Monday, October 31, 2011

First full week in a new area

Well, I have now spent a week in my new area. This was an interesting week. Sister Rasmussen and I still get distracted and we talk a lot but we are improving every day! For lessons total we only taught two but it was a week full of service. 

On Wednesday we had a Halloween Party at English Club. It had been announced the week before and really the sister I replaced had been in charge of the party. But now she is in Rechoy so that left Sister Rasmussen and I to plan and carry out this party, neither of which is our forte. So we made sugar cookies (mom's recipe of course). However, we had no cookie cutters so we took knives and handcut them ourselves. The cookies tasted just like home but Sister Ramussen's frosting tasted a little off. She blames Russian powdered sugar. 

The party overall went well. There were some awkward moments and we learned a lot what we would do differently. For activities we explained the origin of Halloween and then we did donuts on a string. No one jumped up volunteering to go first so I swallowed pride and went first. At least I got a donut and I think the English clubbers got a kick out of watching us missionaries look funny. At the end we had them go trick or treating and they were so cute. The elders would take them to a room and then tell them what to do. Right before they knocked they would get so nervous and ask, "Wait, what do I say again?" Sister Rasmussen and I were behind the door and overexaggerated, "Oh! What a cute costume you have! Here, you can have three pieces!"

The next day we were not able to get any meetings but it worked out. The Rechnoy sisters (Sister Peterson and Thrall) called us and asked what we were doing. Their landlord decided she wanted to see their apartment and that last time she checked the place was ten years ago. Sadly, former sisters did not always take a best care of that apartment and those sisters had already been cleaning for the past week. They enlisted our help to clean and clean we did. What a difference after a few hours of cleaning! Sister Rasmussen spent 3 hours alone cleaning their bathroom.  I know the sisters really appreciated the help because they had started to get really nervous for the landlord to see the place. 

Friday we had a meeting with an old lady and the elders came with us. She has been less active for a while and is a nice lady but man did she talk fast. At the end she insisted that my companion try on this bright pink dress that looked like it came out of the 80s. She did not want to but the elders insisted she try it on and it gave the lady such great pleasure to see her wear it. She even insisted that we take it home. We are still laughing about the dress and I am sad I cannot do the story justice because we were bursting out laughing. Especially, when this lady put on a fashion show for us.

Saturday was... interesting. We had a ward activity. Originally we weren't planning on going but the ward wanted to fill up the bus so we went for support. We drove on a bus an hour and a half outside of Moscow to see buffalo. Sadly, we did not understand a lot because none of us thought to brush up on our zoology vocabulary. But we did have a fun time and the members brought apples and carrots to feed the buffalo. On the bus we played card games with the kids so I'm sure the parents appreciated that we kept the children occupied. 

Church was good on Sunday. We went to the international ward and then our Russian ward. We had a lesson with our Filipino investigators after Sacrament meeting and it went really well! She is loving the Book of Mormon and starting to recognize how important it is and she says that even if she has a hard day she reads because she finds comfort. I'll admit teaching in English felt strange and hearing talks in English felt so surreal. 

In our Russian ward I was asked to bear my testimony. For the third hour Relief Society and Elders Quorum was combined and we watch "On the Lord's Errand", the film about President Monson. Sister Rasmussen was asked to translate for our senior couple but she had never seen the film so at times I had to lean over and explain the story. My favorite was we missed a story and the only word we understand was "milk." So Sister Rasmussen said, "Something about milk." A second later we hear Sister Hatch (of the senior couple) start laughing. Half way through the film our district leader (who earlier said he did not want to translate) came up and asked, "Do you want me to translate? I have this movie pretty much memorized."

All in all it was a different week but a good week. We did have some success that is hard to measure in statistics but we have more lessons lined up this week and possibly a new investigator too!

I am learning more and more to follow the Lord's timetable. In the past I might have been frustrated by a week such as this. But although our stats were low and we did not have the typical missionary success I have received a lot of blessings and seen areas where I need to improve and I want to improve. Also, my companion and I get along really well and we have talked about areas we maybe have become lacksidaisical in and how we can improve. Still, our biggest problem is that we talk too much but now much of our conversations relate to the mission so progress!

I am so thankful for the chance to be on a mission and serve my God. I have so many tender mercies and realized how much I love Him and His son, Jesus Christ. Everyday I am so thankful for the chance to commune through prayer and to see that through prayer and the Atonement I can better something more than I ever thought I could be.

Monday, October 24, 2011

New transfer

Well, I am now in Sokolniki. If you look up a metro map of Moscow you will find Sokolniki on the red line in the Northeast and our apartment is found at the top of the orange line. 

The past week has been good. On Thursday we went to the central building (the stake building) on metro Novakoznyestskiya with all of my baggage. The elders from Perovo helped us get there which was very nice. I met up with my new companion, Sister Rasmassen and while the Sokolniki elders took care of my bags we ran to a meeting in an outer city with a less-active lady. The meeting was good and I was complimented on my Russian. 

Afterwards we returned home and unpacked and I found out more about the area. In Sokolniki we have a few investigators. The Sokolniki ward meets in the same building as the international ward. Because there are only elders serving in the international ward we, the Sokolniki sisters, double as the international sisters. So on Sunday we go to both wards. Sokolniki is the northeast of Moscow and considered "in the city", although we do sometimes head to outer cities. Before in Perovo most of the time we went to outer cities that are considered "part of Moscow" but are more like suburbs. 

Friday we met as a district and divided up the ward list and compiled all of our information. We then got a look at the ward building and stayed for a Relief Society activity where two women, other than the President, showed up. It was hilarious and so Russian. They argued for about 10 minutes about what they were going to do with this cloth and the measurements. Eventually they came to an agreement and made a pillow. 

So far Sister Rasmassen and I get along just fine. Actually, our biggest issue is that we get talking and sometimes get distracted. She is from Oregon and went to BYU, majoring in computer science so we have been able to talk about the Talmage building together. She went to the Jerusalem Center and knows one of my roommates from my sophmore year. So we have talked a lot about Israel and Saudi Arabia. All in all we get along and I think it will be a good transfer. She is not decisive and neither am I but I have been the decisive one, a shock right?

Saturday we finially got to our weekly planning. As we were planning we heard some noise out in the hallway. At one point the noise became louder and than we looked and saw the door handle jiggle (it was locked). Intrigued we went to the door and looked out the peep hole. There was a drunk man talking to himself loudly who was trying to open our door and the neighbors door. When he could not get in he tried again and then started pacing and talking to a light fixture. At one point he layed down in the hallway and talked to the ceiling. We were not scared but instead got a good laugh because we live on the fourth floor and it was so random. By the time we left the apartment he was gone. 

Because I did not get a chance to say goodbye to anyone in Perovo all of the sisters that moved for this mid-transfer transfer returned to their old companions so they could say goodbye at church. I somehow flew under the radar on bearing my testimony or giving a talk but I was able to tell most people that I was leaving and get some photos with a few of my friends in Perovo. I typically don't get attached to places and when I first heard about transfers I was excited to move to a new area. But as I said goodbye to some people it hit me how much I was going to miss these people and I realized how many people I truly love and care about and am going to miss. 

And the Perovo sisters had an investigator at church! She was a girl Sister Carlson and I contacted on the train a little over a week ago. She is amazing! The Perovo sisters met with her on Saturday and when they gave her a Book of Mormon she said, "You are the mormon church? [because our nametags say "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints"] I have been reading about you on the internet and was wondering if it existed in Russia!" Then she had the missionaries write their testimonies down. In Sunday School the lesson was the Word of Wisdom and she told us that she does not like black or green tea, coffee, alcohol, or tabacco. Wow! And she asked us about temples and why there was not one in Russia then she paused and said, "I know why. Russians drink and smoke too much." Talk about a miracle! I was so happy I was able to be at Church with her because Sister Carlson and I were the ones to find her and I am excited to see how she will progress. She is one of those people who Heavenly Father has been preparing for the Gospel and it was a huge spiritual boost. 

And that has been my week so far. I am excited for my new area and to progress. Lately, a lot of people have been complimenting me on my Russian especially after I tell them how long I have been out which has been an esteem boost so I feel like I want to talk even more and truly study diligently. I don't know how I have changed but I feel stronger and my testimony becomes more precious to me everyday. 

Thank you for all of your emails and words of support and letting me know how things are going. I am slowly getting caught up on my letter-writing and sent out my first batch of letters two weeks ago. I love you all and am so thankful for your prayers. I feel their power everyday.

PS. I am in an apartment with an oven! Yay! But our toilet is interesting. You have to turn on the water before you use it, flush, and then turn off the water when you are done. Thankfully, Sister Rasmassen took care of the cockroach problem during the summer. Her words: "I think the problem is gone. If not, that's what the flip flops in the kitchen are for."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mid transfer transfer

First things first! I have important news. Yesterday we had a mission conference and Preparation Day has been moved to Monday. This was done so that we focus more on Sunday. Everything leads up to Sunday and helping investigators come to church. Then once Sunday is over we had the next day to prepare and relax. 

Other news: Tomorrow I am moving to another area. I will be moving to Soloniki, which in "in the city". Some of you might be thinking that this is a little strange since this is a 7-week transfer and we just completed our 5th week. Well, yesterday President at Conference announced that we would have "AP" sisters. Recently a lot of sisters have been mentioning that as sisters we cannot go on training splits with the district leader or zone leaders (who are all elders) which really leaves sisters to their own devices. We have mentioned that we would like to receive training as well. Hence, we now have training sisters and my companion, Sister Carlson was asked to be one. Sister Fralova is the other one. Because of this decision Sister Carlson will now be companions with Sister Fralova and they will be in charge of Perovo. 

So yesterday President asked to meet with the two of us and asked me to move to Sokolniki tomorrow with Sister Rasmussen. As a result of the new training sisters 3 pairs of sisters are changing companions mid-transfer. It has been crazy and I have spent most of today packing. I'll admit I am sad to be leaving Perovo. The other night I realized just how many friends I have made there. But I am excited to move to another area (and an apartment with an oven =) ) 

This past week we had two good lessons with our investigators Ninel and Karina. Karina, I'll admit, was an emotional roller coaster. Our last meeting with Karina was a little over 2 months ago and every week we have asked if she could meet. Last Wednesday we did not stay for English club because none of our investigators showed up. As we walked to the Metro we ran into Karina and we chit chatted in the rain and when Sister Carlson asked if she could meet she said that she was too busy. So busy that she did not have time for the Holy Ghost and next month she is going to Thailand for a karate tournament, I believe. My heart broke and I thought that she was dropping us. When she saw how upset we were she said that we could meet on Sunday. 

All throughout the next week I was so worried. Karina had made so much progress and would be such a strength to the church! I fasted and I prayed and cried for her. But we had a good conversation as we called to confirm the Sunday appointment. Karina asked why we loved and cared about her so much, to which she responded that we loved her because Christ loves her and we want to be happy. 

Sunday we had our lesson and she still wants to be baptized but she feels that she is not in a place where she can keep all the commandments. We had planned a short lesson but it turned into a long way. We explained why we are here on earth and what we can expect after this life. I think she is starting to see the importance or baptism and why it is important to come to church every week. I walked away from the lesson with great peace.

Our other meeting was with Ninel and with Sister Bullough we felt like we hit a wall everytime we tried to plan a lesson for her. At last we found out the problem: she didn't understand why her granddaughter (a new member) decided to be baptized again. We had a great lesson on Ephesians 4:5 and what is meant by "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." and talked about the Priesthood and apostasy. I think she understands now the importance of being baptized. Our concern is that she might think she is too old to change. As we talked about the Three Kingdoms and what we need to do to reach the Celestial Kingdom she looked down at the chart and said she would be content with the middle kingdom. But I'll admit I suprised myself. At one point she said that she was not a believing person and talked about how we had so much faith. I asked her if she wanted faith like ours and she said yes. "The reason our faith in strong is because we read the Book of Mormon." Then we started to talk about how she was old to which I responded, "If you really want this you can. We can be patient." During the closing prayer she asked us to bless her with patience. 

All in all it has been a good week. I even taught Gospel Doctrine on Sunday which was nerve-racking, but the elders were kind and willing to participate. 

I also learned an important lesson last night. As we were on the metro returning home from our senior couple's apartment I noticed that my companion's eyes were tearing up. She was not crying but I was observant enough to notice that she was going to start crying. I was right and soon she started to cry. As we waited for the bus she confided that she was so tired of everyone telling her that her Russian stinks. She said she knew she didn't speak perfect and it hurt that other missionaries were judging her intelligence on how she spoke Russian. It had been an emotional week already and hearing people telling what a great opportunity to learn Russian that she will have serving with a native speaker cut her deeply. I'm not the most physical comforter but I gave her a hug and told her that I saw how hard she worked. I'll admit I have been very humbled this past month. Sister Carlson is a much better missionary than me but she always looks up to me and is so grateful for my help with Russian grammar. She told me that I have been the companion that has helped her the most and made a real effort to help her with her Russian. Along with the responsibility of training sisters she was a little overwhelmed. I learned how important it is to help your companion and not judge their intelligence and capacity as a missionary by how well one speaks. I'll admit seeing her cry reminded me of the nights that I cried over learning French. Sometimes I loved the language and sometimes I hated it and often I wondered why on earth Heavenly Father wanted me to learn French. I never thought I had a gift for languages until recently and when I started learning Russian. I'm glad I did struggle now that I look back because I understand that second languages are hard.

Actually, as I look back on my hardships I am so glad I went through them. Now I can relate to many experiences others are going through because of all the hard time I have been through. I really am grateful for all the lessons I have already learned in this life. And again, I am glad for the trust the Lord shows in me when He gives me tough trials. But one verse I have come to love is Ether 2:25 which shows that the Lord prepares us for the trials that He gives us. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hope you enjoy the musings

This past week was a little interesting but in many ways much like the week before it. We had our first meeting with a member present this transfer! 

On Thursday I went on another split with Sister Fravola. Thursday morning as we were exercising the Assistants to the President gave us a call (this is about 6:40am). We were told that a few of the older sisters in the mission needed to come to a meeting at the President's house to discuss goals for next year. That meant my companion needed to be there. We called the other sisters and by chance I went on a split with Sister Bullough, my former companion. She had already planned to go on a split with Sister Fralova so I went along to their meeting. It was good to be with both Sister Bullough and see how she has changed in the past few weeks and to get to know Sister Fralova better. Plus, we had a great lesson with a member.

Saturday and Sunday was General Conference all day and I absolutely loved it. I had many insights into who I need to become and what I need to do in order to be that person. I also received many interesting revelations that I did not expect which are going to require a lot of faith and diligence on my part. As I have been thinking about all that I want to accomplish and need to accomplish in this life I am realizing how short this life really is and how much I cannot afford to procrastinate. 

Elder Hales' talk was amazing about trials. I liked his comment, "Too often we pray to have patience and we want it right now." and then he ended by saying, "Let us be kind to one another and even kinder to ourselves." Other gems were Elder Uchtdorf's talk and I could talk for hours about conference. 

Again, we have only been able to meet with one investigator. Thankfully, she is making some progress but it comes slowly. At least she is reading the Book of Mormon which makes my heart leap.

Sadly, none of our investigators came to General Conference although we told them about it days in advance and called them the night before. I was very disappointed because I saw other missionary's investigators come and receive answers to their prayers and I was so sad that none of our investigators got to experience that. It's hard to watch people you care about make choices that lead them farther and farther from the road of happiness. And then we tell them what they need to do to find those answers they say they have been looking for and they won't act on it. It is frustrating. But I'm at peace with what I am doing. I can always be better but I know that the Lord is satisfied with my work. I am pouring a lot of myself into our investigators and I always think of how I can help them. It's just hard to see so much potential in these people and to see them make choices that are causing them to regress rather than to progress. Watching people use their agency to make choices that will lead to unhappiness is so sad and I think that has been what has been frustrating me the past few weeks. It's not that we don't have investigators it's that we do and they are not using their agency in a way that will bring them closer to the Savior, Jesus Christ. But I remember how much the Gospel means to me and I try to show them how much the Church of Jesus Christ needs to me. Like President Packard said, until they gain their own testimonies they have to rely on mine.

Most of our meeting have been with less or inactive members of the Church. I am happy to meet with the old women because most of the time they are lonely. And if we can be their light and link to the Gospel I am happy to do it. But there is always a little sad side because I ask myself, "Where are their home and visiting teachers?" I am happy to meet with them and I always feel uplifted but, sad as it is, I will not always be here and I worry about them.

We have also been trying to work with some of the younger inactive members and they are among the most frustrating because they are taking the Gospel for granted. The two excuses I have heard the most is, "Perovo is boring and there isn't any youth" and "I'm too busy and I don't have time for the Church." Sister Carlson and I had a day where we wanted to scream. I'll admit as I pondered what must be going through their minds and all the future consequences of this choice I felt pain in my soul. Overwhelmed with sadness, I got on my knees and prayed and thanked Heavenly Father for the Gospel and the opportunity to repent and asked for humility. Then I wrote about it in my journal so I could always remember this lesson. 

This was an interesting email, I'll admit, filled mostly with what has been running through my mind the past few days. All of my frustration and impatience seems to come out when I write home. I get it out and then focus back on the work. I am so grateful for this opportunity to serve the Lord and experience even a small part of what He must sometimes feel about me. Sister Carlson and I are working hard and having a good time doing it. I will try to be better to include those fun times more so that you all do not worry about me. Like on Monday, we had three meeting and all the ladies wanted to feed us. we ate so much and had to pray to be able to eat more. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I am coming to hate cats...

We have yet to see Conference here but we get to this weekend! Unfortunately, we do not get to watch the Relief Society session at all in English. But I did hear about the temples from the Senior Couples serving in our branch. Yay for France!

Friday turned out to be a very interesting day. My companion, Sister Carlson, went to Kiev on Saturday with her MTC companion, Sister Mordwinow so we had a third companion on Friday. We had district meeting and roleplayed what we would say to Karina when we next meet with her. Afterwards, the elders gave me a blessing and it was just what I needed. In the blessing the elders told me several times that my Heavenly Father loved me and was proud of my efforts her in Moscow. I'll admit I really needed to hear that. I know missions are rough but I always think that I can give more and always ask myself, "Am I give 100% of my effort?" It's hard when you can see what you can become and you are not yet there or can't see youself getting closer.

After the blessing Sister Carlson and I grabbed some lunch and waited for Sister Mordwinow to join us. As we were waiting one of our appointments cancelled. But then we noticed two strangers sitting in the lobby of the Central Building. We went up and introduced ourselves and found out they were British! The was a boy in his first year of university and an older woman. They had both been studying Russian in Russia and were stopping in Moscow for a few days before heading home. At the airport they ran into a member of the Arbatski Ward and he helped them with their bags and brought them to the Central Building. Because our meetings had cancelled we were able to show them around Red Square. It was cool to see because although the two Brits were not members of the Church their families were. If nothing else, I hope our time helped soften their opinions of the missionaries and we were able to do some unexpected service. 

Saturday while my companion was in Kiev I went on a split with Sister Thrall and her companion Sister Fralova, from Latvia. I had a great time. We had two meetings and it was nice to catch up with Sister Thrall and discuss our experiences and see how each other is doing language-wise. Plus, I was able to make some brownies since their apartment has an oven. Oh, the brownies were divine.

None of our investigators have met with us this past week which has been a little bit frustrating, as always. Karina's cat is getting another surgery and she was not able to meet yesterday, hence the title of my email. But at least our work with less actives has been going well. I hope home and visiting teaching was discussed in conference. If members all did their home and visiting teaching the work everywhere would explode. And some of the less actives, especially the older ladies, are just lonely. We helped Sister Menayeva buy watermelons and cut up 50 cloves of garlic (by hand) for a sauce she was making. As we had our spiritual thought she just loved to talk. These ladies are lonely and don't get many visits and I always ask myself, "Where are their teachers?"

Well, that was my past week. In other news as a mission we are reading the Book of Mormon together. We started last week and we will finish it by the end of the year. President encouraged us to read the books in reverse order, starting with Moroni. Wow. It was so sad to read about all the destruction and death and how all of that could have been avoided if they had repented and turned onto the love. Perhaps the most heartbreaking scripture is Mormon 6:17 "O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected Jesus who stood with open arms to receive you!" And I have thought of the importance of believing the Lord, not only in the scriptures but in blessing I receive as well. In short, I love the Book of Mormon and am so grateful for the knowledge I have gained. I wish I could include even a tenth part of all I have been learning. 

I love you all and thank you for all of your prayers and support. I am doing my best to be worthy of all you are doing for me.