Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mixed week

As I look back on this week I have mixed feelings. We have definitely received major blessing and miracles but we have also had some struggles as we try to meet the mission standards and accomplish our goals.

First off, I might need a boyfriend. Appartently, the member family that we visited with last week wants me to marry their nephew. The mom pulled my companion aside on Sunday and asked her if I had a boyfriend in America. She proceeded to tell Sister Carlson that she wants me to meet her nephew that lives in America. Sister Carlson told me that she was pretty serious about it. And when we did service for Irina Victronovna she tried to hook us up with these two boys that worked at a local grocery store. I suppose that I should take it as a compliment.

I have mixed feeling about this past week. In terms of our investigators we were only able to meet with one when we have about 5 investigators in total. The meeting we did have with Lena was great. The last time Sister Carlson (she was passed to us from Arbatski where Sister Carlson just came from) met with her was two months and based on her last lesson we were not sure if she had read in the Book of Mormon. She surprised us by saying that she did read and bore her testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. She can't read everyday but she reads on the weekends and likes it. We do not think she is ready for baptism because there are still other trouble areas that we need to resolve but we have great hope for her and she wants to meet us regularly. But it was incredible to hear an investigator bear testimony of the Book of Mormon and say that it is the only thing that coudl unite the world. At one time she said, "It is very important. It is your history, my history, and the history of God." As we left the meeting Sister Carlson turned to me and said, "What just happened?"

I have been disappointed with our other investigators. Karina, who at one time had a baptismal date, has not been committing to meet with us. It has been a little frustrating since our last meeting was two months ago and it was a good meeting. When we try to set a specific time to meet she gives wishy-washy answers and then won't answer our phone calls. We know Satan is working hard on her and I am worried because I have noticed a dimness in her countenance and demeanor. We think that if we can meet with her things will be all right but the hard part is meeting with her. That is how I feel about most of our investigators, if we could meet everything would be all right. 

But our meeting with less-actives have been great! We meet with two on Monday and we were really impressed and have hope that they will come to Church in the Perovo Branch soon (they are both active in other wards). As we left our second meeting, Janna told us that we would like us to return next week when previously she said she could only meet with the missionaries about once a month. And she gave us some cake, which is always appreciated. 

Things are a little rough but we have been promised that a better time is approaching from our mission President. Interestingly, we can no longer chalk draw or sign board. Also, we have been encouraged to do more tracting. Finding new investigators is going to be an interesting ride. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

One week - two countries

The past week has been a little crazy. All that has happened in the past week: a new companion, visa trip to Ukraine, awesome dinner at a member's house, and speciaized training for the zone.  

So first off I had my first visa trip to Ukraine! It was amazing and Kiev was a cool city. Most importantly, we were able to go to the Kiev temple. Our day began at 4:00am when Sister Thrall and I woke up and took showers. The driver picked us up at 5am. It was funny because we had just whipped up cups of herbal tea and I turned to Sister Thrall and said, "You know now that we have tea the driver is going to call any second. Sure enough, I took my first sip and the phone rang. The six of us headed off to the airport (Sister Thrall, Elder Black, Elder Campbell, Elder Hamp, Elder Francom and me). In Kiev we met our driver who took us to the temple and around Kiev. We barely made the 10:30 session at the temple but I was grinning the entire time. I felt such great peace and I hadn't realized how much I missed going to the temple until I was there. I had headphones to listen in English but I listened in Russian too. I was surprised by how much I understood. 

Afterwards, our driver took up to an Ukrainian restuarant. Soooo good! On accident Elder Hamp grabbed a plate of liver and onions. Of course, all the elders tried a piece and I decided to try a bite with them. Yuck! It took a few minutes to finally shallow my piece. 

Then our driver, a member of the Church, turned to us and said, "Next I want to show you where President Packer [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] dedicated this land for missionary work." We responded, "Konyeshna, duhvai (of course, let's)". President Packer dedicated Ukraine right by the statue of King Vladimir. And at the time he promised the Ukrainians that Ukraine would have many temples. Actually, Ukraine was the first country to have a temple announced where there was no stake. 

All in all Kiev was great. It was great to be with the missionaries I arrived in Moscow with. Although we were not all in the same zone in the MTC we all hit it off great. We think we would be an awesome district. We talked about the mission and where we all are. By the time we left we had all uplifted each other's spirits.

I mentioned last week that I was going to get a new companion and now I have her. She is great. Her name is Sister Shannon Carlson from American Fork, UT. She is engaged and will be getting married after her mission. She will hit her year mark on the mission during this transfer. I am really excited to work with her. Her Russian grammar is not the greatest but she makes up for it in spiritual power and love. Her first Sunday she went up to everyone and talked to everyone. She wants to be exactly obedient and we have been going through the mission handbook again together so we can be obedient. She knows that Russian is hard for her and it takes her a long time to learn but she does not let that stop her. Together we are studying grammar since that is my strong point and she is helping me with vocab. Oh, and she loves contacting. She has a lot of traits that I hope to acquire and I am really excited for this transfer and what we will accomplish. And neither of us know who is the senior companion. She thought I was and I thought she was so our companionship has an interesting dynamic.

We have not met with many investigators this past week with everything that has been going on. So far we met with one less active girl and we had dinner with a member family on Monday for Family Home Evening. That was an adventure! They will in a city that requires us to get permission from our legal lady first because we could get in serious trouble since we are not Russian. Surprising, our lawyer gave us permission so long as the member picked us up from the train station, we don't speak any English, and we don't wear our name tags. We were safe and had a huge dinner of bortsh and burritos. The elders came with us since they teach the daughter's boyfriend. The mom was so nice and when she found out about my mom she said she would be my "Russan mother". 

I did hear about Tamara from her member friend. Appartently, after our lesson she became eally excited and started doing a lot of service for her church. Of our investigators she is the only one really making progress. She wants to take my companion and I souvenir shoppin sometime next week. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The end of my training

Get ready for lots of photos! Today is my last day with Sister Bullough. Tomorrow we will head to transfer meeting with her luggage. I will be staying in Perovo and receiving a new companion. Thankfully, I am not training (well no new sisters are coming anyways). My companion will Sister Carlson who has spent 6 or 7 transfers in her last district. I have a feeling that next transfer is going to be awesome. She has a lot of traits that I hope will rub off on me. I'll admit that her Russian is not the best but she does not let that hold her back. And everyone just loves her. So I am excitied. I will be sad that I will not be with Sister Bullough. We have gone through some rough times together and grown. But I know that this transfer is the Lord's will. It's funny how everything has worked out because we had some investigators passed to Perovo from Arbatski (where Sister Carlson has been serving) and that will make the transtition all the smoother.

In regards to your comments about the 90s, Sarah I have to tell you about the fashion trends. Of course leggings and the almost no clothes look is popular among the females. For men, mullets seem to be big, especially for little boys. I laugh everytime I see a mullet. And, just like the French, Russian women love their high heels. Today we went to a Renik (a huge bargaining mall) and I saw some rain boots... with high heels. 

Thank you for all your emails and words of encouragement. As you could probably tell last week was rough. Some many emotions were bubbling inside me and finally I exploded, starting with last Wednesday. I am not so much discouraged with the work as I was with myself. Our area is rough but at least we have investigators, which is more than some other areas. I hadn't felt like I had changed. In fact, I felt like I changed and became better and then regressed to pre-MTC state. There were some tears last week that I could not explain but I realized the problem. I focused too much on my weaknesses. I have learned a lot on my mission so far about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and God's love for me. I have also learned a lot about the reality of Satan and his power and how he wants us to be miserable. Because I focused so much on what I could not do I forgot who I was, the power of my calling, what I can become, and that I have the Lord helping me. Yesterday or Monday (I forget which) I sat on the train thinking of the things that I could change. As I thought of constructive, specific ways to improve I was filled with ideas that inspired me. They were simple really, and things that I know I should be doing but I felt enthusiasm and they refocused me on my purpose: Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the Restored Gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. So I am pumped and ready to go.

And all the emotional whatnot last week reminded me of how much I am loved here on earth and by those I can't visibly see. Last Wednesday after English Club I had a chance to talk to Sister Thrall, my MTC companion. We breifly asked how each other was doing. She could probably tell that I was going through a rough time. The next day I found that she left me a chocolate bar and a very sweet note. 

Last Friday we had our first culture night! We went to the circus and it was SO COOL! I included some pictures of some of the acts. My favorite was the very first one in the spinning wheel. And yes, in one of those pictures they have blindfolds. Before the circus we went to Chili's with our district. The food may have been American but the service was so Russian. We ordered our food and they bought all our food, apetitzers and main dishes, out at the same time. There was not enough food on the table for all the dishes. And they rarely came by to check on us and we had to flag the waiters down to get the check. But the food was tasty. 

It was funny that you asked last week if I had given a talk dad. Sunday morning about two hours before church our district leader called us, "President Makarov called. He wants Sister Bullough to give a 10-minute talk and Sister Daniel to bear her testimony." Our study plans were shot for the morning as we freak out and prepared our talks. Then we got to church and as Sister Bullough was finishing her talk in walks President Sorenson, our mission president. But it went fine and all the missionaries (the four of us) spoke. Then we had dinner at a member's apartment. I am starting to like herbal tea and hot milk with honey.

On Saturday I fly to Kiev for my first visa trip. I am excited to be with Sister Thrall and have a long chat with her. But most of all I am excited to go to temple and feel the special peace there and to be instructed even further by the Lord. Hopefully, I will have some exciting stories to tell next week.

I love you all and am so thankful for all of your prayers and support. I know that the work is hard but I do love it. Most of all I am so grateful for the opportunity to give back to the God and give him my time and service. Afterall, I have so blessed, especially by all of you and I could never pay him back enough.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Well, September has started and the weather has gotten a little nippier. I think I am going to have to buy my winter stuff sometime this month. I haven't done any shopping, other than grocery shopping, since I arrived so I'm a little nervous. I am aware that I am being irrational.

People are starting to come back (finially) but school has also started. But we think that thigns will look up. Although we still have four investigators that I have not yet met. Sister Bullough and I have interviews tomorrow so we will find out what will happen with transfers. Also, next week I have my first visa trip to Kiev next Friday. 

Saturday we had a great meeting with Tamara. She served us herbal tea and ice cream! (The shock is I actually liked the tea. I didn't like how hot it was but I liked the flavor. I'm making progress!) She was a member referral and it is great that her best friend is in our ward because we can talk to her friend and find out how best to teach her and meet her needs. We watched the Restoration film and did a brief overview of the first lesson. She agreed to read the Book of Mormon everyday. She said she couldn't come to church but she said she would try another week. She is very sincere and has a lot of faith. I left the lesson excited. I'm a little sad to admit but it has been a while since I have felt that excitement.

On Sunday we accidently went to a forbidden city. In our area some cities are forbidden to Americans. Well, basically any non-Russians. We called us district leader to find out if we could go. Our legal lady gave us the OK to go there. However, he did not tell us that if we go there we need to take off our tags. Thankfully, nothing happened to us. It was a little bit frustrating because the places we were looking for did not exist. We had a map and followed it and we would find all the building on the map but not the one we were looking for. And an active member lives in one! At one place we walked around the entire apartment looking for door 8. We found door 7 and door 9, but no door 8. We had to laugh and we joked that it must be like in Harry Potter: invisible unless you have a ward or know the magic words. Sadly, the words weren't written in the area book and we forgot our wards at home. 

Yesterday was a fun day. A drunk lady threatened to kill us. We have been working on the area book since our investigators still have not been able to meet a lot and we have been going around and taking photos of the apartments where members and less actives live in case the area ever gets shotgunned (meaning that two new missionaries are assigned to a area they have never served in before). So we talking photos when a lady, very drunk, walked up to us. She rudely asked what we were doing because she thought we were selling something and Sister Bullough explained what we were doing very simply since she was drunk. Then like a switch had been hit she started to yell at us. Neither Sister Bullough nor I felt good so we started to walk away. She followed us. We walked a little faster and so did she. She got louder and more threatening. Then she said she was going to kill us. Thankfully, when we got onto the main street she did not follow us. Phew.

I have not given a prayer in church or a talk. I bore my testimony my first Sunday. There is a specific teacher for Gospel Essentials so I don't teach. I do try to participate though.

I'm doing OK. I'll admit I am a little sad that the day I write you in the day that I feel the weight of my weaknesses and inadquanices the most. I'll admit, preparation days are hard for me. My biggest casuality during this transfer has been my confidence. I have been studying about confidence and trying to carry myself better. I picked up the habit of biting my nails again so I am trying to stop that... again. But everything will be okay and I use this as an opportunity to draw closer to my Savior and Heavenly Father.