Sunday, March 27, 2011
It was so amazing to see you all on Skype! It was such a blessing for me. Sorry I cried a lot... but what can be done? Really, my family is so beautiful. I have kind of been on cloud 9 since we talked. So, thanks. That was the best Christmas present I could have had. No worries Joe! I understand completely! I'll be seeing you soon enough I suppose, and yes, I did get your letter a couple of weeks ago. Thanks for thinking of me : )
Yes, Christmas was somewhat a stressful day, but good. The baptizm went beautifully! We had it in the brand new Church building in Ekat, and the building is gorgeous! It is way nicer than our building back home. They have waited so long to have their own building, and now they do! I'll send you some pics of the baptizm. Sasha was so so so nervous before the actual baptizm happened, and the font wasn't filled too high, so he had to be dunked from like knee high. But, he got in an his first try, and all is okay. After the baptizm, we got stuck in traffic for an hour and a half, and was that late (along with everyone else) getting to our Christmas dinner. So, we got to sit and eat for about an hour, and then we went to our English Club with President Allcott.
Sister Muhlestein and I have put a lot of work into making our English club special. When I first came to Botanika, we had two regulars in class. Now we have about 8-10 regulars, and others that pop in every now and then. We have met with almost every one of them and feel like we are slowly warming them up to having more interest in the Gospel. They really have come a long way. We went to a big effort to make our Christmas with them special, and gave them stockings, etc. We thought President would enjoy English Club, but he and Sister Allcott weren't too impressed, which was honestly hard to hear after all of our hard work. But, they only have our best interests at heart. We came home Christmas evening rather somber, but their advice was very wise, so we'll try and do better.
The next day (Sunday) we had a great Sabbath, and a girl we've been meeting with came to Church with her Mom, which was really cool. We had a couple other investigators show-up, and it was a really great meeting. Sasha got the gift of the Holy Ghost, and he says he feels "powerful." Haha. Too bad we didn't tell him to close his eyes during the blessing. He kept them open the whole blessing (yes, I peeked). We had the District Christmas party that evening, and Sister Muhlestein and I played a duet on the violin. It was a very well done program, and it felt a little like Christmas : ) We then went caroling to some people in the evening. The Holidays are nice because there are a lot of unique ways to serve people, like caroling for example. Too bad they usually don't know what caroling or Christmas is!
I love Christmas, and it is cool to know that you can enjoy it wherever you are in the world, because it really is all about Christ. We were encouraged as a mission to give something to Christ this year, like to give him a present for his birthday. I think I've decided what I'm going to give, and I would encourage you all to find something you too can give. Hope you all had a very special Christmas weekend! Let me know what you gave, as well as what you got!
First, those family pictures from Ruidoso look so fun! I am so glad you all got to be together for the holidays. It just struck me how big our family is. By the time I get home, I won't recognize any of the grandkids I'm sure. And, that would be way cool to have everyone there when I get home, but of course I understand that might not be possible, especially for the family in Georgia! Anyways, that is still a little ways off : ) Yay for a White Christmas morning together. So wait, is everyone going home for the actual Christmas day, or is there more festivities together in LC?
Second, The weather hasn't been that cold I don't think! I have heard minus 30 Celius, but not minus 31 Farenheit! So, while it is very cold, I would say that what they are saying is celius, might in reality be farenheit. Either way, I appreciate the concern for my warmness. I have yet to freeze too bad, and with all the layers I put on (it takes a while to get dressed), I feel pretty hot most of the time unless I am outside, then I feel slightly chilled to say the least, but not bad. Only my face gets really cold.
Third, I get to call home for Christmas using ................ (you ready?)..................................
SKYPE!! YAY!! The Mission Department just sent out an email approving skpe for missionaries calling home! I am pretty certain that most of the missionaries won't have access to a computer, but the Senior couple in my Branch has already offered to have us come to their home and use their skype account. I have never used skype before and don't really know how, but they would suggest that you call me on their account. Here is what they wrote me:
Our Skype address is “Wayne or Eva”and if your parents want to try it before Christmas to see that it works we usually have the computer on in the evening until 10:00pm our time. If they wish to sent their Skype address to us, our e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a good day,
Elder and Sister Hassell
YAY!! I get to see your faces! I am pretty sure you have a camera right? I have heard you mention that you've used skype to call the grandkids before, so I'm pretty sure I'll see you lovely faces very soon! Best Christmas Ever! Ok, here is the plan:
Please call ME your Christmas Eve at 8 PM. It will be my Christmas Morning at 8 AM. I will proly only have about an hour. If it doesn't work for whatever reason and you don't get through to me, I'll just call you on Mom or Dad's cell phone later. I am so excited!!
Four, and best of all:
WE HAD MORE MIRACLES!!
Last Sunday, a guy named Sasha was invited to Church by his friend. He went to the other Branch building in Ekat, but the sisters there got his info and it turns out he lives in Botanika. We called him Sunday evening, and set-up a meeting with him for Monday evening. He comes and he has the strongest belief in Christ, is a lawyer, and is very spiritual. He is golden, no other way to describe it! Anyways, I extended the baptismal committment for the 25th of December (a little less than two weeks from then) and he turned us down, saying a decision like that would take a lot of thought and time. Anyways, we were kind of sad, but we knew he would still get baptised sooner or later. As the week goes on, all of our other prospective baptismal daters didn't answer their phones, sad! They are all still doing okay (now that we've heard from them), but the week was definitely a "trial of our faith" to put it nicely. We were starting to maybe accept the fact that we wouldn't see a baptizm the 25th as a companionship after all. One investigator got a new job and is too busy, the other is still waiting for his wife's permission, and the other is backing-out on her testimony. Bah.... Agency! So, we were having a self-pity party a little this week.
Anyways, Sasha came to a Youth FHE Friday night and enjoyed it, camt to Church on Sunday and stayed all three hours. He was really listening to everything so intently, and he even decided to go back to the other Branch building for the youth Fireside that evening. Ok, so once he gets to the Fireside (we weren't there, we had a different mtg.), he walks in and says," What do I do if I have a question?" And the Senior couple there said it would, "Depend on the question." And he said:
"I WANT TO GET BAPTIZED THE 25th OF DECEMBER. WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?"
Ahh! It was so crazy. They told him to call us of course, and we talked to him over the phone, and he said he felt the Spirit so strongly at Church, and he just knew it was all true, and he wants to get baptized on Christ's Birthday! It was such a miracle!
Our Zone has been working so hard, fasting, praying, contacting in the freezing, and just trying all we can to get a baptizm on Christmas Day. It was looking really optimistic the whole time, but last week everything fell through at the last minute. But, the Lord is so merciful, and so amazing, that he just gave us this miracle for our Zone at the last minute. We really didn't do anything. My companion and I just freaked-out when we got the phone call. It really hows that we can try all we want, make plans all we want, but it really is the Lord's will. I have grown so much from this experience. Learning to try and exercise faith and work hard to acheive goals, even when they really seem like the impossible. I feel really happy for all the missionaries in our Zone too, because I feel they all played a part in fellowshipping Sasha. So, it has been a really sweet, tender experience for us. I don't think I really, truly believed in miracles before my mission. I am not sure I really believed that God really took an active part in our lives, but now I really feel certain, beyond a doubt, that he really is there and that he knows us. I wouldn't say I ever had the most faith in the world, but now I would have to say that my faith has grown so much, and I really have seen miracles, more than I ever thought possible. It'll be a White Christmas after all!
Oh, and the Church Building that has been under construction for YEARS here in Ekat, just got signed and handed over this weekend. So Sasha will be the first person baptized in the actual Church building font in Ekat! It won't be in a spa center like usual, yay.
Well, there is more I could write, but you can just give me a call later this week : )
Friday, March 18, 2011
We have no snow yet, hooray! When I landed in Russia this time last year, there was like 6 inches of snow on the ground and everything was frozen over. I fully approve of the warmer weather, yay for Global Warming!
( Kidding, I'm not going to start that debate with Kimball...)
Well, Carrie, I am so touched that you have not forgotten about your Bird, and that from time to time, I am even in your dreams. Deh! I can't remember exactly, but this past week or two, I had dreampt about coming home. It was awful! I was so so so happy to see you all, but I couldn't talk in English, and so I kept trying to explain myself in Russian, but nobody could understand. It was like my first couple weeks in Russia, only this time I was at home, so it was much more frustrating. You all ended-up talking on one side of the kitchen, and I was ostracized in the corner wondering why noody wanted to hear about my mission. When people came to talk to me, the family would say, "You can't talk to her, she's been in Russia." Haha it was pretty pathetic, and I am so glad the real life version will be much more joyful!
Yay for Marcus having his health back!
Botanika EXPLODED this past week! All of our potential investigators just suddenly turned into investigators, and we were super packed all week with investigator meetings, which is so fun. I love teaching! Investigator meetings are so intense and spiritual too, so it is fun to spend all you time in good lessons. I feel so spoiled here in Botanika. We have lots of progressing investigators, a baptizm or two coming-up, and a lot of potential investigators too. The Lord has truly blessed us! Really. There is no other way to explain the sudden boom. At District Meeting each week, we missionaries discuss the progress of our investigators as a District, and my companion and I realized last week that we have a lot more people to meet with than a lot of the other missionarie in our District. That's sad because they are all great missionaries. However, they are all still super positive, and they spend all day contacting or dropping-by less-actives in their branches. Sister Muhlestein and I realized how grateful we should be for the successes we see each day, because they really are little miracles.
Lena is set and ready to go for her Baptizm on Saturday! I'll send you pictures. She interviewed with our Mission President, and he said he felt so good about her prepardness. She really is prepared, and he wants to try and make it to her baptizm. I hope he can because she has gotten to know him a little, and it would be special to her if he came.
All of our investigators are doing great. Vladimir even invited us into his house. Talk about a чудо (miracle)! We have our daily "чуд" that we write in our planners every eveing and it is so amazing how things always work out. We had three people come to Church on Sunday, and Vladislav is like a totally new person. He is the one with the wife that is anti. He is still trying to keep all the commandments, and has even started somking less. He smiles, laughs, and really has come alive again. He used to sit and be rather lifeless in our lessons, but he seems so different now. He is reading every day still, and has strated reading the Gospel Essentials book on his own, to help him better understand the Book of Mormon. He is coming home early from his planned vaction this week to come see Lena's baptizm. He has real intent and I am SO glad we never gave up on him. It is never too late for people to change!
We met with Volodia, the younger guy that knows the Bible really well. Our goal was to have an actual spiritual experience with him, and not let him just get into a theological debate. We talked to him about the Spirit and how to receive answers. It was so perfect because he says he doesn't trust his feelings. We all kneeled-down with him at the end of the lesson, and he said the most sincere prayer. I didn't think he was even capable of being so sincere, because he usually seems so off-handed and funny. He asked God to know if the Book of Mormon was true, which is a huge step for him. We'll see!
All of our other investigators are doing really well. I'd write you about all of them, but it is a painstakingly long process, and I'm sure it is hard for you to follow anyways. Just know, that the work here is going really well!
Just for the record, in case you didn't know, I HATE ALCOHOL. I feel like it destroys life after life, and it has become my personal mission here in Russia to kick over as many half-empty bottles that I see lying around. I have been pretty successful too!
1. I haven't received the Thanksgiving package yet.
2. You don't need to buy me a wool scarf, I'll be okay : )
3. I don't know what I want for Christmas. Really, you don't need to send anything! I have no needs, and I'll be coming home soon after, so I don't want you to worry about it. You're the best though, thanks for thinking of me.
4. Please don't redecorate the house too much : ( And, if anybody does buy it before I come home, can we have it written in the Agreement that I need to have my wedding reception there free of charge? I wish that were a joke, but I'm pretty serious : )
Hi from Ekat! Dad, you're right. The weather here has been super mild so far. I remember when I landed in Russia this time last year everything was already frozen solid. So, no complaints here. We've had snow, but it hasn't stuck yet. Yay!
The big story of this past week is that Babooshka Galina passed away. Do you remember her? She is the old Marxist professor that has since changed her life and spent her last years doing in-depth Church history. She has been probably one of the most influential people in my life, and she passed away Saturday morning. She had diabeties and really bad arthritis, but still insisted on doing everything herself (including making elaborate meals for us when we would visit her). She went into the hospital a couple weeks ago for a routine check-up, and while she was in the hospital, she fell and broke her hip. I guess they hadn't been caring for her like they should have been, and she shouldn't have been up and walking in the first place. Sad. She has been lying in the hospital since, and on Wednesday she was scheduled for a hip replacement. We went and visited her on Tuesday, the night before, and she seemed rather miserable, but optimistic as usual. The hospital is terrible, and I was honestly filled with anger being there. The lack of care for the people just made me so perturbed. The injustice of it all! The room was boiling hot, and she was laying there in her garments, trying to keep her covenants. She had to give herself her diabeties medicine every three hours or so, and she had to feed herself, and the casts that were on her body looked like they were straight out of a 1940s war hospital. When she saw us though, she was so happy. We sat down by her bed, and all she wanted was for us to read her from the Book of Mormon, and she requested Alma 34. We open the book and start reading, and it was probably one of the most touching scenes of my life. She could hardly hear us (bad hearing), so , despite being crippled and in pain, she kept trying to slide her head closer to us. She was like almost falling off the bed trying to hear the words of the Book of Mormon. It was so touching to see how much that book really meant to her. Because of that book, she completely changed her life, and she became a Saint, in every possible way. Sitting there, reading to her about the atonement of the Savior, I realized how equally dependant we all are on the Savior. Galina just seemed to understand that better than most.
We went back to the hospital on Thursday, the day after the surgery, and she was bad. You could just tell. She was very pale, and was spitting out her food. I guess the doctor had given her too much insulin, and so she had been throwing-up all night. There weren't monitors on her or anything, and she was still responsible for her own medicine. How could an 80 yr. old woman take care of herself after hip surgery? It was so sad. She asked us to read her from the Book of Mormon, and we did, like two scriptures, until her son came. He is not the biggest fan of the Church so we left as soon as he got there. That is the last time I saw her, and I found out at Church on Sunday that she had passed away. I got up and bore my testimony about our complete dependance upon the Savior for life and how we need the Book of Mormon to understand Him better. It was a very simple, yet spiritual experience for me. I love Galina and I feel so blessed that I got to know her. I really feel like she is more happy and free right now than she was on Earth.
We met with Volodia last night, the guy who knows the Bible really well. We had the AP's come with us because he lives in their area. It was a very interesting lesson. He still has a hard time opening-up to the idea of the Book of Mormon, and he says that he doesn't trust his feelings, so the idea of receiving an answer through the feelings of the Holy Ghost does not work for him. We've tried to explain to him that the HG speaks to everyone differently, and maybe for him it'll come more to his mind than to his heart, but he is still rather closed. We asked him why he keeps meeting with us then, and he says that he is impressed with our use of prayer. He has a firm testimony in prayer and he likes that we believe you can receive answers for yourself. Sounds like Joseph Smith to me! He really says almost all the right things all the time, and his thoughts and ideas really fall in line with the Gospel, so it's just going to get him to realize that.
I don't know if you remember Babooshka Nina, but she accepted a baptizmal date! The lesson we had with her was such a miracle. She is a rather poor old lady, and lives in a room in an apartment, and the neighbors in the other rooms are often drunk and inappropriate. We try to drop-by in the mornings (she doesn't have a phone) so they are still in bed. We dropped-by on Thursday, but we were so busy that we ended-up getting there around 3, and we were worried that her neighbors would be home. As I went to knock on her door, all of her neighbors opened it. They were all just leaving! Perfect! We get into her room, and start our meeting, when another older lady comes into her room and says that she would like to sit in on the lesson with us. Of course, we weren't against that and were thinking maybe she'd be a new investigator. Turns out, the lady was a less-active member that we have never been able to contact! She just happens to be living in the same aprtment as babooshka Nina! Crazy! They both came to Church on Sunday, and our lesson with Nina was so great. We haven't taught her a lot yet, we're moving slowly, but for a babooshka, she is very sharp and has a very child-like faith. When we asked her to be baptized, she said "Of course." We were so happy!
Vladislav's wife is legitimately anti. Sad. When he approached her to let her know that he wanted to get baptized, she told him that he can get baptized under two conditions. One, they get divorced, and two, he can wait until she dies. Yikes! We were all pretty bummed. He still came to Church on Sunday, and we told him that he needs to live like a member and keep all the commandments, and that God will see his desire and reward him for it. He agress, and has decided to try and get his life in line with the commandments so he feels like his conscience is clean. He has a problem with the word of wisdom, so we'll be working on that with him. His health has gotten better though since he has stopped drinking coffee, so there's a testimony for you.
Vladimir! How could I forget! Do your emember the guy that we talk to by phone, and we have a baptizmal date, but he has never agreed to meet with us in the flesh? Well, we slying tricked him into giving us his address, and it worked! We dropped-by last week with the excuse of "we just wanted to give you the Finding Faith in Christ video" and it was the weirdest sensation meeting the person who I have only talked with over the phone for months now. His voive sounds exactly the same in person as it does in real life. We're still trying to figure him out, and why he doesn't want to meet with us. Our excuse for dropping-by this week will be ice cream, because he has mentioned to us how much he likes it. Hope it works! He seems like a rather nice, normal guy in the flesh. Weird, I was honestly expecting himt o seem a little more strange, but he was perfectly normal.
Lena is getting baptized still! She is doing really well, and we have a lesson with her tonight. Yay for true conversion!
Those are the highlights from this side of the planet. I had no idea Marcus was sick. What with? Hope all is well now.
The pictures of Colin going to the Temple really made my day. That must have been such a special experience for him, the fam, and Elder Bair. Colin, my first time going throught the temple was maybe one of the most spiritual experiences of my life, but I was initially super taken aback by everything. So, don't feel bad if you felt some of that. It'll be very dear to you before you know it! You are doing the right things, and everything will all work out. Really.
Love you all!
P.S. Hi Sister Val! Your letter about Arthur was so miraculous! You are an awesome Sister and are doing a great work. I look up to you so much. Maybe we'll see each other sometime soon : )