Monday, June 28, 2010

Some Photos and More News

This is the forset by where the lady below lives. She asked us to go on a walk with her. Isn't Russia so green and lush in the summer?? I had no idea! She is in great shape at 77 and just sped walked the whole time. Amazing!

Ok, this is me with Sister Hanks (my comp), and one of my new favorite people in the world. Her name is любовъ (loo-bouv) which meand love and is a common name here. She is a solid, faithful member of the Church here in Russia. She served a full proselyting mission in Siberia only four years after she converted at age 67. She served as a Single Sister becasue she has never married. She speaks fluent English. I don't know if I can describe the love I feel for her to you. She is a Saint. That's about all I can say.

Anyways, those are some pics.
This past week was great! On top of getting to meet loobouv, we met another babooshka named Galina. She is a Siant too. I think I was supposed to serve in this area just to meet these two ladies. Galina has diabetes and terrible health problems at 79, so she is confined to her home. She is a member of the Church of about 14 years, and is a former atheist, chain smoker, and philosphy professor at the university here in Ekat. Her life made a complete 180 when she found the Church. Since she joined, she also served a solo mission in her late 60s and has dedicated her life to researching Christianity and the history of the Church. Her little apartment is full of books of all kinds, and her mind is incredibly sharp. She has dates of the Bible memorized, pages of the scriptures memorized, etc. She even showed us some of the timelines, collages, history stuff she has written about the Church. They need to go in a Museum or something. She said the Area President came to her home and looked at them with her, so maybe sometime in the future. Her Patriarchal Blessing calls her a modern-day Paul. I love her. These two babooshka's have really touched becasue of their faithfulness to the Lord. They are some of the most faithful members, even though one can barely walk-up the stairs to the Church building on Sunday. Deh, we call them "our angels.'

June 28th

семья мая!
(My Family!)
как дела севодня? знаешь я вас очен люблю!
(How are you today? I love you!)
Hope you all had a great week! Sounds nice and hot back home! It's pretty hot here too. Has it been pretty rainy there? I hope so! I love the summer monsoons in Cruces. I'm glad you got the picture from Mission Conference. Yes, there are a LOT of Sisters here in our Mission, and yes my comp is the little one next to me in white. You think that they would sent the really bright, intellectual kind of person to Russia to learn such a hard language, but to be honest, the only similar personality trait I have noticed amongst the Sisters, is that they all seem to have that yellow personality. Really smily, fun, out-going, happy people. Maybe the Lord is trying to brighten-up Russia? Ha I don't know! They are all great sisters.
Happy Birthday Troy! I can't believe he has been around for a year already. Wow, I have been gone a while... Congrats Josh and Melissa! And Happy Bday to Mom, again! Hope you enjoy your big day. I'm wanting to send a package home for the summer bdays... I'll try. I can't believe the Bluth's house was struck by lightning, how random is that? And Carries's in Hawaii! Ahh, give congrats to Whit for me! Meesa, glad you found a job, and I love hearing about how well Colin is doing. Keep it up Colin! Hope the dinner with the two fams goes well. Joe, thanks so much for the letter this past week. Yes, it sounds like a lot of the things you felt on your mission are what I'm feeling. It's weird to think that there is life after the mission haha. It just seems so encompassing, and it's hard to believe that so many members of the Church have done this for so many years! Very cool. And, mybe this sounds really weird, but I swear I thought about Luis Cruz two or three times in the past week or two. I can't remember exactly why, but that is definitely strange that he even came into my thoughts... so sad. That is hard to hear.
Life in Botanika is good as usual. Last week we had a little more of a struggle than usual trying to find meetings, but the week ended on a really high note with Saturday and Sunday feeling very rewarding. We had three less-actives show-up to Church that haven't come to Church in a long time! Two of them came two weeks ago, and then the other member showed-up after not having been to Church in about 5 years. She has Parkinson's disease, and when we visited her, she made it sound like she was incapable of coming to Church on her own. But, she came! And, she did it all on her own. It was quite the little miracle. I love how the members always seem to welcome people who haven't come to Church in a while. It's like a little reunion for them. We've been able to see some good success with re-activating our less-active members, and we have gotten into a lot of homes that haven't had contact with the missionaries in a while. I feel like every week there is a new less-active family or two that we are able to meet with.
In terms of investigators, we have Lena that is progressing. She is doing well, and we were able to have a very honest conversation with her last week. We had planned to teach her about having a change of heart and we used the talk "A Mighty Change of Heart" from two General Conferences ago for a lot of our conversation. The talk talks about how some heart-transplant patients get casual about caring for their newly transplanted heart, and how no matter how good things seem to be going, the patients need to be diligent in caring for the health of their heart. We likened that to her because she admitted after talking with President Rasband that she felt a change in her, but since then, we have already seen a little digression, or a lack of caring for her "spritual heart." She admitted that she hasn't been reading her scriptures as faithfully as she should, and that among other things, she acknowledged her digression. It was really nice to teach someone that was so honest, and was willing to recognize the need to be better. So, we told her to get back in shape! She agreed, and we've been trying to contact her daily to keep the Lord in her remembrance. We also brought up baptizm, and why she is constantly shunning that conversation, and she admitted that she knows the Church is true! But, she is also afraid to commit to the Church, becasue she knows it is a big committment. For example, she has a lot of friends that drink, and if she were to change that part of her lifestyle, than she would feel ostracized from the group. She has one sober friend. I tried to relate as best I could to my experience growing-up in an area with very little members of the Church, and that seemed to help. We're wanting her to get to the point of King Lamoni or King Lamoni's father, and be willing to give-up all her sins to know Christ. Of course that takes some solid work and time, it doesn't always happen overnight. We're meeting with her tomorrow night at our Branch President's house, President Solomen, and we think that he and his family will really help her out. He is such a great Branch President and his family has the Spirit with them so strongly. He is a former Mission President-- can you believe that! Our little Branch President is a 12 year convert of the Church, and after only 5 years of being in the Church, he was called to be the Mission President in the new Moscow South Mission. His Mission opened-up Kazakhstan. All of their kids are active and they have one 10 year still living with them at home. They are a good example becasue they just like to have fun together. They laugh and tell all sorts of jokes, and are just happy. So refreshing! We feel like they will be able to relate to Lena, and to help her see that the blessings/fruit of the Gospel are much sweeter than the anything the world can offer. We're trying to get her to understand that keeping the commandments isn't really a sacrifice at all.
President Solomen also gave us two referrals last week. Cool! The example of his family is so amazing. I can't believe they were Mission Presidents after only being members for five years! I can't imagine. Great people and we really feel like we have his support in the Ward.
We were able to get into the home of our neighbors yesterday, Sunday evening, and teach them the first lesson. Also pretty cool. They are a newlywed couple expecting a baby! They have been really nice to us since we have moved in, and every time we see them they offer to help us in some way, like teach us how to buy groceries here in Russia, and what busses to take, etc. Anyways, we kept trying to have a Gospel dicussion with them, but they somehow always changed the subject. So, we just came out an said, we want to share a message with you and your family Sunday night, is that ok? They agreed, and we had a very good lesson with them. The Mom is very philosophical, and the husband is more traditional Orthodox Russian. They did listen though. We simply bore strong testimony and the Spirit came. They have some homework out of the Book of Mormon to read, and we plan to teach them again this week. They would be great members here and we're very excited to teach them! To be honest, I am not really sure how sincere their desire is to hear the Gospel, maybe just curiousity at the moment, but we're excited regardless to get to teach a soon-to-be family : )
Some of you have asked what a typical day is like for me, so, I thought I'd finally answer that question. I get up at 6:25 to get my excercise clothes on by 6:30, and we usually run until 6:55. Then we get home and say comp and personal prayer until about 7:10. My comp showers while I stretch and try and work out a little more. We eat breakfast 7:30 and I try and get all ready for study and for the day by 8. we do three hours of study (personal, comp, language) and then get out the door by 11. On a good day, we have appointment after appointment. If an appintment falls through, we try and drop-by a less-actives house. We marked on a map where all the less-actives live, so when we're in the area we can check to see who lives nearby. We have been bad about planning time to eat lunch and dinner. I haven't really sat down to eat my whole mission, but my Mission President told me I need to start doing that so I don't burn out. Then we get home at about 9 or 9:30. plan, get ready for bed, sleep at 10:30. You all know the drill! Pretty standard missionary schedule.
Sister Hanks and I are doing great! The work keeps going and going, which is a good sign! I feel like the people in Botanika are starting to feel an enthusiasm in the missionary work. I feel like we have their support, and at Church on Sunday, I felt really at home in the Ward.
Mom, I got your package with the make-up in it! AHHHH!!!!! You are so good to me! How did you know? I think my comp thinks I'm so girly, but it really meant a lot to me I almost cried. I know, so pathetic. Yes, please keep sending the meds if that's ok. I'm still using them.
Cassi, I finally got your Easter package! What a surprise! I wasn't expecting anything so thanks. I'll have to be creative and think of another way to dye some eggs haha... Reese's Puffs!! You're an angel. I think I have aquired more self-control, becasue I am eating them rather slowly. Trying to savor them. Thanks Sha sha and Mama!
Love you all!
Sister Hakes
P.S. I found out that the girl Goolia I taught in Chili got baptized this past week! A week after I left she accepted a baptizmal date and it really happened! She is the Armenian one that was forced into an arranged marriage that went really bad. Maybe you remember her? I was so happy to hear the news about her baptizm, I thought I'd pass it on.

Zone Conference: June 21st

Hi Family!
Happy Father's Day Dad! Happy Birthday Mom! I LOVE YOU BOTH SO MUCH! Hope you have the very best of days.
So I just realized that last week all the pictures I sent home with captions were a faled dlivery. Did you get anything from me last week? Sorry if you didn't, I'll try and resend them...
The Mission is great and amazing and I am so grateful I came, just in case any of you were wondering. It struck me this morning that I only have five more transfers, and then I'm home. I'm sure February sounds like a long time away for most of you, but for me it seems so soon. I think what I've learned most so far on my Mission is how the Lord knows me so well, just as well as He knows every other person on this planet. And he loves us. He doesn't love us because of how smart we are, how much we have accomplished, or how much the world respects us, but he loves us just because we exist. Just like a mother loves her child. I feel like the world is such a scary place. Can you imagine a life without having any knowledge or conception of a Savior? So many people in Russia have no idea of who he really is and what he has done for us. Can you imagine a world without having a Ward or branch full of people who support and believe the same things you do? That is the reality here. I have been so blessed, we all have. Our Savior died for every single one of His children, in hopes that we will reach out to others and bring them back to the knowledge of Him.
Well, after that rather intense start, Zone Conference was last Saturday and it was amazing! It always seem to come right when you need it, but I guess that means I could always use more instruction from the Lord in my missionary work.

The Mission president instructed all of us about love, and how we can feel more love in our missionary work. It really is the solution to most of my problems here in the field. If I'm feeling tired, I can remember my Savior and my desire to serve Him, which usually makes me able to do whatever I need to do. In our lessons, I noticed that if I ever get frustrated or complacent with the people, I know it is because I am not loving them enough. The night after Zone Conference, I went home and took Moroni 7:47 I think to heart, and I tried to pray with ALL of my heart for charity. I don't think I suddenly have perfect charity now or anything, but I had a neat experience in which I felt the love of the Savior more personally and wholly than I had in a while. I remember when I was et apart, President Allred blessed me that "my ancestors will bear down upon me" in my missionary service. As I was praying, I suddenly and very sincerely felt like Grandma McCuistion was with me, and so was Grandpa Hakes and Aunt Cathy. Even writing about it now makes me tear-up, but I tear-up a lot anyways, so that's not saying to much. The Savior has never felt closer to me than he has these past few days. It reminded me of the story in 2 Kings 6 wher the servant sees all of the chariots and angels of the Lord on the mountain, and relizes how protected he was the whole time, but never realized it. Read it if you don't know what I'm talking about... I know that I will take that experience with me throughout the rest of my mission and life. Maybe Moroni 7:47 is one of my favorite scriptures now. I wish I had that one on my plaque : )
Sunday night in Botanika we were able to visit three less-actives with a member. The less-actives all right near eachother, and two of the three haven't been to Church or visited by the missionaries in several years. It was really special to see the work we've done this past transfer has already paid-off in this way, and that new houses are being opened-up for misssionaries to meet in. All three lessons went very well, and I think one of the families is going to start coming to Church regularly again. We're meeting with our Branch President tonight because Sister Hanks and I have been discussing Ammon and decided we needed to meet with our Branch President to find out how we can best serve him. So, pray for us if you read this Monday night at 6:30!
Lena, our single progressing investigator, is doing extremely well. She was at the President Rasband conference and since then there has been a very distinct change in her. She is reading the Book of Mormon on her own almost daily, and she says everything is making more sense to her when she reads. She also has good questions she has prepared for us when we come and teach her. We have already extended the baptizmal commitment to her, and she rejected us, but Sister Hanks and I want to extend it again tomorrow when we meet with her. There has definitely been a change in her heart recently, and we don't want to wait because we know the adversary is well aware of her progress too. We're praying she'll accept our commitment tomorrow.
On the way home from Zone Conference, I played the violin on the tram and bore my testimony to the whole bus after I finished. Not going to lie, those things are still hard for me, but I did it and it felt really good! It felt nice to put myself out there for the Lord's sake, and it made me feel His love and appreciation even more clearly. We were ridiculed a little, but it also felt like a really small sacrifice for the Lord, so it didn't really matter to me. Very cool experience!
Love you all tons, thanks for all of the letters!
Sister Hakes

Pictures with a little Letter: June 14th

Hi Family!

I have taken so many pictures lately, and I wanted to share some of them with you this week. All of them are here in Ekat. I have just been marveling so much lately at how beautiful Russia is in the summer, so I thought I would let you see it too. This week has been really amazing! We saw a lot of little miracles that I'll write in just a second. It sounds like you all had a great week together with Joe and Katie there. That is so cool New Mexico is a possibility! I love how nobody is too far away... except for Cassi. And well, me at the moment. Thanks for all the updates Cami, Meesa, Mom, Dad, Kimball, and Meesa. Thanks for thinking of me. Your emails really support me and they make me feel a little less far away. Cami, you're a rock star for the triathalon! Wow! Carrie, the play sounds so fun, and maybe you should discuss the Gospel with the person who made the Mormon comment : ) Mees, your sunburn story made me crack-up! Oh how I miss you. Deh. Kimball, no worries. Your mission is over and done with. It's hilarious to me how you have reoccuring nightmares about having to re-serve on a mission. Haha... I'll proly be in the same boat here in the next couple months. Dad, Happy Father's Day! Try and enjoy it this time : ) And thanks for the weekly updates. They are much appreciated! Mom, are you doing anything special for your Bday? Hope you enjoy catch-up this week and actually catch-up!

1. This is the bridge in the center of Ekat. Russians think Russia is so ugly, but I disagree. Pretty, huh?
2. This is me and Sister Valgardson (MTC Comp) at the place where the Romanov family was killed. It's called Temple on the Blood. And yes, that is the same family from the movie Anastasia.

Ok, I'll send the next couple in a differetn email.....

Sister Hakes

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Special Experiences: June 8th

Oh, how are all of you doing!! Thanks for your emails this past week, I really appreciated them. Sorry I didn't email you yesterday (Monday). Today, Tuesday, our Mission had Mission Conference, which means everyone in our mission (only about 45 of us) was together for the first and only time on my mission. It was AMAZING! I'll tell you all about that in a second. Becasue of the Conference today, it meant we wouldn't have time to work in our area, so we decided to work ysterday on Pday, and just do internet today (Tuesday) becasue it is in the same part of the city.
Yesterday, we had an amazing time wih our most progressing Investigator named Lena. She is an investigator of a couple months now, she is 22, a very good girl, and we inhereted her from the Elders. We tried to get a Baptizmal Date out of her last week, and while she was practically crying from the Spirit, she turned us down saying she isn't ready. My companion and I both felt like she just needed friends in the Ward so she wouldn't feel like we were so weird our different. So, we decided on Monday (yesterday, our Pday) to go meet with her in her area and do some service with her for some members that live nearby. We didn't tell her this though, because we thought she might turn us down. So, we just showed up for our usual appointment with her, and we told her we needed her to come with us and help these members that live nearby. She said yes, and it was so great! The members are named Masha and Ludmilla. Masha is one of the strongest members in our Branch. She is pregnant and living here without her husband becasue of Visa problems (her husband lives in Estonia). She is here in Yekat taking care of her Mom that has Multiple-Sclorosis. Masha's baby is due in two weeks, and she doesn't have much help around the house, she's all alone holding down the fort. Such a Saint, really. Anyways, we bring Lena over to their house and she and Masha had such a great time talking together. When the members are helpful here, they are just golden because they are all pretty much converts themselves, and so they can really help our investigators. Masha also served a Mission, so that helps too. Anywyas, Sister Hanks and I had planned to rub oil on their feet (Masha and Ludmilla) and read them the story when Christ washes his Apostles feet. So, we do that, and Lena helps us, and the Spirit was so strong becasue these two faithful Saints were just so appreciative of the service. It made me want to cry. They are such amazing women, and their lives here are kind of difficult, and they couldn't believe someone would want to massage their feet. Lena came away feeling the Spirit, I know she did. She is planning on coming tonight to the big Member Meeting with president Rasband. So, if you read this letter before 6:30 PM tonight (my time), please pray for Lena to feel the Spirit and to have a desire to be baptized!
So, Mission Conference. It was today and it was amazing! Elder Rasband and his wife were here, as so were Elder and Sister Mandros (from Ukraine) of the Seventy. Elder and Sister Mandros were the third people to be baptized when the USSR dissolved, and four years after he joined the Church , he was called to be a MIssion President-- four years! He and his wife have served in the Seventy for 10 years and now are in our Area Presidency. Great people! They are the elect. Anyways, they spoke to us in Russian, and to be honest, it was kind of strange. It suddenly hit me that I speak Russian! Haha. Except, it doesn't seem like Russian, it just seems like English, only knew English words I'd never used before, if that makes any sense? Anyways, I was sitting next to Sister Valgardson, my comp from the MTC, and we were both looking at eachother as we were taking notes of his talk, and we were both just so surprised that we were able to listen and take notes of a Russian speaker like it was no big deal! Haha, just a side note for you. I'm so happy for her becasue she struggled with the language so much in the MTC. Church is true! Anyways, then Sister Allcott and President Allcott spoke, and they were so good as usual. Sister Allcott was commenting on how this is theire halfway mark on their Mission (it's mine too), and how when you play sports, you get a Half-time. A time to reflect and ponder over what you've done, and a time to re-motivate and reenergize. She said that is what this Mission Conference is for. She talked about how everyone in our Mission feels like something big is about to happen here in Russia. But, since we've started to feel that way, and to feel like we're on the right track, she said the opposition started to get really strong here in our Mission, which means we're doing something right. We had 12 companionships in one week that called in with serious illness and couldn't work. Twelve, in one week! So, that week our President had us Fast for more faith and health (this was about 2 wks ago), and since then, all companionships are fully functioning and only 1 or 2 calls of illness have ahppened within the last 2 weeks. Anyways, the point of her talking about this was that she knows that we have all seen and faced serious rejection here in Russia. But, she also knows that we are doing something right, becasue when the adversary starts to work extra hard on you, it means you are on the right track. I wasn't sick or anything, but I too felt like there was extra resistance. Probably about the time I called you on mother's day. For some reason, I felt like I was doing doing doing, but nothing ever worked out, and I felt distant from the love of my Savior. I know now, that the motivation for anything I do should be out of love for the people, which comes from a love of my Savior. The more I learn of my Savior, the more I love Him, the more I love him, the more I want to serve Him.
President and Sister Rasband pretty much left all of us in tears. President Rasband talked about how he was personally involved in the organization of the Church here in Russia. No idea he had such personal involvement with the Church here in Russia. Cool history. When he was erving as a Bishop in Utah, His Stake President was Bill Marriott and the nearby Stake President was the Huntsman guy. They were business partners (CEOs) and he worked as President of the company. Anywyas, the two stake presidents heard about a sales-pitch in Russia. Russia wanted to find a food/plastic distributer to make the food on their national airline, Aeroflot, better. At the time you could only have vodka and boiled potatoes when you flew into Russia. So, along with some major companies from Belgium, Sweden, and all over the world, the Huntsman/Marriot crew decided to go to Russia and discuss the deal with them. President Rasband went with them to the Conference, and among all the deals presented to the government, they were chosen! This was way back before the Berlin Wall fell, and their deal with Russia was the first time an American company was able to partner up with a Russian, with the American have 51% of the deal, and the Russian only 49%. So, Huntsmand and Marriott built a big plant there in moscow, and they sent all Mormon people to work in it. Elder Rasband would travel here frequently and he said, when he first came to Russia, it was so so so dark. He was here before the wall fell, and he said he had KGB men following him around and translating everything for them. He said it was a very dark place and he never like coming here for work. Anywyas, throuhg time, the wall eventually fell, and when it did, within three days, the firs Russian member was baptized by the workers of their plant in Moscow. 5 days later, the workers baptized five more Russians. President Rasband was even at the meeting in St. Petersburg, when the Vice President of Russia to the then President Yeltsin formally recognized the presence of the LDS Church here in Russia. Elder Rasband said that none of that history will be in our textbooks, but that he knows that the Church is what made the wall fall here in Russia among other things. He said that when President Kimball told the members to fast and pray so that the Church could be arried into all countries of the world, he personally saw that prophecy come true here in Russia. I probably butchered a lot of that history, there were a lot of other cool factors involved, but all I can say is that so much happens that we don't even recognize. The Lord's hand is in our lives so much, and it can be seen throughout the course of history.
President Rasband also did a Q and A with us. So cool! I have always wanted to do a Q and A with someone like that. He said that when we all introduced oursleves to him at the begginning, he said he was scanning and interviewing each of us, and that as we introduced oursleves, the Spirit whispered to him insights about us. He said he noticed that a lot of us our down, emothionally, spirituall, physically. As he told us this, he started to cry. He said he was sorry we were down, and that he knows it's the hardest of hard out here, but he also repeated over and over, never give up. He was a Mission President, and he said he knows how tough it can be at times, but to never give up and take each day and do your best with it. It was so great to get sympathy from him! He read how we need to waste and wear out our lives though, so when we get home from our Mission, we'll just want to sleep for 3 months. He also told us that we need to know our Savior personally. When we know Him, we will be willing to do anything for Him. We then had some really good questions asked, like how to better understand our purpose, how to love the people more, how to learn the balance between burning yourself out and working effectively, and how to help our investigators have the Mormoni 10 experience.
Conference was amazing. I feel rejuvinated. I recognize how much more I need to love the people, and how much more I need to work willingly, and to not get tired. I never stop working, but sometimes I murmur in my heart. I want to really go home and feel like I did all I could. I already feel that way up unitl this point, so I don't really need to do anything different, but to start let myself feel the joy more.Love more and worry less. We're out here slugging it out day to day, and I'm not gonna lie, the constant rejection is very hard to keep pushing against. My feet hurt a lot lately, and I am starting to feel more like a veteran out here than a greenie. I know that through the strength of the Lord we can do all things, and that we can feel joy in the process. I love you all a lot and I know, I really do know that the Church is true. The Lord is our Savior and he knows each of us personally.
Love you all,
Sister Hakes

May 31st

So, I didn't have time to write a letter to the fam, today has been crazy, so I'll just forward the letter I wrote to President to you all. It's a little more formal, personal than my normal letter home. He likes us to be very very open with him he says. So, enjoy!

Hi President,

Today has kind of been a crazy day! We finally got to unpack and move into our new place (yay!), so that took a little while, and then we got lost trying to find the internet. We found it (obviously), but we only have like 30 minutes to be here so we can get back into our area on time. So, this might be kind of brief.

Two of our three Progressing Investigators, Vladislav and Irina, were moved this week into the Non-progressing category. It is always hard to see people not progress and accept the Gospel as you'd like. Maybe you have heard of Vladislav? He is an eternal investigator that lives in Himash, and he had a Baptizmal Date for this past January. His wife, who also investigated the Church at one time, had a dream that the Church was only an American Church, and that her husband shouldn't join. Sister Hanks and I kind of came into the scene a little after this point. His wife is definitely against the Church, and he has a hard time doing anything his wife wouldn't him too, which is a good thing, but in this case it is really unfortunate. Sister Hanks and I thought if we dropped by more frequently and gave his wife our love (we made cookies, etc.) then maybe she would understand how important this was for her husband and have a change of heart. However, we haven't seen any progress. His wife would let him come to Church if he would like to, but the last 4 weeks he hasn't come despite our hardest efforts. We feel like he could make everything work out wth his wife if he wanted to, but we don't see him making that kind of effort at the moment. Maybe he just needs more time, and we'll still visit him, but just less frequently. He has a testimony though, and he knows the Book of Mormon is true. We're keeping him in our prayers, but we didn't feel like we can consider him as progressing anymore at this point.

The other investigator, Irina, is kind of in the same situation. Her mother is very protive and won't let us come to their house or call. Irina is somewhat handicapped and is dependant on her mother to get her to and fro places. So, if her mother is protive, than it makes it really hard for us to meet with her. She also has a testimony, but when we last alked to her, she said she didn't want to meet with us anymore. I think it had something to do with her Mom, but she said it was another problem. We know we aren't supposed to tell people to go against the wishes of their parents, spouses or anything, so we're trying not to create any contention with her or Vladislav. We're going to try and drop-off cookies, write letters, but it looks like we'll need to give them some time before we try and meet with her again.

Our new apartment is nice, too nice! I feel like I'm missing out on the Russian experience a little! Sister Hanks and I are trying to feel grateful instead of guilty for having such a nice place to live. It took only 10 minutes to get to Church on Sunday, so it feels really good to be so close to everything and live in our area. Everything works too!

Sister Hanks and I are doing well. I think we have a pretty good relationship. We don't always view the work the same way, but there is never any contention or anything. We always work things out because we both have the same desires in the end, to serve the Lord. I am grateful for her fire and I only hope I am keeping up. I'm sure I'm not keeping up as much as she wishes I would, which I feel bad about, but I'm really trying! The funny thing is though, is that I sometimes find myself thinking that I don't think anyone would be able to keep up with her! Maybe I'm wrong, but either way, it can't be a bad thing for the mission. So, these are all happy problems really.

I've been studying faith a lot, and I've realized how far I have to go, and the only real way to strengthen your faith is to act on it. We've been trying to stand-up on busses and contact the whole bus at once. To be honest, that kind of thing is really uncomfortable for me, but I'm just trying to do it, because I know it will increase my faith. I think I can also be really hard on myself at times, so the Atonement has started to become a much more personal thing. I love Ether 12:27 and how our weaknesses really our blessings, becasue they teach us to rely on the Lord. I think I've really needed to be humbled on my mission, because I keep finding new weaknesses! I guess the closer you get to the Lord, your ealize how much farther you have to go. I am so grateful for Him. Really. I don't think I could ever stop working hard as a missionary because I love Him too much. I couldn't let Him down.

Well, this didn't turn out as brief as I thought, but I gotta run!

Thanks for all you do President,

Sister Hakes

May 24th

ello to my dearest family,
Well, last week in Ekat was amazing! Especially yesterday. I think after all of the adjustments I've had to make lately, I'm starting to finally feel back in the swing of things. When I talked to you all at Mother's Day, I think I was going through maybe one of my toughest times on my mission. So, if you felt worried about me afterwards, please don't. For whatever reason, I had a lot of uncomfortable things happening at the same time. But, all is well and the work is definitely progressing!
Yesterday, Sunday, was a miraculous day, really. We had our Stake Conference here in Ekat and all of the members came. Well, all of the active ones. I would say that there were maybe 120 people there, which is about the typical if not smaller ward size in the US. For me though, it was so amazing to see all the members gathered together. I felt an overwhelming sense of love for the people, and how it is so so so so important to serve the people where you live. I made a committment to go home after my mission and continue to be a servant of the Lord. You don't have to have a nametag on to be a missionary. I think before my mission, I always wondered what I could do to serve other people, like I didn't really know where to start beyond Visiting Teaching. Lately I've just realized that you really do effect people's lives so much more than you can known through just very small and simple acts of service. Really. Like, if you have an extra hour with nothing to do, making cookies for a less-active or neighbor or someone can lift the other person. So simple, but so powerful. Our Mission President got up and spoke at Conference, and was super bold with the members. He pretty much said what a lot of us missionaries have been feeling, which is that the members need to start stepping it up here in Russia. He said that while there were a lot of people at the meeting yesterday, there are probably 5 or 6 times as many members who weren't there, that could be there if they felt the support and love of the members. He committed every person there to think of one person they know that they can reach out to (just like President Monson always encourages us to do), and he also encouraged every member to prayerfully select one thing that they can give to the Lord, one small sacrifice or sin that we perpetually hold on to. I want to be the kind of member when I go home, that the missionaries can feel they can call and ask to come on lessons with them, or that you are willing to pick someone up for Church for them on Sunday. Those little things make such a huge difference in the missionary work. President Uchtdorf, when he went to Moscow last year, told the members that there will be a temple built in Moscow. So, that promise has already been given. However, our Mission President talked about how soon the Temple will be built is dependant upon the members. The Lord is waiting to bless his people, we just need to be worthy and ready for the blessings he is wanting to grant. My point in telling you all this, is htat the work needing to be done in the Church is the same here in Russia as it is in Las Cruces, Carlsbad, Georgia, Burelson, etc. I know you are all great, solid members of the Church, and I am glad those cities have you there to serve the people. You are all such great examples, and I don't think I fully appreciated all of my family's service until I came out here to Russia. Thanks.
Also, yesterday, we found a new girl that is interested in the Church, named Natalia. We met a different girl named Natalia on the street Saturday, and told her we'd love to drop-by and give her a Book of Mormon, she agreed and gave us her address. Anyways, we finally find her house (we had to go over a litle man made bridge across the river-- so beautiful, looked like Hawaii my comp said) and it turns out she doesn't even live there, but a different Natalia does, weird or what?! She says she loves to read and was really happy to get the book (we had written our testimony on the inside to Natalia so it worked out perfect). Anyways, we will be going with her to Church next Sunday, she said we can pick her up. Also, we ran into a really sweet babooshka and decided to drop by her house, and we were able to teach her, her daughter and her son-in-law. Her son-in-law is amazing and has a great light. He is religious on his own, but doesn't go to the Russian Orthodox Church. When we prayed at the close of our very spiritual lesson, he just kept his eyes closed once the prayer ended and you could tell he really was praying to God and pondering our message. Problem is, his wife is a little hardened. She doesn't really want us to come back, but the babooshka and husband do, so we'll figure some way to get back in there.... My companion and I working really well together now. We have a very strong feeling that we will see a lot of success together. Not sure why, but we both sense something special in our area is about to happen. In fact, the whole mission is talking about how everyone feels like the work here is about to explode. Like, we're right on the edge of the work finally taking off here in Russia. So, we're all trying to crack down, and really give all we have to the Lord, so we will be wothy of any task he asks us to perform. We all feel kind of like soldiers before the big battle. Our MIssion President believes that once the work takes off here, Russia will be like the new Brazil of our day. We'll see! I really just feel grateful to be a part of it. Like, I am really meant to be here doing this thing. I'm not sure why, but I just feel inside of me that it is right that I am here right now. The Lord needs me here for whatever reason. And I feel really grateful to be here.
Anyways, this week we were also asked if we were Nazi's, if we were in some sort of trance (becasue we were smiling too much), and a devout Russian Orthodox babooshka casted the devil out of us. Haha it was really fun. I also got hugged by a grandpa, and proposed to three times. Ooops! Russia is full of life in the summer and it is just gorgeous. So green. It's like a completely different place. I can't believe it used to be just covered in snow, it seems so tropical now.
Anyways, that is so cool about Todd Horton. Let me know how that goes. Oh, and I've asked for Victoria's address like 4 times now, does anybody have that?? HAPPY ANIVERSARY Mom and Dad!!! 35 years of comedy, joy, disaster, service, babies, love, and each other. Way to be : ) You look great in your picture! Meesa and Colin, congrats on the 1 year mark! Your dates sounded so fun. You'll find a job soon, don't stress about it. Who wouldn't want to hire you? Think about it that way and you'll get the job you want. Is there an Olive Garden in Cruces now? Huh..... And Bear, don't stay sick long! Tinkles the tea cup will be lonely without you! (Thanks for the heads up on your new inside jokes, oh how I miss you). CAssi and Kelly, I hope you make it safe to Georgia, too bad Kelly didn't take his self-defense class before you set out on your trip haha.. That is so cool you'll be in Macom, like to kill a mockingbird! The Ward is so lucky to have you there. Send me a picture of your house! Cami, I can just picture Lucas looking all content on a tractor, haha that just cracks me up. Way to raise the Future Farmers of America : ) And, you are my hero for doing a triathalon! So hard core. We should do something like that together when I come home. Best of luck to everyone else!
P.S. I had a weird dream about Tasha last night haha, really funny. Say hi to her for me!
Sister Hakes
птица (bird)
кошечка (little kittie)

May 17th

Ahh.... I only have 15 minutes left of my internet time! Sorry. I had a lot of other business I had to take care of today at internet and I only get an hour and a half.
First of all, it is crazy opening up a new area, training, and not having an apartment. We thought we were just going to remodel the old one, but we officially are going to buy a new one. So, that should take a little while longer. We are currently staying with other sisters in a different area. It can be a 1-2 hour commute to get to where we need to be, so that is another fun hiccup. Wow, so much family news! The Suns beat the Spurs! In 5 games! Cool. Carrie is now a sugar-mama (Olympics? Anyone?), Troy looks like a toddler (Josh thanks for your email : ) ), Cassi still doesn't look pregnant to me : ), the good old MHS Orchestra is going to London, HB is keeping everyone busy and successful, and Mom and Dad are busy and entertaining to read and hear about as usual. Love you all.
As for me, what to say? We had a great lesson Sunday night with a reffered friend from an active member here in Ekat. It felt really great. She has four really successful kids and a really happy, healthy life. She keeps all the commandments, but doesn't have any doctrine to know why it is she should be living the way she is. Her name is Ra-ee-sa. We had planned to teach her the First Lesson, becasue it was our first lesson with her, but for some reason I couldn't get the Plan of Slavation out of my head. So, we start talking about the Plan of Salvation, and it turns out her husband passed away a year ago, and neither of us had known this. Her member friend that was on the lesson with us, her husban had passed away 15 years ago from a brain tumor. They were sealed in the Temple before he passed away, so his passing, though tragic, was really healed by the Atonement. She was able to share this experience with Raeesa, and she seemed very touched. She also seemed very interested in the BOM, and promised to read it. We have a meeting scheduled with her again, so I'll let you know how it goes. Those kinds of lessons make all the other hard things you do worth it. Maybe it's a little like motherhood?
We are trying to get into people's homes, but we're kind of starting from scratch in our area here, so we've been packing lunches and working all day on the streets mostly talking with people. We've found some good contacts and four new investigators. The hard part about finding people is that you have to start getting them progressing in the Gospel or they seem to drop off the map. So, we go through a sifting process with them and try to find those who are really prepared.
The Church is so true, and if people really understood what it was that we are offering to them, than I think we'd have people lining up outside our door. The Atonement is so amazing. It all comes back to the Atonement, and how sweet a gift it really is that our Savior loves each of us, and that he knows each of us by name. I think when we let those concepts sink deep down into our soul, then we can't help but want to change our lives. We want to know Him better, and to become like he is. I just wish everyone could understand that like we have all been blessed to understand that. The Atonement is real. You don't have to commit a big sin to understand it's powerful influence, but you can feel it just by praying to our loving Heavenly Father. He loves us.
Anyways, gotta run, love you all.
Sister Hakes

May 10th

Hi Family!
Hope you all had an amazing Mother's Day! There are so many mothers in our family these days, how cool. I really don't know what to write you all, seeing how I just talked to you all yesterday. So, I'll try to think of some things...
Um, my companion is from Maui, just so you now know Mom : ) She says you probably went on Front Street in Lahaina? Or maybe you saw Maui Ocean Center? Those are I guess some pretty places and common tourist attractions, sound familiar? I also emailed President about whether or not you could pick me up from my mission, so he should hopefully write me back this week and I'll let you know soon. Dad, do we have relatives in Idaho? My comp has a Hakes family in her Ward, Dennis Hakes? He is supposedly from Texas and invented some sort of udder/tit cleaner? Haha I hope we're related. That be a cool family claim, tit cleaner (for cows).
Anyways, we had a grreaattt! week in terms of the service here. We finally got to know some of our investigators here in our Area. Actually, there are only like four investigators we inhereited here that are progressing, so it should be interesting... We kind of inhereited a little bit of a mess, like I said over the phone yesterday. The Area Book is kind of out of shape, and our apartment is kind of destroyed, so, at the moment, we can't even live in our area. We get a lot of time to contact on the way into our Area, but it's not the same somehow.
We met with an eternal investigator named Vladislav. He's met with the missionaries for some three years now, and had his first baptizmal date in January, but that fell through. He is a very nice older man, and believes the Church is true, but his wife is Russian Orthodox and is very anti. He said they were married in the Russian Orthodox temple, and that if he gets baptized Mormon, than that marriage becomes invalid. I don't know if that is really true, we need to do our research on that still. He has a testimony, but my companion and I are trying to figure out what doctrine exactly he is not understanding, because, if he were understanding true doctrine, then he would be willing to get baptized regardless. We're not sure how much time we're wanting to spend on him yet. We'll see. We baked his wife cookies and brought a really sweet member couple with us on our last lesson. I think that softened her a little, but she is definitely not the friendliest.
We found five new investigators last week, woohoo! Three of them we actually think our gypsies haha... Two of them are male, and they actually proposed to about three or four times we were with them. I'm not sure we'll be meeting with them again, we'll most likely pass them off to the Elders haha.
We found a girl named Nastia, she works on the weekends just outside our apartment giving kids horse rides. My comp loves horses, so we started a conversation with her and ended up teaching her a lesson on the street. We then met with her again this week and taught her another lesson. She is a very sweet girl. She smokes, and lives with a man she's not married to, but that is rather normal here in Russia. She seems to have a little light about her, so I only hope she will make the time for us to teach her a lesson that is not on the street. She says she works 24/7.
We found a boy named Ivan. He is 18 and was taking his nephew to some sort of sport class right next to our Church when we stopped and talked to him. He seemed very interested at first and my comp and I were just so excited. We met with him one other time, but then for our second lesson, he didn't show-up. His phone has been shut-off since then too, so we can't seem to get a hold of him. We had invited a member with us to be on the lesson with him, but becasue he didn't show, we ended-up teaching her instead. It was an amazing lesson. Really. I had kind of been having a lower week for whatever reason, didn't really do or say anything about it, but I just wasn't really feeling a lot of joy, but this lesson was as much for me as it was for her. She is an active member, and she says she just feels like the standard in the Church is so high sometimes, so she doesn't ever feel acceptable or good enough. I've really noticed that women all over the world struggle with this feeling of insecurity with themselves. It's so sad and it seems that Satan really knows how to get Heavenly Father's daughters to feel down. She is abeautiful, sharitable woman though. Her husband left her when she joined the Church, and had raised her daughter on her own. Her daughter is awesome too. She is actually a RM and served her mission in Hawaii, which is crazy becasue it is really rare for Russians to go foreign speaking. Anyways, we just talked about the love of God, and I had kind of discovered something this past week, that the true measure of success is in Moroni 7 the last few verses about charity. Really, charity is a gift we can be given from Gos if we ask for it. And, we are given it, we begin to become like Him, which is the ultimate goal.
Gotta run, out of time! LOVE YOU ALL!!!!
Sister Hakes

May 3rd

I'm in екатеринбург!! (Yekaterinburg)
Yes, I have arrived to my knew area called Botanika because it is full of parks and gardens. Really, my new area is so nice. It feels like a different country. Yekat is a bigger city, and we're in a nice part of the city, so everything seems rather nice. In fact, Russia now seems pretty nice to me in general. Maybe it was culture shock that made me think it was so gross at first, or maybe I'm just used to it now. But, anyways, I like it here and I think you would too! Really, when you mentioned picking me up here from my mission I got soo excited! I would love for you all to see it here. Mom, don't worry about any danger, I feel perfectly safe here, and you'll be with me, and I'm protected by the Lord, so we're all safe! I hope my Mission President would fly for that kind of a thing. I'd love for you to meet him too. Keep pondering over it!
Things are kind of crazy here right now. We went to Finland last Mon at 3 Am and got back to Chili on Tuesday at 5 AM. We were awake for more than 24 hours becasue we didn't ever have a long flight, just lots of little ones, so we never had time to sleep on the plane. We flew from Chili to Moscow, Moscow to Helsinki. So that makes 6 flights ina 26 hour time period. We got home and wanted to sleep, but we had to go pick-up people at the bus stop and reregister with the city, etc. I then left Chelyabinsk early Thursday morning and have since been here in Yekat. The Elders whose area we are taking over kind of left us a big mess. The aprtment is trashed, we're not even living there right now. When our Mission President saw the state of our apartment, he said we couldn't live there, but they needed to do a remodel. So, the remodel should end sometime next weekish and then we can actually live in our Area. Yay! It's hard to commute into your area everyday, especially becasue time is so precious. But, we've been contacting a lot on transport and getting lots of new contacts. Lots. My new companion is full of that greenie-fire. She is so motivated and amazing! Really, she has no fear, and by the time we get off the bus, the whole bus says goodbye to us pretty much, becasue she just makes friends with everyone and talks with eveyone. I really hope she never burns out, ever. And I hope she doesn't get jaded by the work either. I was discourged by how slowly things progressed when I first got here, but I hope that doesn't get her down. I love her fire and it motivates me too. We're definitely working hard and she is determined to baptize everyone. She is pretty much my amazing : ) I care for her a lot. She's only about 4'11 and is from Hawaii actually, but her family lives in Idaho now. She does those Anasazi hikes out in the desert with troubled youth for her living, and is a real wilderness girl. Very hard core. We go running in the morning and she pretty much sprints the whole time haha. She is 24. I'll try and send you a picture soon...
We have Zone Conference tomorrow with our Area President, President Paal and his wife. I have been asked by our Mission President to give a small success story talk, and I'm doing a musical number. Chelyabinsk missionaries will be coming in for this too and so my old and new zone will be together. I am so excited to see everyone and to be uplifted spiritually. This also means that it will be another unusual day. I wish we could just have a normal working day in the field. I don't know any of our investigators yet! I'm starting to stress and I wish I could just know my area, the people, and the city. But, I guess that is the big task at hand right now.
Oh my gosh, I am so glad my family is good at showing a sense of humor through letters. I too cried when I read about the Ken doll comparison. Were the flip-flops as good as the Eyore slippers you got for Christmas? Sounds like Hawaii was a blast. Sounds like real life has kicked back in with 31 interviews (wow!) and lots of tasks for Mom too. Enjoy it all! Pictures anyone?
Cassi and Kelly, must say that Daphne was a surprise, but I've said the name over a couple times in my head and you're right, it is really cute and it totally fits. YOU HAVE A BABY BUMP! Yes, the picture worked. And, just so you know, you're bump is very tiny. Just to ease any of your worries, my Zone Leader sitting next to me saw your picture and was like, "that's not a baby bump! I'll show you a baby bump." And then he showed me a picture of his very pregnant sister. So, no need to worry. You're figure will endure and nothing is more beautiful than the glow of motherhood. Thanks for the letter. And, you're moving to Georgia! Does that ever flash through your mind and you have a momentarily freak-out? Yeah, that still happens to me here in Russia. What I'm in Russia?!
Carrie, congrats on being an MSW! You're my hero. You really did it. I hope the job pans out for you there in Las Cruces. How is it having Meesa at home with you? I hope you don't forget to say bird still when you chant "bears and pigs and bears and BIRDS" etc. I'm there in heart.
Meesa, what are your plans for this summer? Do you know where you'll be working yet?
Chris, thanks you so much for your letter. I could totally relate to your story of riding the bus to your new area. I felt the exact same way. My heart kind of sank when the bus stopped. It's hard about the mission that you continually start over, new places and callings, etc. But I guess that is what makes you grow. Sounds like the kids are just adorable! Really, I am really sad I haven't been able to see them yet. All in good time!
Love you all,
Sister Hakes
P.S. I almost forgot! I get to call you for Mother's Day! I'll call you your Sunday night (mother's Day evening). I wish I had thought of this sooner and could have planned a time and details, etc. I hope that works for you all and so I'll probably just call Mom or Dad's cell phone. Somewhere between 6 PM and 9 PM I will give you a ring. Talk to you soon! Hope that'll work out : )

April 26th

Hi Family,
I am writing this from the Finnish Temple hostel. Only have time to drop a quick line and say...
I am leaving Chelyabinsk this transfer and moving to Yekaterinburg. Found out on Thursday. Even crazier, I will be TRAINING! She is an American by the name of Sister Hanks. Yes, Hakes and Hanks. We will also be opening a NEW AREA for Sisters, so we will be white washing, which means we will both be new to the area. We will be all by ourselves in the Branch called Botanica, without Elders or any other missionaries which will be weird I am sure. We even do our own English Club. So, I will be in Ekat, but kind of seperated from the rest of our Zone. Fill you in more later. Basically, I donät know how the stakes always seemed to be raised and the challenge of my assignment gets more and more difficult.... training?? Haha. After being put Senior Companion my third transfer with another American, I did not think things could get much harder, but now that seems like nothing compared to my new assignment in Ekat. Oddly enough though, I am much less worried about this one. I have really just learned that things always work out when you are doing the work of the Lord. My Mission President said that I have shown him enough faith during my last two transfers that he felt confident giving me this assignment. I know I will be humbled al ot. My Russian isnt good enough yet to ever feel confident about doing anything, especially not training. But, I guess that is why my confidence should be placed on the Lord and not myself.
Anyways, there is one computer here in Finland, and six other missionaries. So I gotta go... Love you all and please keep me in your prayers. And my little Trainee. I really want her to have an amzing first transfer here in Russia. Lots of responsibility! Dont really know if I am excited, but you know me, I always like a new challenge.
Love you all and wished I had more time. Have fun in Hawaii. Carrie, dont swear too much before finals are over. Kimball, have fun with the elderly haha. Meesa, keep up the missionary work, you are awesome! Cassi, dont stress about the lack of letters haha. I understand.
Sister Hakes