It's another Monday here in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Today is really warm, like I'm only wearing two pairs of tights and two layers on top besides my coat. 5F sounds about right Dad, but thanks for the heads up for Wed and Thursday... It's always nice to know before you leave for the day that it's gonna be -23F : )
I had such a good weekend! We went to Kurgan for the baptizm, and it was such an amazing day. It was a miracle day really for my companion, сестра захарова (Sister Zaharova). Kurgan was her first area, and she served there for three months with the same companion who is one of her best friends now. After she and her companion were transferred, Kurgan was shut down for sister missionaries, and they haven't seen sisters there since. So, she was really grateful to go back, it was the dream of her mission to see that town once more. Not only that, her brother from Moscow happened to be in town that day with a very very dear friend of Sister Zaharova's, Olga Landick (who actually knows Dan Heintz from BYU Cassi and Carrie). Anyways, her brother had gone inactive while Sister Z was on her mission, but he is 19 and is filling out his papers again, and he was asked to perform the baptizm. So, not only did she get to see her brother, but she got to see a very dear friend Olga (it was Olga's bday too), visit her greenie city, have a baptizm, and have her brother perform the baptizm -- all in one day! Needless to say, it was a very special day for her, and I was glad I go to see this part of her. She has a lot of love for the people of Kurgan. I too was really happy to see Ksoosha get baptized. She really should have been a member already, she is so strong! It was hard for her though to take that great leap of faith, but she knows she did the right thing. It was cool for me to be her missionary too, and now I have a picture with some one in a white jumpsuit on their baptizmal day, with me next to them. Really, I never thought I'd have that, at least not so soon. The Lord really knows who he wants to join the Church I feel like, and he knows who is prepared. Ksoosha was prepared and her decision to be baptized strengthened my faith.
And шумиление! The family I told you about, they all (including the Dad) came to Church again this Sunday. Ahh! The daughter Leza is getting baptized January 31st and is really excited. The Mom, юля (Yulia), talked to us after Church and said that she hopes that the family never goes back to being inactive. She has a strong desire to get "back in shape" spiritually, which is usually the hardest part-- the desire. She spoke up in all the lessons and really listened to everything. She is awesome. Her husband, is a little bit more skeptical. The son (he's 7, not 5 like i originally told you : ) ) could be baptized this coming June, and we set a goal with the Dad to get the Priesthood and to be prepared to baptize his son this June. He is willing to try he says, but I think he sees how much that will require of him, and I'm not sure he's totally into the idea. He's willing, and he's meeting with us right now, but he'll need a little bit of a push I feel. He is smoking right now, and that will be the biggest obstacle for him. I feel so touched by this little family.
I could probably count on one hand the number of families here that are active, complete with a Mom and Dad, sealed in the Temple, and keeping their covenants. The Church is so new here, and these people really are pioneers for their country. I admire the faith of the members, because they are so few. To answer Carries's question, Sunday's there are two branches between 20 - 30 people in attendance at each branch. Most of them are single women, and some younger families. Sometimes, I wish for the members that they could travel to Utah, or somewhere where the Church is really strong, and see how it is possible to live the Gospel, and that it does bless families... to catch the vision of the whole thing. I want them to have a good, solid example. The active members have caught that vision and are so strong, but I know they wish there were more of them. That is why there are missionaries! I remember feeling this same emotion though in New Mexico, that people need to have good examples around them to learn how to live the Gospel. I don't know what I'm trying to say, except that we all have a responsibility, wherever we are, to help build the kingdom. Russia, New Mexico, Utah, Texas, it's all the same work. I'm so grateful that my family understands this, and that I feel that we're all doing the same work, just in different places. I remember the Conference talk by Elder Uchtdorf about how we all need to lift where we stand, and he used the piano analogy-- so true. Pray for the people of Russia! They are trying here so hard and I am often reminded of the pioneers. I feel the Church is blossoming here right now, and I know the people will be blessed for their efforts. I'm glad I can be here to help in any small way I can : )
I'm doing really good, language is coming-- slowly : ), but like most things, it just takes time. I pray for you all and am so grateful for all of you, really. Oh, and is Katie pregnant too? or did I misunderstand?? Haha, only a small detail : ) Tell Katelyn McCuistion congrats for me, she's a Mom!
Love you all!
Monday, January 18, 2010
It has been two weeks since I last talked to yoU! I'm so sorry and I hope you didn't worry to much. I'm glad President got to talk to you Mom : ) Like he said, my comp was sick again, and it was the week of New Year, so all of the country of Russia shuts completely down, so I don't know if the internet cafe we use would have been open anyways.
So, I had a lot of reading to catch-up on from my emails, which really makes me happy : ) Can I just say that the grandkids are so adorable? All of them! And their parents aren't too bad either : ) Really though, Cora is so cute in her red dress Cami! And the new pics of the Hakes-Zimmerman fam were so precious! And I loved the picture Josh you sent me with Troy -- what a big, happy smile for the little guy! Thanks to all of the updates on your lives too, I feel so close to home and everyone when I read them. I wish I had more time to respond back personally every time.
Well, like I said, my comp was sick and appointments were hard to come by during the last week of holidays. So, needless to say it wasn't my favorite period of time last week, but this week has been better! Since after last Monday, things have been back to normal for the most part, which means we've been working! I have my first baptizm this Saturday for the "eternal investigator" named ксюша (Ksoosha), hooray!! I am so excited, really. She is getting baptized in her first Ward, where she investigated the Church. It's in a town called Kurgan, and we got permission from our MIssion President to go see her baptizm. So, we'll be all day there and back on Saturday, it's about a 5 hour trip by bus with al the snow, etc.
The highlight of my news for this week though happened just yesterday, Sunday. We've been teaching a less-active family named шумиление (Shoo-me-len-e) and on Friday we had a very spiritual lesson with them, my comp even cried which hasn't happened before haha. We showed them the video of the Restoration, and asked them if they had a testimony of this. They said they both did. They have a hard time coming to Church becasue of money for transport, and the two kids ( one 9 and one 5). The Spirit was so strong though, that we felt like we could be really bold with them. So, we told them that they know they need to come to Church, and they need to start tomorrow. They also need to go to the Temple and be sealed, pray as a family, have FHE, etc. They agreed! Lo and behold, the Mom, the two kids, and the Mom's less-active Mom (grandma we never even knew about) showed up at Church on Sunday and stayed all three hours. The Dad had work already, but wants to come next week. Really, I couldn't believe it. It was so cool to see them all show up! I really can't express how happy it makes you feel to know that you made a difference. Maybe it won't last, maybe they won't follow through, maybe, maybe, maybe... but to see a result despite all the maybe's really was pure joy. Also, the daughter Leza is 9 and hasn't been baptized. She is really awesome though and prays on her own alrady. She told us that she wants to be baptized too. So, hooray! We meet with them on Wednesday again, so keep this sweet, humble little family in your prayers. Teaching families in Russia is really rare, so I feel very blessed.
On a sadder note, two of our investigators with baptizmal dates aren't going to be prepared. Both confessed to us this week that they have some sins they are still committing, and they don't know if they are ready to fully change yet. One drank on New Year, and plans to drink again for her Bday in two weeks (Jenya) , and the other has a relationship with a married man (yulia) ... Yeah, that wasn't too fun. They have a desire to change though, so hopefully down the road...
I'm doing really well. My companion continually stretches (don't put that on the blog : ) )me haha in ways I never thought possible, but surprisingly amongst all of this, I feel quite calm about everything. Sometimes I marvel and think why am I not more upset, lonely, frustrated right now because things are kind of hard? I guess the reason I've been able to stay happy and positive is that I really do feel closer to the Lord. Nothing seems too scary or anything, and I really have realized how blessed my life is. I have so much. Having the Gospel alone should make me happy enough to endure any trial, let alone the amazing family and experiences I have had and am currently having. It's so true and so simple. Live the Gospel, keep the commandments, serve others, and you will be blessed. Sometimes I wish people could understand that. But like the scriptures say, you receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.
Anyways, I love you all! Think of you often (but not too often don't wory : ) ) and I'll already be seeing you in close to a year! Wow! Happy Bday again Dad! Cassi I can't bleive you're pregnant haha!!! So excited for you!
Love you tons,
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Sunday, January 3, 2010
(hello! sounds like Preevyet)
мая семья! как дела?
(My family! How are you?)
Well, can I just say that talking to everyon last week was AMAZING! I just loved hearing your voices! I could have talked to everyone individually for two hours I think. I felt really good after I talked to everyone, and it didn't set me back at all, so no worries. I think it actually helped me. It made you feel less far away, and more real. I sometimes worry about my family, like I worry everything is ok with everyone, so it's reassuring to talk to you and hear that everything is same old same old, and life is good as usual for you all. So, I'm ready to get back to work!
I told one of you, I think Mom, about how our investigator Ksoosha is for sure getting baptized January 16th -- woohoo! That was a good Christmas present. It is the first time someone I've taught is getting baptized, so I was curious before (like in the MTC) if I would really feel that much joy when someone I taught decided to be baptized. Well, it's true! You really feel pure happiness, joy I guess. It makes everything else worth it. I wish I felt that joy or Spirit the whole time, but it's hard right now-- mainly because of the language. It's hard to not be able to communicate with people, and it diminishes my ability to preach the gospel as efficiently as I'd like. I think missionaries need to go through this a little (at least I do) to really appreciate the good things. So, this is good for me, I know!
Christmas was SO GOOD! We got up really early to go to Yekaterinburg (екатеринбург) for a day at the Mission Home and it was so nice. I got to see some of the sisters in my mission, and meet some new elders, and just relax and talk. I guess I was kind of starved for some American people to talk to, becasue the people in my zone that I am usually with are all native Russian. So, it was nice to have some familiariy, but I know it's not essential. Anyways, we had a big Christmas Dinner at 3, had a fun White Elephant game, and watched Mr. Krueger's Christmas with Jimmy Stewart. I hadn't watched that since I was little! I forgot how much I loved it. And, it made me think of It's a Wonderful Life, which I'm so glad you all watched together. Joe, if you read this, I thought of you quoting "Mary" and "Joo Joo's petals!" in my head. Haha!
Anyways, after that we went to Miass which is a little town near Chelyabinsk on Saturday, and visited kids in an orphanage. Such a sweet experience. I loved it. Really, I've felt so ungrateful already a lot of times on my mission, but I felt most ungrateful that day. My life now and before mission was/is so blessed. There are a lot of people here that have so much less than me, yet they are happy. I could learn a lot from them.
Everything is good here. I love you all so much and am so grateful for your support and love. Thanks for your great examples. Joe and Katie, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. I'm sad I didn't get to talk to you by the phone, but it sounds like you had a fun time with the fam in Cruces and Dallas too I'm sure. Say hi to Nathan and Julia for me! Francisca, hope you're feeling better! I hear you gave a great talk on Sunday despite your surgery. What a trooper! Marcus and Melissa, sorry I didn't get to talk to you by phone, but your spouses kept me up to date : )
Take care and much love for all of you! Talk to you next week!
I'm writing you on a warm, -8 F afternoon! Really, it's amazing how you adjust. I know it's cold outside right now, but it doesn't feel as cold as it sounds. I swear, the Lord must really be putting a warm bubble around me because I've been able to endure the cold better than I thought. I've been praying for that too, so I know I'm getting His help. Really. There has only been a couple of times where all I can think about is how cold I am. Every day it gets a little colder though, so pray for me! haha
I'm so excited to talk to you in a couple of days! Ahh!! I can't believe it's Christmas back home, it doesn't really feel like it here. Russians don't celebrate Christmas, mostly just new year, so half the time I'm so busy that I forget it's the holidays back home. I think that's for the best : ) I've scheduled time to call you Thursday night, the 24th at 8 PM. So, it should be Thursday, Christmas Eve morning at 8 AM for you. I don't want to make it harder for you, but it would be best I think if you were at Dad's bank where we could use speaker phone, etc. I won't have a ton of time so that would help out. So, you can plan on me calling that number at that time. I'll buy the phone card here and everything so it should all work out just fine! So excited!
This past week was kind of slow. My companion got sick, so we stayed home last Monday (after I emailed you) through Thursday. Ahh I almost died!! It is no fun to feel all the pressure, guilt, that you need to be outside doing the work, but you have no choice but to stay inside. So, I wrote in my Journal a lot, read my scriptures, studied Russian until I thought I would die : ), played hymns on the violin, wrote Christmas cards for the missionaries here, organized our Area Book (which was actually really needing to get done), and any other productive thing I could think of! I didn't like being home because, as you all know, I'm a homebody. I was afraid if I stayed home too long, I wouldn't have a desire to go out and work, especially because it's so cold. So, that was hard. It's amazing how much responsibility I feel as a missionary to get things done and care for the people in my Area. Almost every night I wake up and think "Oh no, I have an appointment, why am I sleeping?!" Or, "My alarm didn't go off!" when it's only like 3 AM. Haha I remember the boys talking about having those kind of dreams on their mission, and it's funny to think I'm doing the same things. Russians are very different about their health though. I'm pretty sure she just had a mild cold, but any form of sickness here is considered serious, and I tried to understand that that is just the culture she comes from. Maybe because the cold can really make things more serious than they are, maybe superstition, I don't know. All I know is that all the Russian missionaries were buying her medicines and calling to making sure she felt ok, and all the American missionaries including Sister Allcott would call and say that we should get to work asap, pray for the strength to work as much as you can, etc. Haha it was funny to me and I kind of felt caught in the middle of it all. My companion had her mind made up though that she needed to stay home. I told her I trusted her though, and that as soon as she felt well enough we would go back to work.
Needless to say, I don't have a lot of very inspirational stories from the work this week. Sorry : ( I can say though that my companionship is closer than before because of all the time we spent together haha. That's actually really good though because we're staying together here in Chelyabinsk this transfer! I feel good about it. I feel a love for the people here and I would be really sad to leave them. I kind of felt I would stay here. Also, I've been so surprised by the success I have already seen -- 4 baptizmal dates and some progressing less-actives. I truly feel so blessed to have seen this already. I really pray that all 4 follow-through to baptizm. We're working hard with each of them and their unique concerns, and I'm glad I get to be here this next transfer to help them in this process. Pray for them! Vera, Yulia, Ksoosha, and Sasha : )
Oh! I almost forgot! I do have a cool story from this week! Saturday at English Club, we had a guy show up named Alexander. I didn't recognize him or anything, but he came to the class I teach -- I teach the beginner English with my comp and another Elder, and the other three missionaries teach the advanced class. Anyways, I later found out that he was an Alecsei that I had called from the Area Book a couple of weeks ago (the night I wrote you about already, when I tried to make calls by myself?). He really enjoyed English Club and even came to Church Sunday and stayed all three hours! He seems like a Golden Investigator, really. In Sunday School he asked really good questions, like "What happens if people don't hear about God in this life, are they sent to hell?" Haha the Elders winked at us when he asked this question becasue they are very excited to have him as a new investigator! My companionship won't teach him because he doesn't live in our area. Anyways, it is really cool to see the fruit of your labors. That night I made calls from the Area Book was really hard for me, because I felt so alone. But because it was hard, I feel my efforts were doubly blessed. We have already had success with two or three less actives from that, and now a former investigator who will be meeting with the missionaries. I really have a testimony of hard work. I think that when it is the hardest to work, but you still do it, the Lord blesses you even more. People talked a lot about that at the MTC, but it is really amazing to actually see that happen to you in your own life. The Lord is so kind, and I feel His strength and help so much. Such a sweet blessing to have the Gospel! It's hard to not see everyone enjoying the rich blessings of the Gospel, and that keeps me motivated to keep preaching!
Sounds like everyone is at home and happy for the Holidays! I can just picture all the grandkids, toys, food, craziness, conversations about "when it all hits the fan", homebuilding, and everything else I love so much about home. Enjoy your time together, and don't feel obligated to read this long letter when you're so rarerly all together haha. Francisca, I hope you get better soon!! Bummer you're in the hospital for the holiday season : ( Best of luck!
I'll talk to you soon (for real!)
сестра хэйкс -- я люблю тебя!
(I just found out how to use Russian characters! That's my name in Russian, and I love you!)
Wow, it is so good to hear from all of you! It is so nice to read your letters because they are always so uplifting and positive. I always want to work harder and better after reading them. I really need and appreciate that every week!
I'm going to try and write as much as I can, but I'm a little short on time. I tried to attach some pictures home, but the computer is hard being difficult, so I lost a lot of time. Maybe by the end of this letter the pictures will work and you'll get to see some of my life here.
I can't believe another week has come and gone! Wow... I have been in Russia for over a month, which is just crazy. I would probably still think it was October or something if I wasn't using a planner all the time and I have to look at the dates. And you're having Christmas all together this year -- ahh! How fun! I truly will miss not being there! But, it always gives me comfort to know that we'll repeat it again in two years. So, patience : ) Oh, and I get to call you! The White Handbook says that it prefers we talk 30 or 40 minutes... not saying I HAVE to talk only that long, but just letting you know in advance that I won't have a ton of time... I'll try and let you know when I can for sure call, but I'll have to wait until next Mon., when I know where I will be exactly for Christmas.
Ok, to start off, we got two new Baptizmal Dates this week! Haha, woohoo! We fasted last Sunday to get 3 baptizmal dates this week, one with Vera, Yulia, and Sasha (he's Chinese and Sasha isn't his real Chinese name). After we fasted, Yulia called us, we hadn't heard from her in a while because one of her close friends passed away. Anyways, when we called her after our fast, she said that she had had a dream where we were talking to her about baprtizm, something we hadn't even brought up before. So, we told her that we'd love to come teach her about baprtizm further. We went by her house I think Wed. (?) of this week and she committed to baptizm after a very spiritual lesson. She also came to Church on Sunday, which was good, but the lessons were on the Law of Chastity and Baptizm for the Dead. Not neccessarily ideal becasue she had a lot of questions afterward, but I know that those principles are true, and that there is no need to apologize for them, and that they will bless her life. We told her to pray about them, and she agreed to. She is very inquisitive, but that is good in a lot of ways becasue I really know she is studying the Gospel thoroughly. We do need to help her feel it in her heart first, and to have the Spirit speak to her strongly.
We also got a Baptizmal date with our Chinese investigator named "Sasha". He has a hard time understanding us becasue of the language barrier, he speaks less Russian than I do and with a very thick Chinese accent, so that I can't understand really. But it is amazing how the Spirit breaks those barriers. And, becasue neither of us can speak that well, I don't feel uncomfortable trying to teach him, like he's correcting my grammar or something. So it's refreshing to teach someone at my skill level, kind of like the MTC haha! That really has been a testament to me, that I can bring the Spirit without necessarily speaking properly, even though I'd prefer to speak properly : ) We did ask him to give a heartfelt prayer in Russian, which he did, and I actually understood. I had one of the best feeling of my whole mission while he was praying, becasue I felt true joy, really. He has such great desires and I felt how pleased the Lord must be with him. Anyways, he also accepted a baptizmal date for January. We ordered Chinese materials from Moscow, and they should be coming soon so he can learn about the Gospel in his native tongue. He is actually from Chongching -- Jingjing's city! I have his email: email@example.com if anyone wnats to pass that onto Jingjing... why not?
And Vera, her daughter is a strong member in one of the branches here (there's two in case I haven't told you), and she has listened to the missionaries for some time. She works for a Mormon-run business out of Provo, and really thinks fondly of the Church. When we went to meet with her, we had the intention of extending the Baptizmal commitment, but my companion and I both felt it wasn't right. We ended up talking about our families. How Sister Zaxarova's family joined the Church, and how Mom joined and later most of the McCuistion side. For some reason, that morning for Russian study, I practiced sharing personal experiences, and I even practiced talking about how Mom joined the Church. And then that very day, my practice came in handy! So many little things like that all the time, really. Little tender mercies.
To answer some more questions you all have asked:
Yes, I have 30 minutes in the morning to exercise, but as hard as I try, and don't feel like I get the equivalent to a good half hour of running. The first 5-7 minutes I'm barely awake, so I try stretching a little. Then, I do a lot of jumping jacks, etc. I've been really grateful for Denise Austin and Gilad and all the mornings I watched their work-out videos haha. I do those moves all the time! Remeber the Cha cha, and the basketball shuffle from Denise Austin? Yep... almost every morning : ) Oh, and when I say the food is rich here, I thought I should elaborate to give you a better idea. So all the dairy items here are sold according to the % of fat in them, like 1%, 2% milk etc. Except here, the smallest % of fat for milk I can find is 2.5% A lot of people here drink 6% and the Elders love it haha. I haven't tried it yet. I think I'll stick to my 2.5%. Oh, and one of my Zone Leaders from Idaho says he has 12% yogurt every day for breakfast. Haha! 12%! I thought that was funny. I should try that sometime, but the 0.3% I eat is really good actually! But besides the food being rich, it is usually pretty natural too. Instead of salad dressing etc., people use stuff like horseradish. Horseradish is everywhere. Who would've thought? I like that I have options here, so I feel like I can eat as healthy as I want to.
Oh yeah, I gave a talk in Sacrament Mtg. yesterday! My first Russian talk and they wanted it to be for 10 minutes. That didn't quite happen, but I tried. My topic was the Sacrament, and I wrote it in English first, then with my companions help translated it to Russian. So, I just read most of it, but I got choked-up... as usual. No tears though, which is an improvement! I have a hard time talking about my Savior, even thinking about him without getting chocked-up. I just feel His love so much. I just came across D&C 138 in my study this week, and I'd encourage you all to read it, esp. the last half. It talks all about the importance of bringing the Gospel to all people of the Earth, dead or alive. I love how the Lord loves every soul, enough that he has even provided a way for them to be saved after this life. So amazing! I really like what Dad said in his last letter. The Church is either true or it is a fraud, but when you look at the fruits of it, and how they are so good, you have to recognize it is not a fraud, but it is the greatest work under the heavens. Ok, enough of my preaching : )
The HB party sounds like a blast! Francisca, good luck with surgery! Everyone should in Cruces by now I think, so I hope you are all enjoying your time together. Relax : )
I love you all.
Oh and Mom I got your packages!!! YAY!! I was so happy! We decorated our apartment with the stuff you sent, and I have a picture I wanted to send you... if only I could get that to work. Anyways, thanks a million, really. You are the best. And you're sending another one? Wow! So nice. Cami, and Cassi, thank you too for sending me packages! I haven't yet received them, but your thought is so nice and appreciated.