Wednesday, June 29, 2011

First Week in Moscow

Well, I am alive! And good news for everyone: anyone can email me at Anyone can email me but I can only email family still. But I would love to hear from you and hear how your life is going! I also hear the mail takes a little while.
I am survived my first week so far. Our group landed in Moscow on Wednesday and we were awake for a few hours while we handled some paperwork and interviews with President Sorenson. When we arrived in the mission home we were all exhausted. A few of us took naps before dinner. President and Sister Sorenson are very nice and I am very excited to work with them. 

The next day the Assistants to the President took us to Red Square to go contacting. They had arranged for one pair of sisters to meet us. When they arrived one of the sisters looked at our nametags. When she saw mine she gave me a big hug and exclaimed, "I'm your grandmother!" The other sister, her previous companion, is now my companion, Sister Bullough. Together we went contacting for a while before we had a testimony meeting.

Sister Bullough is from Indiapolis, Indiana and has been in Moscow for 3 months. She just finished her own training when President asked her to be my trainer. At first she was really nervous because she has only been here 3 months and does not know the language fluently. But she knows more than me. She is very nice and helpful. In a lot of ways we are similar in that talking to random people is difficult. We set some goals and we are working on overcoming that weakness. 

Friday was a busy day, especially because on Saturday my companion had to fly to Ukraine for her visa trip. We travelled our area and she introduced me to a few of our investigators. Some of the places were a ways away. By the way, I am serving in Perova. It is on the east side of Moscow. Although it is part of the city it is not in the central city. Our area is pretty big. That night I went on a split with another sister, a native from St. Petersburg who is leaving in 3 weeks, until Sunday morning.

Sunday we attended our branch. During Branch Council I did not understand everything. I was happy with what little I did understand. I told myself if I could survive Sunday I could survive the mission. I was asked to bear my testimony in Sacrament Meeting and introduce myself during Relief Society and gave the closing prayer. It sounds like I said a lot but most of it was very simple. 

After church we were supposed to have a meeting with a referral we received from the mission office. A member who lived in the area helped us find the appartment building. Unfortunately, our appointment fell through. But the member invited us over to her apartment and gave us some juice. She showed us some pictures from her mission many years ago (she served in New York and Connecticut) and we shared a spiritual thought. We talked about the Book of Mormon and why it is important to know that it is true. I bore my testimony that I knew the Book of Mormon was true and it has been the answer to many of my prayers. We asked the member if she knew anyone who would be interested in our message. She gave us some more delicious apple juice and called up a friend. Afterwards she took us over to a friend that lived nearby and we talked to a very nice lady and her son. We are hoping she will be interested in hearing more and we will be following up with her.

Yesterday we contacted all day. To contact we passed out flyers about families and "answers of the soul". My first impression is that they are not always super effective. I am trying to find ways to make them more effective. However, we did have one man stop and he liked our flyer. He was interested in knowing who we were and we ended up talking to him for about 45 minutes. At first he did not want a Book of Mormon but in the end he took one and we told him it had the answers to the questions he had been asking us. 

I know all of this was very brief. But I love you all and am so happy to be here. I know it won't be easy but salvation, and missions, are not a cheap experience. I know this work is important and I am so thankful for the trust the Lord has given me to be here and to teach His children in Russia. Until next week!

P.S. If any one has simple recipes, preferably for the stove, please send them my way! We are striving for a variety of meals but with lack of recipes we feel limited. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What week is it again?

Well, this letter might be cut a little short. We have been packing today and Sister Thrall and I have hair appointments in roughly 20 minutes. Gah! Time is just flying by.
Last Thursday we received our travel plans and found out to our disappointment that Sister Thrall and I are leaving a day later than the rest of our district. Also, last Thursday Sister Thrall and I, along with two elders in our district were chosen to be example missionaries for the Large Group Meeting tonight for all the missionaries that just came in today. Sadly, we do not have TRC (where we teach volunteers) and it will be in English which will feel strange.
We also had our last meetings with our progressive investigators, Sergei and Sasha. I cried. On Saturday we taught Sergei and began by telling him that we could not meet with him again because we were being "transfered" . I know it was only a roleplay with our teacher but he had such a hurt look on his face and he did not understand. "But we are friends and you are leaving me?" he asked us. Somehow we managed to explain in Russian that those were the rules but that he was not alone because he had the Book of Mormon and his Heavenly Father through prayer. We all beared our testimonies and Sergei told us that he had decided in the past week to be baptized. We were very excited.
On Monday we met with Sasha and continued to prepare him for baptism. He told us his wife would be coming home the next day (this entire time he has talked about her but we have no idea where exactly she was). He accepted the commitments and understood why they were important. Then, just like with Sergei, we had to tell him that we were leaving. He tried to convince us to call our mission president and tell him that we don't want to leave. Again the three of us bore our testimonies and it was a very heartfelt meeting. But it was not easy to tell them that we could not continue to meet with them. We told them a little about the new missionaries that would be teaching them. We chose two elders from the other zone who are going to Moscow as well (remember the Elder we met at Village Inn, Dad?).
I am ready to head to Moscow. I am going to miss our teachers a lot. They balanced eachother so well and we had a good time. Last Thursday we had a horrible planning meeting and found out from one of our teachers that the other teacher felt like a horrible teacher. We all felt so bad. So we decided to write all about our teachers in the service box where we write down ways someone has helped us. It was a great experience and we did it for both of our teachers. Both of them nearly cried and I cried.
Yesterday was a little rough as my companion Sister Thrall felt homesick for the first time. It has been a few interesting days because many members of our district had emotional breakdowns and such. Surprisingly, I have not been scared. I am nervous but I am excited more than anything and I know I can more now than I ever thought I could three months ago. Just like Paul in the New Testament I am realizing that I can do all things through Christ if I put my fear instead and trust in Him.
Well, I am nearly all packed with the exception of the things I am going to need for the next 6 days. Only two more gym periods where we can play volleyball and we have orientation all day on Friday. It feels like it has come up so quickly. Next you hear from me I will be in Moscow. Crazy! I love you all! Bon voyage!

Week 9

Today Sister Thrall and I had an adventure. One of her fillings came out so we had to go to the dentist. So this morning we ventured into Babylon (aka the world outside the MTC). Nothing really exciting happened but it was an interesting experience none of the less. One thing I noticed is all the noise. Music and the radio played in the dentist office and afterwards Sister Thrall and I talked about how it was distracting. It was an interesting observation because I love music and felt uncomfortable when I was not listening to music.
Once again this week has just flown by! Keeping everything straight has been hard.
We had great lessons with our investigators. Both of them went in different directions than we had planned. We made our lesson plans and decided on the commitments beforehand. As we discussed the Book of Mormon Sergei asked us about sin. This in turn led to repentance and baptism. It is hard to describe the lesson but it went so well and the Spirit was so strong. All of our hearts burned as we beared our testimonies. At the end of the lesson we asked Sergei if he would be baptized. There was a period of silence and then he replied, "I want to... but I don't know." We discussed his fears and he admitted that he knew the Book of Mormon was true and baptism was important. He said he would talk about his decision with his parents.
Our lesson with Sasha (I wrote Cawa first without thinking, which is closer to the Russian way of spelling it) also went really well. We had planned to finishing talking about the Plan of Salvation, which includes what happens to us after we die. However, as we talked about this life we felt impressed to discuss repentance. As we bore our testimonies of repentance our teacher's eyes watered. He did not cry but he came close.
Sunday was Fast Sunday, where we abstain from eating for two meals. It turned out to be a really great day. Sister Thrall and I both beared our testimonies in Russian during church. I started reading Jesus the Christ. Wow. It is hard to put down.
Next Preparation Day will be the last time I will be emailing home from Provo. The past 2+ months has flown by. I have seen a huge blessing with the language. I could never be at this level of Russian without divine help. I think I am ready. I know I don't know the Russian language and even in our lessons where I can only speak in broken Russian I can feel the Spirit so strongly testifying of eternal truths and the love of God. In a lot of devotionals we have heard about the power of the First Vision and how it is one of the greatest events ever to occur in history. Everything in our religion hinges on whether Joseph was a prophet. I know that he did see God and Jesus Christ. I know that he was a prophet and restored Christ's authority and church on the earth. And how beautiful are the things he restored! And just like the prophet Alma in the Book of Mormon I know this through the Holy Ghost and through prayer.
I love you all! Thank you for all your words of encouragement. They mean the world to me. I have been blessed with some wonderful family and friends.

Week 8

Things have definitely been interesting. As I mentioned last week Sister Thrall and I have a new companion and she does not really speak English. We try our best to speak Russian with her but it is hard at times. We do not get too frustrated but it is not easy for Sister Talakh because she either has elders who do speak Russian or sisters that do not quite speak Russian, especially outside of the religion and church vocabulary. Today as we did our laundry she was asking what goes into the dryer and about dry cleaning and we had no idea what she was saying no matter how often she repeated the words. We do the best we can.
Either this week or next week we receive our travel plans! Only two more Preparation Days in the MTC! I am excited but also very nervous. I was feeling good about my Russian but having Sister Talakh has shown me how little Russian I know. But I try not to get discouraged and focus on what I do know how to say. I also try to focus on how much more I am beginning to understand. I understand more than I can say. I will admit my French is getting a little jumbled with Russian. Whenever I see a missionary going to France or someone from France I try to speak to them in French. Sometimes Russian words come out instead of French. But occasionally I read the Book of Mormon in French and I can understand it still so that is encouraging.
We are continuing to teach our progressive investigators. Yesterday Sister Thrall and I taught Sasha and he accepted our invitation to be baptized! I know it is a roleplay but I was still really happy and it is great because we do see how our teachers get affected by our teaching. I know Sister Thrall and I have almost made one of our teachers cry twice while we teach him. Things are also going well with Sergei! For a while we felt like we were in a rut but we got out of it this last week.
I apoligize for the shortness of this email. This week really has blurred together and I can't remember anything that has happened. But it was a good week, full of the Gospel and Russian.
Today we went to the temple as a zone because of the native elders had not gone through. I love the temple. As we were leaving Sister Sandberg pointed out that she won't get to go for a year and half and said it was hard to imagine. Thankfully, I might have the opportunity to go in Ukraine during visa trips. Every time I think about that I become happy. I really do experience great peace in the temple and I am so glad that we live in a time where temples are really almost all over the earth.
I love you all so much. I have been blessed with a great family and great friends. Although nervousness is what I feel when I think that soon I will be in Russia I am very excited and I know that this work is important. It is great to see how many missionaries right now are learning Russian and to see all of the nametags in so many different languages. We are living in a great time right now.
Again, I love you all.