Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Best Week Yet!

Well, in order to give you an idea of what the past week was like I will tell you what my district leader said on Sunday when we reported our numbers of lessons and other stats: "You really improved your number this past week."

But first I will give you some fun things things that have happened, not proselying related. First off, we have no hot water at our apartment. Because the tap water is not santitary once a year during the summer the hot water in apartments is turned off so that they can clean the pipes. The hot water is off for 10 days. So far we are halfway through the 10 days. Surprising, it is not as bad as I expected. Only the first two minutes are hard, just like jumping in a pool during the summer. I miss swimming.

Another interesting tidbit: everyone in my mission says "Buck" or "Buckwild". I noticed that on my first day with my companion but I thought maybe that was one of her quirks. Turns out it is a mission thing. Everyone says it so I finially asked Sister Bullough about it. She says she doesn't know who started it but everyone has been using those words from the time that she arrived. We'll see if I end up picking up that habit.

So on to the work! This was definitely a better week than last week. We had our regular meeting with Karina and it went well. We did not get to recommit her but we have gotten her to read from the Book of Mormon everyday. We will have another meeting with her tonight and we will be discussing the Sabbath Day and hopefully, she will come to our Branch on Sunday.

Remember my first Sunday in Russia? Sister Bullough and I met with a member and when we asked for contacts she took us over to meet her friend, Tamara. Well, on Thursday we met with Tamara and the member that introduced us to her. She is awesome and believes in God so much. She has two boys and her greatest wish is for them to grow up to be good people. We did get far into our lesson on the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ but we talked about families and how God is our loving Heavenly Father. At the end we asked if we could come back and teach more. She said yes, which means we can count her as a new investigator! And she invited us to see a renovated mansion, now a museum, that was built for Katherine II on Friday. It was awesome and the grounds were so pretty. I will include some of the photos we took.

Saturday we met with Irina Victrova. She has been an investigator for 9 years and has a lot of health problems and was not keeping commitments. Technically, she is not an investigator now so we did service at her house and then had a good lesson on baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. She likes coming to Church (she gets a ride) and likes the Book of Mormon although she does not read it. For her it is hard to move past her health problems and whenever she gets close to baptism something always stops her.

As we left Irina Victrova's apartment we got a call from two other sisters in our mission who asked to meet with us. "Can you meet us in an hour? We have an investigator we have been teaching but we found out she lives in your branch. And she has a baptismal date for next Saturday." So we rushed over and met Margaret, our other new investigator. She has amazing faith! She is from a country that used to be part of Georgia and she has nothing except her faith. Due to problems with her registration she can't get a job. But she believes God brought her to Moscow and is a rockstar. She's have concerns about commandments but she will say "If it is God's commandment then I will do it."

Working with Margaret has been a roller coaster. She is really independant and because she has no money to get to our branch she needs the help of the members. The biggest stumbling block for her is fast offering and a living prophet. When we talk about President Monson she always says, "Time will tell if he is a prophet." She is almost ready for baptism and because she feels she does not have an answer on whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church and Joseph Smith is a prophet we have pushed back her baptism to next week or the week after. She has received an answer but she doesn't know it because she expects, like many people, a marvellous answer or the answer to come in a dream. Right now we helping her to understand how the Holy Ghost gives us our answers. But everything will be alright, I know it will.

That brings us to today. Our district played football (European) with some Africans. I did not play very long because I wanted to work on my letters which I started my first preparation day. But within 2 minutes I skinned my knee trying to get the ball from a really good African player. (Why there are so many Africans in Moscow will have to be a story for another day.) My knee ate the pavement.

Things are looking up! Thank you for the all prayers because I know they have played a huge role in the success of this past week. I love you all and am so grateful that you in my life. The Lord has always blessed with wonderful people in my life. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Hard Times Continue but we are Going Strong!

Well, I have been in Russia for just about a month. It is crazy how time has flown by but at the same time the MTC feels like a dream. 

Last week we hit an all time low in terms of lessons taught. Again, the same story. We set up many appointments at the beginning of the week and then they cancel. Or members will tell us that they want to meet and when we call they respond that they don't know when they have time but will call us. Then they don't. But we did have one lesson with Karina! We met with here last Wednesday befor English Club and we started out by asking her some questions about the Plan of Salvation. This led into a discussion about prayer and we talked about how God is our Father and because we are His children He wants to hear from us. We talked about her son and as Sister Bollough related our relationship to God to her relationship with her son she got teary eyed. At the end we asked if she would be baptized and she accepted! However, she did not come to church last Sunday so we are going to have to recommit her tonight.

Since we have not had many appointments we have done our best to track down less active members of our Branch. No luck but we did get a few fun stories. At one apartment we got into the building but when we called she was not home. So we went to put a Liahona, Church magazine in her mailbox. The landlord came up to us and starting yelling at us. Sister Bollough was on the phone so she couldn't really respond so we started leaving. He continued to yell at us and at one point grabbed me by the arm to turn me take a look at my nametag. I'm not sure what all he said but I believe it is safe to assume that none of it was nice. He walked out the door with us and then walked with us, probably to keep an eye on us and make sure we did not come back. 

Funny thing, everyone seems to yell when they are upset. At the train station on Monday someone's ticket wasn't working so, of course, they were yelling really loudly. When they are upset with someone on the phone they will yell at them. The landlord yelled at us, but we would have left if he told us to. Instead, he wasted a lot of words on two missionaries who didn't understand and just made my companion angry. 

We also did go chalk drawing with the elders in our Branch. The elders did a good job! I will try and attach some photos but it does not look like it is working so they might have to wait until last week. But sadly we did not get any contacts out of it. We did have the cops come by and ask what we were doing. They asked to see our papers. But when they came up we dialed Luba, our legal person. With her, you can anything (so long as you have all your papers). We handed the phone to the officer but he could not get a word in. 

As we look for addresses we continue to contact. On Tuesday as we were passing out family prigs we gave one to these old women. At first they smiled when they accepted it. Then they read it and handed it back to us. We walked away and as they left they told us that we were wasting our time in Russia. Typically, when people says those things it does not get to me but for some reason it stuck. I know I am not wasting my time but it makes me sad when no one wants to listen because I know how much this Gospel means to me. I am realizing more and more just how much I need it and how precious it is to me personally. And with how hard everything has been I have been so grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Yesterday, my nerves were a little frayed on the edges and each dirty look just hurt. I just thought, "You don't even know what you are rejecting!" But after I prayed last night and this morning I feel a lot better and know that I just need to keep giving my all for the mission.

But I feel like I am learning a lot about diligence, faith, and patience. Some days it is really hard to want to go contacting. But those are the days we just have to go out and do it. We are trying new ways of planning and trying to work with the members and visit our less actives. Last night I asked Sister Bollough what has been the hardest time on her mission and she responded, "This month." Sure I might get discouraged with myself and my own weaknesses but in some ways I am glad for the hard times because I know those are the times I can grow the most. I know things will get better and I am learning so much about prayer and its power. 

And there is one brightside: apartently our Branch President seems to like me. I am not entirely certain why because we have not talked a lot. But after I bore my testimony my first Sunday he came up to my companion and told her that she had a cool companion, meaning me. And then Sister Trunova, Sister Bollough's trainer ran into the President Macarov and asked about the Branch. He told her that the sister missionaries we were solid and how excited he was that I was in the Branch and told her he was the excited to see what would happen while I am in the Branch. And the members we have met with seem to like me which is great because trust from the Branch goes a long ways and I am here to serve them.

Well, my time is just about up. Thank you everyone who has written! Just hearing from you and hearing your encouragement really does lift my spirits and help. I know I have the prayers of many of my side but hearing how life is treating those that I care about goes a long ways. I love you all and thank you for the prayers!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Russians cannot sing and I am actually looking forward to winter

First things first: I was slightly off in the address I gave you last week for Russian mail. It was all correct except for the AAI part. It should be a/ya 257. 

It was another hard week, probably harder than the last, but I am continuing to look on the brightside and staying optimistic. The summer is hard in Russia because, just like in France, there is a tradition of going to summer homes for a month. We have about 5 investigators and 2 of them are on vacation while the other 2 work a lot and they call us whenever they have any free time.

Last Wednesday my companion, Sister Bullough woke up feeling sick and her stomach really hurt. She felt like she was going to throw up all day and it continued unto the next day. In addition, our appointment called at the last minute to cancel. Sickness and feeling sick can really disrupt mission work. By Friday things got slightly better and we rode out to visit a less active member for whom we do service. Unfortunately, we could not share the message we have prepared but we did A LOT of weeding and we met the member's grandmother who is one of the coolest people I've met. She was Jewish, had an aunt survive the Holocaust, has published books, can read in 4 or 5 other languages, and went to the best school in Moscow. Wow. She talked, in English, about the plants we worked with and often would say, "I know its name in Latin, French, and German but I don't know the English name." 

On Saturday we got together with the Elders and went through the branch list. Only a 1/4 of the branch comes to church and one of our goals is to work with the less active members. It took a little while because there were so many. Also, I don't think I mentioned this but our area is big and requires a lot of travelling. In the end Sister Bullough and I ended up with 58 people/families that we need to visit. We have our work cut out for us but we have all the information organized and grouped which should makes things slightly easier. 

Sunday was good. Yes, Russians cannot sing. Singing hymns is always a fun part of church because everyone is on a different note and different pace. I am understanding a little more everyday and although the language can be frustrating I am optimistic. The only young woman in our branch asked how long I had been in Russia. I told her two and a half weeks and she told me that my Russian is good for only two weeks and my first transfer. That was much more encouraging than the week before when a member told me that I needed to learn Russian and proceeded to tell me about an Elder who did not learn the language and how it made the work difficult and no one could understand him. 

Monday we met with our Branch president at 7:30 in Moscow so our day began early at 5:30 in order to be there on time. It was a great meeting and he really wants to get the members involved in the missionary work. And I understood most everything he said. I did not understand every word but I understood or could figure out all he was saying. Sister Bullough had the opposite experience and felt strange emotionally all day. We have had a lot of opposition, especially emotionally but we are staying strong. I have surprised myself with just how optimistic I can be, and actually mean it. Then our appointment that night never showed up. We call her after waiting 20 minutes and she was in Moscow. 

Tuesday we had combined specialized training where the mission comes together and receives training from our mission leaders. President Sorenson could not come because he flew to America for medical testing. He caught the flu badly a few weeks ago and was in the hospital. The training was really good and reminded me of all the things I know but don't focus on everyday like I should. I came away feeling pretty pumped and evaluated my personal goals. I love setting goals. 

Well, that was my past week. Moscow is humid and hot. I am thankful everyday for our apartmant fan. I will have some fun tans lines when the mission is over. The mission is hard but I am loving it and the opportunity I have here. I know I am doing important work and my love for the scriputes, prophet, Holy Ghost, and the Lord grows a little more everyday.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ups and Downs

Addresses which I forgot to include in my last email:

Pouch Mail address:
Sister Amy Daniel
Russian Moscow Mission
PO Box 30150
Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0150

Packages and regular letters:
Sister Amy Daniel
Russia Moscow Mission
Glavpochatamt ALAI 257
101000 Moscow, Russia

Dear Elders are sent through pouch and take about 2 weeks to arrive in Russia. Regular letters I think also take about 2 weeks. Packages take like a month or so I'm told but postage is expensive. 

I have now survived 2 weeks in Moscow! It has been a week of ups and downs. Last Wednesday we had a lesson with Karina. From what I have heard she is our "golden contact" and seems to be fascinated by the Gospel and told the Elders to teach her son. It was my first lesson with her and it did not go as we had planned. To begin with, she was 40 minutes late. She brought a friend to English club, which was great, but as we tried to teach Karina, her friend cracked jokes. I had a hard time with one word and, while I don't mind correction, they spent 3 minutes saying it over and over again. I shared my favorite scripture, Alma 7:11-13, and there was a good Spirit in the room but then her friend told us about a movie. It was not a bad movie but it distracted from the Atonement of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for us. We ended the lesson with our testimonies so at least it ended with a good spirit. After the lesson Sister Bullough turned to me and said, "Our meetings with her have never been like that."

Last week we only taught 4 lessons. I think it was most frustrating for my companion because she is already nervous about being a trainer and still feeling new to the mission. We set up a lot of lessons but at the last minute almost all of them canceled on us. So we did a lot of contacting. Again, we handed out "prigs", short for invitation in Russian. We have not gotten a lot of success with prigs. 

Sister Bullough and I get along well. In a lot of ways we are pretty similar. That has been both good and bad. We have the same weaknesses: we are still in the process of learning Russian and neither of us are good at going up to someone and talking to them. It puts both of us outside our comfort zones and we struggle with it. But in other ways it is good: we both think we need to find other ways to contact because everyone passes out prigs and they are not super successful, especially for us since our area does not hold an English Conversation Club. Now we need to move past the thinking and talking stages to the doing stage. 

I have found a few instances where I could use my French. On Friday after eating lunch with our district after district meeting we were riding the metro to return to grab our things. Two of the elders in our district serve in the International Branch which speaks English. Most of their members are Africans so whenever they see someone from Africa they immediately talk to them. We ran into a black lady and they went to talk to her but she did not know English. Her shirt had some French words so they told me that I should talk to her, so I did. It was hard! Going up and starting a conversation in French was easy and fun but speaking French was hard because Russian words wanted to come out. Fortunately, when I hear French or reading in French I can still understand everything.

Slowly, I am starting to get to know the membres in our Branch and I seem less awkward. The meeting with have had with members have been really good and the members are really strong in their testimonies. 

I have great hope that this will be a good week. On Monday we scheduled five meetings for yesterday. Sadly, once we got out to the city we needed to be in, and we had to be early because the trains don't run from 11-1, our first two appointments cancelled. It was raining a lot and of course we forgot our umbrellas. Then one of our meetings was farther away and we got completely lost on our way to meet  with a member family. We got on the wrong bus and they had to come and find us. At least the lessons that we did have went really well. 

As you can tell, things are not easy. Moscow is hard because everyone works a lot and is so focused and consumed by work. But I am learning a lot about the type of missionary I want to be and the type of missionary Heavenly Father wants me to be. I am amazed by the trust He has in me and His expectations for me. They are really high but I am amazed that He thinks I can reach them and that makes me push and stretch myself. I am excited to see how I can become a tool in His hands. I love the Gospel and the opportunity to be here and tell people that families can be together forever.

Besides, the ice cream, cookies, and bread are delicious. 

I love you all! Until next Wednesday!