bore witness to my heart that they are prophets." Wow. What better thing could we hear from a recent convert to the church. The spirit is the teacher here, not us. How grateful I am that that is true.

    We had an awesome Dinner appointment with the Merrills from the temple. They are wonderful and have become my grandparents here in Finland. I love them so much! They made us Mexican food and told us wonderful stories about their lives and their missions. Elder Merrill told us a really funny story about Sister Merrills birthday. She was turning 50 and that morning, Elder Merrill said, "Honey, if you could have anything today, what would it be?" to which Sister Merrill responded "I'd want to be 6 again." Well, Brother Merrill is hilarious and loves his wife so much so he put her in the car, drove her to Disneyland, and bought her every thing a 6 year old kid could ever want. He made her ride all of the rides and do all sorts of crazy things. Well at the end of the day, they were back in their hotel and Elder Merrill said, "Well honey, how did it feel to be 6 again?" Sister Merrill looked up at him and said, "Honey, I meant that I wanted to be a size 6 again, not 6 years old." hahahaha Elder Merrill then said, "See sisters, we as men can listen to everything our wife says and still not understand a word." haha I thought it was really funny. I love them so much and am so grateful that they have been such a big part of my mission. They told me they will come visit me in Logan this fall on their way up to their relatives in Idaho! I am so excited! Hopefully you can all meet them! :)

    Well, I had my last splits this week. 6 months of splits, and this week was the last. Wow. It's been such an amazing experience to get to work with all of the wonderful sisters in Finland. I have been so blessed to know each of them and I love them with all of my heart. I was able to go this week with Sister Seegmiller. She has been here 2 months less than Sister Rochette and is training a new missionary. It was so fun to be with her and to talk about and reminisce about the good old "trainer days." I don't think anything is harder or more worthwhile than being a trainer on your mission. You learn more in those 2-4 months than you could learn any other way. I am sure that's how it feels to be a parent, but she is doing really well. We really focused on talking with everybody all day. I have to tell you, we got slammed right and left. People were just so sassy and rude that day. But we persevered. We kept talking and talking with people and starting making jokes about the rejections we were getting. That's the only way to do it, ya know? :) A few funny stories, we sat down next to this one guy on a tram and said, "Hey, we are here as church representatives" to which he rudely interrupted and said, "Otan osa" in Finnish which means basically, "My condolences." haha I was definitely caught off guard. I asked him what he said to which he scoffed and said, "I don't understand you Jesus people." and hopped of the tram. I looked at Sister Seegmiller and we both busted up laughing. It was hilarious. Then later in the day, we were stopped at a crosswalk, talking to this kid on his bike. I went to hand him a pass-along card and this old woman comes up from behind, basically yelling like that scary woman from Princess Bride saying, "Quit bugging everyone. Put your faith back in your bag and GO HOME." She said a couple other words that weren't very flattering. It's a shame I can recognize swear words in Finnish, but it's alright. It comes with the job. It was such a testimony to me, however, of the fact that we can control our reactions and attitudes about situations. We had a great day in spite of everything.

    It actually was really cool though, right before we were about to go inside, we stopped and talked to one more man. We talked and got to know him and at the end of the conversation, he had really opened up and told us about his life and questions he has about God and he asked us to come back and give him a Book of Mormon and talk more about it. I really learned that it's right when you feel like you can't take anymore that the miracles come, just as long as you keep pushing. We literally had no "success" that day other than that last man, but he made it all worth it. That is one of the greatest lessons I have learned from my mission. It's worth it to fight to finish strong. It's worth it to keep pushing. Push until you drop, then crawl...just keep going! I am going to finish this day, this week, my mission, even if I have to crawl. I know that the Lord will help us, just as he helped us that day. It was pretty amazing. 

    Funny story of the week. So yesterday we were at a dinner appointment in the mall with some members. There was a man dressed in a soccer warm up outfit and he kept staring at us, Sister Rochette and I, as we were sitting there eating. Well, about halfway through our meal he came over and asked, "Where are you two from?" in perfect english. Well, turns out, this guy is here going to school in Oulu, coaching soccer. He is from Michigan originally, lived a majority of his life in Wyoming, coached soccer there and had tons of players that served missions. He talked and talked and talked to us and ended up giving us his address and told us if we are ever in Michigan to come stay with he and his wife....haha pretty crazy. But the funniest thing was I couldn't get over how loud he was talking. He was practically yelling. He talked SO much and kept hitting our an appropriate, we are friends kind of way, but I realized that I am so Finnish. I am used to quiet, reserved people that rarely talk to anyone, let alone complete strangers in a restaurant. I realized I may have a bit of a culture shock when I come home. I love America and Americans but man, we are so loud. I never realized it until yesterday! Anyways, if I tell you all to talk quieter when I come home, don't worry. I will adjust back, but I really do love the peace and quiet of Finland. I have come to appreciate it so much! 

    So a few weeks ago, the second counselor in our ward bishopric came up and asked me if I would give my "farewell to Finland" talk on the 26 of April in sacrament meeting. I had thought a lot about what I wanted to say, but we have been so busy and I didn't have a lot of time to really write a talk. I was really stressed. I don't usually give talks without notes. I kept trying and trying to write talks, but it just felt wrong. I didn't know why and it was driving me crazy. Well, as I was praying one morning before personal study, what Elder Bednar said shot to my mind. He said, "All you should do before you give a talk is study, maybe write a list of what you want to address and then get up and talk as the Spirit directs." I know that applies in English, but I will admit, I was a bit nervous to speak Finnish with absolutely no notes. Well, my brain was just dead until about 12:30 on Sunday. I scribbled down some notes and a few scriptures and then got up to talk. I was so nervous and prayed so hard that the Spirit would guide me and that I would have the gift of tongues.

    I was the first speaker and as I stood up there and looked at all the beautiful Finnish members who I love with all of my heart, I just started talking. Ideas and words and grammar principles were just coming to my head and I didn't have to think once about what I was saying or how I wanted to say something. There were no awkward pauses or anything. I testified of the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and shared a lot of experiences and stories from my mission. I even threw a few jokes in there and got some laughs from the Finns. I can die happy now! Now I am sure you are all thinking, "Wow, end of your mission and Finnish is still stressing you out." Well, maybe all of you besides my fellow Finnish missionaries. :) It was a really humbling experience for me. When I had been in Finland for 3 weeks, I got a blessing from the zone leaders and in it they said, "As you continue to study Finnish, the time will come when you will be able to effectively communicate the thoughts and the feelings of your heart and the Savior's heart." I have felt that promise fulfilled time and time again throughout my mission, but it was so incredible to feel the Gift of Tongues working in me. It's a miracle I can speak this language. Seriously, it blows my mind every day, but I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for his help. He really is always with us.

    So yesterday we were able to do service at the temple. I was so grateful to be able to serve there. We planted flowers and it reminded me of the good old days as a youth going down to temple square at 6 in the morning, eating doughnuts and apple juice and singing girls camp songs. Man, those were the days. :) I love the Finnish temple. I have the chance to go two more times before I leave and that truly is the greatest blessing in the world. I have been so blessed to serve this close to a temple and this temple will always have a special place in my heart. Herralle Pyhitetty. Herran Huone! :)

    I am doing really well guys. I am really happy. I kind of feel numb, only because my brain is malfunctioning with the amount of random emotions. I have never felt like this before in my life. I know that my brain is preparing itself for a big change, but I am still so grateful that Heavenly Father is helping me stay focused on the work. He is helping me be in Finland emotionally and mentally while I am here physically. I have prayed a lot more these past 2 weeks than I ever have in my life. I have been excited to go home, but still scared. I have wondered what kind of a future, life, and plans are in store for me. Elder Nielsen told us about a talk called, "Remember Lot's Wife" and I printed it out last week but didn't have a chance to read it until a few days ago. I was so grateful that he suggested it because it answered so many of my questions. I wanted to share a couple of parts of the talk with you. I hope it helps someone as much as it helped me. A little background, Lot's wife was the one that looked back as she and her family were fleeing from Sodom and Gomorrah after God had commandmed them not to and she turned into a pillar of salt. Anyways, here is the talk:

    " I want to talk to you about the past and the future, not so much in terms of New Year's commitments per se, but more with an eye toward any time of transition and change in your lives- and those moments come virtually every day of our lives...I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone, nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned form but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead, we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and event sthat will yet be efficacious in our lives. So a more theological way to talk about Lot's wife is to say that she did not have faith. She doubted the Lord's ability to give her something better than she already had. Apparently she thought- fatally, as it turned out - that nothing that lay ahead could be as good as those moments she was leaving behind...Some of you were having thoughts such as these: Is there any future for me? What does a new year or a new semester or a new major or a new romance hold for me? Will I be safe? Will life be sound? Can I trust in the Lord and in the future? Or would it be better to look back, to go back, to go home? To all such of every generation, I call out, "Remember Lot's Wife." Faith is for the future. Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there. Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us and that Christ truly is the "high priest of good things to come." My young brothers and sisters, I pray you will have a wonderful semester, a wonderful new year, and a wonderful life all filled with faith and hope and charity. Keep your eyes on your dreams, however distant and far away. Live to see the miracles of repentance and forgiveness, of trust and divine love that will transform your life today, tomorrow and forever. That is a New Year's Resolution I ask you all to keep, and I leave a blessing on you - every one of you - to be able to do so and to be happy, in the name of Him who makes it all possible, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen."

    That's what I want to do. I want to live to see the miracles. I want to look forward with an eye of faith on this upcoming week and next week and just the rest of my life in general. I think more than anything from my mission, I have learned that God knows better than we do. He has a plan for each and every one of us because He loves us and wants us to come home. We just have to trust Him. I know He is as close as we want and allow Him to be. I know that I will need His help over this next coming week. To say goodbye, to end an era, but also to begin again. I know that Christ lives. I know that God lives. I know this church is true and I am so grateful to be a missionary. I love you all more than I can say and can't wait to see you. As my main man 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." I love you all so much. I am Finnishing strong. You all inspire me. I love you and can't wait to see you! Have a wonderful week!


    Sisar Bitner

    P.S. "Something Finnish" Each city in Finland has it's own individual crest. The whole country of Finland has a crest and it looks just like dad's company's logo. Sterling Financial is Finnish and they didn't even know it! haha I love you!!!

Our hostesses for the evening....yikes :)

Me and Sisar Seegmiller

Me and Brother Sohkanen....he is a YSA in our ward and has helped us a lot with lessons

Service at the temple

Us at RAX with the Aho family

No comments:

Post a Comment