Sunday, October 31, 2010

October 25

Hi Family!
Sounds like all is well back home, and that makes me happy : )
Well, this past week was... somewhat interesting, but good. We got back to Russia on Thursday early morning, and much of that day was spent meeting-up with Sister Muhlestein again and getting registered, and then we had an obligation at a Ward party, and then it was suddenly Friday! Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were good, though we locked ourselves out of our apartment Saturday night. I'll just tell you the story. We got back to our apartment saturday eveing at 8:30 and had a little time extra, so we decided to go downstairs to this little store and buy ice cream for an investigator that we were meeting with on Sunday, and we didn't want to buy ice cream on Sunday, obviously. Anyways, we grab what we needed: money, cell phone, and keys. We buy the ice cream bar really fast, and come back to our apartment building like 10 later, and I went to pull the keys out of my pocket, and I realized that I had grabbed the keys to the Church buiulding, and not to the apartment. Yay for me! We were officially locked out with out anything, not backpacks or anything like a passport for comfort (Russians keep their passports on them at all times and we're expected to too). We got some help from a lady that works at the building office, and she she called a locksmith for us, but that is way expensive, and they sometimes break your lock completely so you have to get a new lock etc. So, we opted for sleeping at the Sisters house in Center, and tried to get in touch with our landlord the next morning. He has a set of keys, but his phone was switched off all evening so we couldn't get in touch with him. My poor companion. It was her first Sunday, and we both showed-up to Church in dirty clothes, no make-up, wet hair, and nothing like a planner or anything. It was not ideal. So, I was trying to have a good attitude. We get to Church, and I realized how much responsibility I have there. It was kind of sobering. I love the people and I love serving them (a lot), but I just saw so much need, especially because we hadn't been there last week for Church (Finland). It seemed like everybody was needing our help or going through a difficult time, and here I am struggling myself. I thought to myself that it would be nice if somebody served me for once, and then I realized that that was a very selffish thought. I decided to just go to work, and stop pitying myself. It helped, of course, and I ended-up feeling fine by the end of Sacrament. I just hope that after my mission I can remember to serve others when I am not having the best of days. It really is the best medicine. I am scared to go home and have no one but myself to worry about. It is frightening, but I know that there are lots of people out there that need help, definitely not just in Russia. I'm going to try and commit my life to service. It makes me happy.
Oh and yes, we got into our apartment Sunday at about 4. So, no worries, our landlord helped us : )
Botanika is doing good! There are a lot of people that are needing support right now, but I know by the end of this week, everything will feel normal again. Vladislav came to Church and had a great time. He went to the new member class, and he was very engaged and asked a lot of good questions. We talked to him about prayer again this past week, and he still doesn't know if God really loves him. That seems to be the root of all his problems. And most of the time, that is really the root of all problems. We asked him if he sees God's hand in his life, and in what ways has he felt blessings from God. He didn't know what to say. I don't think he is accustomed to looking at the glass half full. So, we committed him to say only thank-you prayers for a day and see if he will feel God's love for him more. We both felt good about that, and I hope it will help.
Lena has asked Brother Glagolev (the Russian Senior couple) to baptize her, and she is doing so great! She was the highlight of my week. At first, we were somewhat frustrated because she decided to stay out all night Saturday and go to the Discotek instead of Church. Sad : ( We were planning on being rather stern with her when we met Sunday night, and I think she sensed that from us and started to act a little defensive. Instead of acting like mean parents, Sister Muhlestin and I decided to sing a hymn to her. We sang Nearer My God To Thee and we asked her in what ways she feels like she could be nearer to God, that way she could come-up with her own answers. She said a lot of good things, and recognized how important the little things are to keeping your testimony strong. We read the Baptizmal questions to her, to see if she was ready to start living like a member now, and she recognized that she needs to come to Church every Sunday, and that even a little sin here and a little sin there isn't going to work. We promised her that if she did the "small and simple things" every day and every week, she would maintain her testimony and not fall inactive, since that is one of her fears. She agreed and committed to do better. And she will. She always keeps her committments, and she really is converted. You can sense that. The best part of all though, is that she feels ready to be baptized! She answered yes to that question, and I really do agree. She is ready! Yay!!
Sister Muhlestein is great. We are having a great time together and I can't wait to get to know her better. She had a really great time serving with Sister Zaitseva in ZhBE last week while I was in Finland, and she got to see a lot of little miracles there. I am happy for that, and that she has a great attitude. Seeing that this week will be normal, we should have a great time!
Love, Sister Hakes
P.S. the thought of Sufjan Stevens dancing in a neon visor makes me happy. Sister Muhlestein likes him too, and we listened to the CD carrie gave me last year for christmas together. haha thanks bear!
i haven't yet received the surprise third package yet, but probably this week mom. thanks, yo're the best. maybe i'll wear the zebra-stripped headband off the airplane or something haha... it was so thoughtful of you. thanks for you letter this week. yes, it was very nice to hear from you : )

October 18

Hi Family!
How is life in sunny Las Cruces! Sorry, I haven´t yet figured out how to do a question mark on the finnish keyboard, or an apostrophe.....
Yay to Emily Marie Hakes! What a beautiful name. I dont think I have seen her picture yet. If any one gets a chance, I would love to see what she looks like. I am glad all is well with Joe and Katie. Sounds like they have their hands full! They are amazing. Dad, thanks for the pictures you send me from your cell phone. Nathan and Hailey look all grown up! Hailey is Melissa´s twin, they look so similar! And Nathan still looks like Joe too. Both adorable. I am sorry to Dad and the boys that football is in the pits this year. That is pretty sad BYU only had 1 first down at the game. Sorry! But, sounds like it was a fun experience to be together as a family-.Jaxon is 50 pounds! That is insane! Wow.
Mom, I got the second package! It has another headband in it haha! You are so cute. It was all zebra stripped. I loved it. I haven´t received package number three yet, but I´ll keep an eye out for it. I have no idea what inspired so many packages all of a sudden. I won´t complain, but a BIG thank you! You´re too good to me.
Mom and Dad, you need to serve on a mission! We got up this morning at 6:30 like usual, but here at the Temple Hostel, nobody was up yet. It´s just Sister Schill and I at the hostel, along with the Temple President and the Senior Couples who are serving here. We came down stairs to study this morning, and at about 7 AM, and a group of the senior couples came down the stairs together. Monday the Temple is closed, and it is their P-Day tradition to go swimming/exercise together. Their is a pool 10 minutes from the hostel. They all seemed like such dear friends, even though one couple was Finnish, one Russian, and one from Idaho. They could barely communicate, but they all just had the best time together. It was so fun to see. I thought to myself, Mom and Dad would just love their mission. Haha, that´s my story : )
Well, this week we had Training for my new companion at the Mission Presidentäs home for two days, and then I left for Finland. Iäm stressing that Botanika is being left alone a whole week almost. Ahh! We tried to get as much done as we could, but travel in our mission just takes so much of our time.
We did meet with Lena, and she has agreed to be baptized November 20th, yay!! While she is still somewhat nervous, she knows that she is going to do it sooner or later, and finally agreed on setting a more official date. She is so ready. We had an FHE with her at a less actives home and some active members came too, and she told all of them about some persecution her friends have been giving her because she is meeting with us. She hadn´t mentioned persecution to us before, so it was news to us. She said that when she went home last weekend for her Grandmother´s 80th birthday party, that she met up with three of her closest friends from childhood and that they all started telling her that she was insane for listening to Mormons. She was super shocked she said by their reaction and hadn´t expected it, especially from them. After a good 20 minutes of their ranting, she said that she excused herself to go to the bathroom to try and clear her mind. There, she said she thought to herself, ´´maybe I am crazy?´´ and that I have just been persuaded by these people. She said that as she thought this, she remembered us, her missionaries, Zhenya, Uri Popov, the Kaigorodavi girls, the President Rasband Conference, the blessing Elder Glagolev gave her, the first time she went to Church, and all the other times she has felt the Spirit, and she said that she knew. She knew she wasn´t crazy. She knew that the feelings and experiences she has had were real, and that she couldn´t deny the Spirit she has felt with us. So, there in the bathroom, she said a little prayer and asked Heavenly Father for the strength she needed. She said she instantly felt peace, and that she went back out to her friends smiling. She felt calm the rest of the night, and that, even though they were still saying things to her, she didn´t care and didn´t have a desire to argue back. She is amazing. Even though we are here in Finland, she went to Church by herself yesterday, and said she really enjoyed it. We are going to have Sister Zaitseva and Sister Muhlestein meet with her while I am here in Finland. I feel like, among other things, she is the reason I came on my mission. She has made the biggest influence on my life, and the privelege of seeing her testimony grow, and her devotion to the Savior grow is so amazing. I love her.
Sister Muhlestein and I also ran after training to a meeting with Vladislav, the eternal investigator that has started progressing again. The lesson went pretty well and the Glagolevi´s helped. Sister Muhlestin and I both had the impression after the lesson that he is scared to recieve his answer that the Book of Mormon is true, because that would then require him to act. His wife is not really protive, but she doesn´t want her husband to get baptized until she has seen a convincing change in him, and that she really sees it is what he truly believes. As for right now, he believes in it, but he prefers to stay in this gray zone, where he can keep us happy somewhat happy by just reading the Book of Mormon, and he keeps her happy by not getting baptized or quitting smoking. He has a desire to come to Church every Sunday now, and before he didn´t. And, he has started quitting coffee on his own. He has some real intent, but he is scared to commit 100% percent. So, we´ll keep working with him, but the real changes he is needing to make he hasn´t quite committed to yet.
Sister Muhlestein is great. I don´t know too much about her, but I´ll tell you what I know (we´ve only been together two days). She is from Pasadena, CA and comes from a family of five... a set of twins and a set of triplets (she has a twin). Her parents are both lawyers, and she is a molecular and cellular biology major. She plays the violin like I do, which is really cool. We need to do a duet! She is like Sister Hanks in that she has no fear in talking with people on the street or in lessons. So, that is very ideal. We had that planning session together, and it seems she has all the right desires, and is really wanting to do her best for the Lord. She seems intent on making this experience the best experience it can possibly be. Me and her seem to have a lot in common, but I always feel like I have a lot in common with my companions, don´t know why that is. She will be a pleasure to work with I´m sure. She seemed a little sad to be in a different area this week and with a different companion, and I don´t blame her. It´s not very ideal for either of us. I also really enjoyed training this last time through. I always do, but we focused on companionships. It has kind of set the tone for Sister Muhlestein and I, and I can tell we are going to have a good experience working together.
Hello from Helsinki, and hope all is well with you!
Sister Hakes
P.S. Say hi to Andrea for me!
P.S.S. Mom, are you still forwarding my weekly emails to Sister Valgardson. I think she is wanting to get them every week if that´s not too much of a hassel for you. A Sister from our mission, Sister Tara Jenson, just got sent home from her mission last week. I gave her your phone number to call you so you can ask her any questions if you want. We got to know eachother pretty good, and she is so great. Here is her number too if you want to call her, I told her you might. It is- 801-943-5655. Give her a call and she can give you more details on what life is like here in Ekat if you´re interested. Love you!

October 11

Happy Monday!
Dad, I love that the Subject of your email was 10-10-10, and it makes me happy to know that that is now the third time you have written about the same date. I love your quirks and I miss them too. I appreciated the heads-up on the date, and told my companion, so we both remembered to write in our Journal that day and have an entry on that day.
Mom, I got your package! The one with the headbands in it! It was so nice and so unexpectedly nice I didn't know what to do with it! I wore one of the headbands yesterday already haha. Thanks a billion from you and all of the girls who helped put it together. I don't know how to thank you back enough. I love you so much!
Mom and Dad, I think I told you that I asked my Mission President about you wanting to pick me up, and he sent me an email with an excerpt from his handbook, which discouraged family members from picking-up their missionaries. Which, coming from my Mission President, pretty much means that he wouldn't prefer it. So, with that, and the fact that we want to save some money, I think it is best that you don't worry about coming out here : ) Of course, I'd love to have you out here, but it isn't necessary. It is enough to know that the two of you are willing to trek out here in the middle of winter just to see where I've been. You are the best parents. I love you both so much. Well, it seems that my come home date is February 3rd. I didn't want to say anything, because it could potenitally change, but I think you could plan on that date for now. I thought I might have to pick between February and March, but now it seems like I won't have to. The Visa stuff is so fun to plan around! ; ) Sorry to confuse you, but plan on February.
Speaking of Visa stuff, I am due for another Visa Trip. I'll leave to Finland Sunday, and instead of making the 24 hour trip, I am going to be stranded in Finland until the following Thursday. Maybe at the beginning of my mission I would have been more excited about that, but now I just feel kind of stressed. It's like leaving the Office for a week and coming back and putting-out all of the fires, especially because this past week we had Conference, Leadership Training again, and some other cleaning, end of Transfer things. But, I'm not gonna lie, the prospect of going to the Temple, a nap, and maybe even getting to go for a run is really exciting! It'll be just Sister Schill and I, and we're calling it our "Spiritual Spa" because we're not allowed to leave the Hostel. We'll see... but I'll write you next week from there : )
Colin, that is so exciting that you get to go through the Temple! Wow, are you going to go through in Albuquerque? I'm sure that would be such a treat for Elder Bear to go through with him. One word of advice, don't fast the day of, but maybe the day before or something. Remember Mom, Dad, Josh, and Kimball? I thought I was going to pass out haha. That was such a special day for me. One of the highlights of my entire life I think.
Ok, yes we did get a little tranfer again, but......................
I'm staying in Botanika! Yay!! I think I'll even get to see Lena get baptised!!!! I was so happy when I found out. When I got here to Botanika, it just immediately felt right, and I had a feeling it would be the heart of my mission. It has. So, I get to be here another six weeks and then we'll see. I've only been two areas my whole mission, that is kind of rare here, so I feel lucky. Sister Schill will be leaving me though which is sad. She's going to a different area of Ekat though, so I will still see her around. My new companion is going to be........................
Sister Muhlestein! She is another greenie! Haha, yes, I am training again. She is actually the girl that Andrea knows from Harvard. She'll probably already know more Russian than me : ) I am super excited though. Botanika is such a cool first area for these greenies, mine wasn't as interesting to be honest, but I grew to love it just as much : )
Ok, now to the real stuff. Lena is doing well! She got a blessing from Elder Glagolev, and it was amazing. Elder Glagolev is a real hoot, funny guy. And he can kind of say some off-the-wall kind of things. He has a crazy past before he found the Church in Russia, and he likes to talk about his past a lot on meetings haha, so it can sometimes be an uncomfortable situation, but all the Russian people love him because he is just... lovable. Before the blessing, he was being his normal self, and my companion and I were kind of squirming, but the minute he started the blessing, and laid his hands on Lena's head, he changed. It was seriously a different Elder Glagolev. He seemed to know exactly what her needs were. He told her to not fear, but to move forward, to act out of faith and just believe, to have a solid testimony of the Book of Mormon, and to get baptised. The Spirit was so strong, and Lena, after the blessing just seemed so shocked. She didn't anticipate that kind of power. Elder Glagolev went back to being his usual self, and it was a huge testimony to me of the power of the Priesthood. It really was the Lord talking, and not Elder Glagolev. By the way, you would all love him. He is such a hoot, he reminds a little of Grandpa McCuistion, only a little more crazy. Haha he's so fun. We asked Lena if she wanted to move-up her baptismal date, and she still declined. Man, I've been shut-down by her so many times haha! But, she always progresses in her own time. It's our joke now that someday I'll just kick her into the water when she's not looking. We have a really good relationship, and I think I'd consider coming back here to see her Temple marriage, which, I keep reminding her, will be in the Temple : )
I got to go to the Leadership Training meeting again! It was all day Wednesday and Thursday. Yes, just me, my companion, and all the Elders. It was so fun though. I love the Elders, and it is so amazing to see their growth. I really feel like we have the best Elders here. We learned a lot about how to be better teachers, and it was always refreshing to hear advice from our Mission President. We listened to a talk by President Holland about listening to the Spirit. He talked about how the key to a good missionary, is a that he or she is a good companion. He talked about the "Divine Companionship," which is where the companionship ceases to be a duo and becomes a trio, with the Holy Ghost as the Senior companion. It made me think about how it's probably a lot the same in marriage, that you put your pride away, and try and follow what the Lord wants from you. He said that it is more important to make your companion successful than to make yourself shine. He also said that the Spirit will not testify of superficialtiy, and that if aren't sincere as a missionary, you won't be able to convert others. If we're just worried about statistics, etc, and not really the investigators as people, then you are not successful. Very true. I liked his comments a lot.
Friday, we had a great meeting with Vladislav. He is the eternal investigator that once quit smoking, has since started again, and His wife is against the Church. But, he has started progressing again. After listening to Elder Holland's talk, I decided to really focus on Vladislav and what he is needing. Our committment for the lessonw as to get him to come to Conference, which is a big deal for him. He hasn't come to Church yet, and keeps declining. During our lesson, I just realized how strong a testimony I had of Conference, and just realized that I wanted him to know how much it meant to me, and that if he were to go, he would have a Mosiah 5:2 experience, where the people's desire to do evil was rooted out of them. He came on Sunday and really enjoyed it! We hadn't planned on saying a lot of the things we said in our lesson, but it really felt like the Spirit was guiding us to say what he was needing to hear. The Spirit is so key, and I felt like it was tlaked a lot about at Conference. I want to become better at listening to the Spirit now and for the rest of my life. Sometimes I get frustrated becasue I can be so hard-headed and I don't yeild to his promptings.
Volodia and Olga. We met with them again on Saturday, and it was so amazing! Olga, I'm still not super certain she is interested int he Gospel (yet : ) ), but Volodia has read all of 1 Nephi and parts of Alma, and the last parts of the book. He seems kind of skeptical, no, really skeptical about Joseph Smith, especially because he looked us up online and read some anti-stuff, but he is not ruling it out yet. I think a part of him is somewhat wanting to mock us because we're a weird religion, the other part of him really likes what he hears. For example, Olga asked if the Bible said anything about the Book of Mormon, and, instead of us answering, Volodia explained to her about the "other sheep I have" verse, and how the Book of Mormon answered his long-time question about who those other sheep were. It was so cool that he had figured that out for himself without us telling him! Also, he then asked us, "why would the Lord only visit people in Jerusalem and in America though, it seems unfair and unlikely that he would be so exclusive." We were like, "Wow, did he really just ask that?" And, we showed the scripture about how he went to other places that we know not of. Anyways, we invited them to Conference, but they didn't come. I couldn't fall asleep that night after the lesson, because I kept thinking about how Golden he was, and how we need to find a way to soften his heart. He is a student studying to be a Doctor, very smart kid.
Ummm.... We had so many miracles! We ran into our Branch President on the street last week talking with a Muslim man. First of all, I've never ran into my Branch President on the street before. Secondly, the Muslim man he was talking to, Bahktyior, was a man our Branch President had met in Kazhakstan when he was serving as Mission President there. Bahktyior had showed-up at the Branch in Kazhakstan because he was curious about what the Church was, and then he ran into him on the street in Ekat some 8 years later. And then, we run into the two of them on the street too! Not a coincidence. Bahktyior came to Conference yesterday, and we have a meeting with him tomorrow.
Ok, well, I love you all sooo much! Your letters are amazing. Mom, you are the best Mom in the whole wide world and I appreciate all you do for me. I can feel your prayers and love all the way over here on the other side of the world. We are all in debt to your selfless service.
Thanks to Dad, Hakes Brothers, Grandma, and Grandpa, Cassi and Kelly, and you countless others who helped support me on my mission financially and in other ways. The story President Holland told about how his parents didn't use any of his mission fund made me cry. I feel like I was equally supported by my family back home. I thought to myself, wow, I have that kind of family too! I have so much to be thankful for : )
From Conference, I loved Elder Christofferson, Holland, Monson, Edgley, Jensen, Costa, Scott, Oaks, and others. So, I guess pretty much everyone : ) I need to have more faith, respond to the Spirit more, and have more gratitude. It was amazing! Dad, good luck on preparing your Stake Conference talks. You will do amazing, as usual. Has anyone every told you you look like Elder Oaks before? I don't think I'm alone in this.... : )
Sister Hakes
wow. this letter is a novel, sorry!

October 4th

Hi Family!
I'll write some highlights from this past week, and then send you some pictures. Fall here is so gorgeous and we had an opportunity to go for a walk in a prak with an investigator and I took some pictures.
I can't wait to watch Conference next Sunday! It sounds like you all really enjoyed it! It really is the best holiday for a Missionary. It is so rejuvinating. We should get it in English this week, and watch it this coming weekend.
Anyways, Lena progressed so much this past week! She already knows and has decided she will get baptized. However, she is still putting it off, and Sister Schill and I have been trying to find out her concern. Well, last week at District Meeting, we were role playing how to listen to the Spirit and find concerns, perfect, no? I was pretended to be Lena, while another pair of Sisters extended to me the Baptizmal Commitment. As I was pretending to be her, and was putting myself in her shoes, I got the impression that maybe she is just scared? And so we started acting off of that angle. I had never thought she had fear about getting baptized, but as we were role playing it just became obvious. So, our next lesson with her, we talked about Faith versus fear, and at the end of the lesson, she opened-up to us that she is scared, just like we had role-played. It was really cool that even in practice settings like at District Mtg., the Spirit was able to teach us what she was needing. Anyways, she said that she was, one, scared that if she got baptized that she would get disappointed in the Members and the Church functions. She has heard a lot of bad things about the Church from friends, etc., and, though she sees nothing bad now, she is afraid in the future she'll get disenchanted with everything. Fear number two, she doesn't want to go inactive. She takes the whole committment very seriously, and she doesn't want to end up another person on the Ward list that doesn't come to Church, which is actually, a really great concern! Both of them are. She knows the Church is true and she wants to make sure she won't back out on anything after she gets baptized. How sweet! It just made me love her all the more. We reassured her though, and a member at the lesson suggessted a blessing, so she can let go of her fears. She really liked the idea, and this week we are going to have Elder Glagolev give her a blessing of comfort. Who knows, she could get baptized i a week or two! Problem is, we find out about transfers on Friday, and she'll be out of town this weekend, so if I leave, I probably won't get to see her baptizm : ( That's okay though.... as long as it happens! Um, she also came to a baptizmal service on Saturday for another girl named Lena, and she cried and she felt the Spirit when the girl was given the Holy Ghost on Sunday. So, Lena made so much progress this week! She is a very smart girl and doesn't want to think she is just "convincing" herself this is all true. But, every time she felt the Spirit this past week, I think she began to realize that it is real and that she really isn't making those feelings-up.
What else, that kid Volodia and Olga. We met with Olga, and it was great, she's still not really progressing, but just interested in hanging-out with Americans I think. However, Volodia is reading the Book of Mormon! He couldn't meet with us last week, but Olga said he really enjoyed our first meeting. So, we are super excited about him and will do all we can to meet with him this coming week.
Our two older less-actives are still active -- Brat Arkaidi and Raisa. They are doing so well and I can see how grateful the ward is to have them back. I consider Brat Arkaidi my Russian grandpa. He really is the nicest, most adorable, and hilarious old man I've met here in Russia. He wants to buy me new shoes becasue I discovered just yeterday when we were with him that the soles of both of my shoes are completely torn in half. Haha I had no idea! I'm trying to hold on to them a couple of weeks longer until I can put my winter boots back on.
We had some really great lessons with some active members and gave us some really promising refferrals, so that is exciting. The members here are so humble. I've really learned a lot from them and their testimonies. They don't worry about the little things, like if they drink caffeine or not, but they just really know that basic doctrines and live their lives accordingly. They know it is true, and that's all that matters.
Well, a lot of you did have dreams about me last week! Haha that was so fun to hear about them. Meesa, I can't wait to cuddle you too! At the beginning of my mission, I dreamt about people and places from home a lot. Now, when you all are in my dreams, it is super weird because you're mixed in with Russian people and places, and it is just really funny sometimes. I'll have to write them down and tell you about them later.
I've noticed this past week, that the times I feel most joy from my mission are at night when I am writing in my Journal. It is really cool to look back at the day and see all the has been accomplished and all the miracles. Since I've been on my mission a year now, I have started reading in my Mission Journal from a year ago, and have been reading lately about my experiences in the MTC: all of my fears about what the mission will be, if I can handle it, if I'll do a good enough job, etc. It is really amazing to see how everything has worked out so well, and that the Lord had a plan all along for me. He really did want me to come out here, and I really needed to, even though I didn't really want to at times. So much has happened and I have learned so much, and I am excited to go back home and start life fresh again.
Mom, I am sure you are a great Seminary teacher. And, you and Dad would be so fun to have as Mission President and Mission President Wife : )
I want to know which Conference Takls you all enjoyed the most!
I love you all SOSOSOSOSOSO much!
Sister Hakes

September 27th

Your letters were so good today! I got teary-eyed too many times, thanks for your lovely thoughts and prayers. They keep me going and happy.
First, OH MY GOODNESS!! I didn't recognize half of the grandkids! Troy has blonde hair?? He looks like a real toddler now and not a newborn. I seriously thought he was a neighbor kid. Hailey?? She looked so grown-up!! She's so pretty! Wow, the Hakes/Kohler kids were such a big shock to see! I had no idea they had grown up so much. Josh too looked way slim. And then, Cora in her tutu was soooo adorable! Nice work Cami. She seems to have so much personality! What a doll! David is all tall and and his face has thinned out. So weird! I had thought I had been keeping-up on everyone, but I would not have picked Troy out as my nephew, so sad! I need more pictures! I guess it shows that I really have been gone nor a while now. Weird..... Thanks for sending me all those pictures Cami. You amaze me!
Please tell Emily Thatcher a big congrats on her mission call! That is so cool Mom! She will just love it and please give her a big hug for me. She will be a killer Sister.
Tell Krista that she is so sweet to write and send a package! I just love her! Krista, I'll keep the BYU in May thing in the back of my mind : ) I still have no idea where I need to be yet!
Speaking of which, a lot of people seem to be asking me lately about my plans for when I get home. I don't know yet! I'm not even sure these days what I want to study. I'm not thinking about it too much though, so we'll see. Carrie and Meesa, I love your earnestness haha. I'm not ruling NMSU out, but I'm feeling BYU is a little more likely... we'll see though! It would be dependant on how persuasive your cuddles are, deh!
Dad, thanks for saving my text message. That really meant a lot to hear that. You're so sweet. I'm not teary-eyed or anything....... : )
Mom, thanks for the packages! Maybe this is weird, but I'd like to have Pumpkin Pie filling. Is that too heavy to send? If it is, than you can just get me a Symphony bar : ) I dearly miss pumpkin. You can buy pumpkins here, but they are blue haha. And the members think the idea of pumpkin cookies is really weird, so I'd like to make it for them. Do yo have that recipe by the way? Also, I forgot, I never got the last ensign for general conference, as in like 6 months ago. They never got it here : ( Wow, that's actually asking for a lot. None of that is essential, so please don't stress about it. I mean it! I hope Seminary is going well, and those kids are so lucky to have you as their teacher! The stake too is so lucky to have you as their teacher. Loves!
Well, this last week was so interesting! We had like absolutely nothing work out for us the first half of the week, and by Thursday we were thinking we wouldn't be able to reach a lot of the goals we had set, but come Sunday night, everything had magically worked-out! We don't really know how it happened, but we were able to meet with the people we needed to, get a new baptismal date, and a new investigator! Yay! We saw a lot of little miracles.
In fact, our mission has had 45 baptisms this year. That is a bit less than what we have been striving for. There are only about 45 or 50 missionaries in our mission (about 1/3 sisters!), and so that averages out to about 1 per person or less. I saw a baptism my second transfer in Chili, so I guess that that is about normal. But, just this last week, I was feeling a little down because I was realizing that I only have three more transfers, and I have gone since January 6th without seeing someone get baptised. I haven't really worried or stressed about the need to get baptisms since I've been here, and our Mission President does a really perfect job of keeping us working hard and believing that anything is possible, but not measuring our success by the number of baptisms we get. On Thursday, we had a special "Sisters Training Meeting" at the Mission home for the six sisters serving here in Yekat. Instead of Zone Conferences, we're doing more small, personalized training session with the President like this. It was really cool to be with just sisters! Sis. Allcott made us Borsch and we got to have a nice sit down dinner with her and President. They are so cute. I want Mom and Dad to meet them sometime. Anyways, he talked to us during the training about what it means to be a successful missionary. President Rasband's phrase, "find the good in every good deed you do every day" has really become the motto of our mission. I think that phrase will help me the rest of my life because the small acts of service, as a missionary or a member, that really get the Lord's work done. So, I am just as much accomplishing my purpose as a missionary if I help others strenghten their faith or repent, even if they haven't yet been baptized. Those two principles of the Gospel are just as important, but they are harder to put a number to. Anyways, it just feels got to recognize that the little things really do matter. I already knew that, but sometimes it's hard to work so hard and not see the success "I'd like", which is of course selffish. It's the Lord's work, not mine.
Ok, sorry about my rambling.... I will tell you two stories from this past week.
So, we've been teaching this guy named Vladimer over the phone because he has a really weird work schedule. Anyways, we've been working on extending the baptizmal committment as a companionship, so that we are prepared when the opportunity comes. On the phone, the lesson was going really well, and he told us he had the desire to follow the example of his Savior. So, we shared in 3 Nefi 31 about how can we follow him if we don't keep his commandments, and then read the commandment we need to be baptized. Anyways, Sister Schill has like a perfect Russian accent, and people can understand her better on the phone than me, so I let her do all of the talking. And, she got over her shyness, listened to the Spirit, and committed him to baptizm for the 24th of October. She did such a good job and I was so happy for my "2nd born in the wilderness." That's what I call her, Sister Hanks is my "first born." Anyways, he is a golden contact and he has already read 400 pages of the BoM. He is 60 and somewhat lonely, but a very sincere man. I haven't had time to write about him yet, but yay!
Then, Sunday evening, we had two meetings fall through : ( and hadn't eaten yet, so we decided to run home and eat. When we were home, we got a phone call from a lady we met with twice in probably May named Olga. Sister Hanks and I taught her and she wasn't really interested in the Church. Anyways, I had kind of forgotten about her unfortuantely, but as we were eating dinner, she calls randomly out of nowhere and invites us over to her house for that night. We were shocked, like, what? Somebody is actually asking to meet with us?? Haha, so we hurry over there, and she does the very traditional Russian hospitality thing and gives us herbal tea to drink, etc. She then says, let me minvite my neighbor in to meet you. Her nighbor comes in and he is probably an 18 or 19 year old Christian boy that doesn't believe in the Orthodox Church and has read the New Testament twice. He had heard about Mormonism and had a ton of questions to ask us. He was like, if the Book of Mormon is so important, why hasn't one ever been placed in my hands? So, as he said that, I pulled mine out from my backpack and gave it to him and said, well, now it has. Haha, he said he'd read it. He seems like Ivan a little, very intellectual and not too keen on believeing the Restoration, but he agreed to read it and to pray about it. We'll be meeting with him again! What a crazy night! We were so happy. He was golden. I don't want to lose him.
Oh yeah, Brat Arkadyi is consistently coming to Church now, the older less-active that is really adorable. The Ward just loves him. He's still struggling with alcohol, but he is really trying. Also, another babushka named Raisa has coem to Church two weeks in a row now. Yay! It is such a good feeling to see people swallow their pride and make a return in their old age. They have admitted it is very humbling, but they now it is true and want to return. Our little branch is growing here : )
Love you all,
Sister Hake