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 : )