Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Transfer to Tyla!

This past week was crazy.

So, I am now in the city of Tyla. It is a little bit funny because two sisters I served with always joked that they would get a transfer to Tyla (this was in the old Moscow MIssion days when Tyla was not in our mission). Well, surprise I got transfered to Tyla for the last week and a half of my mission. It was certainly unexpected. President Sorenson called me on Friday and asked if I would go to Tyla on Monday and stay there for the rest of my time in Russia. I don't know what the reason is for the surprise transfer. Anyways, it was very sad saying goodbye to some of the members that I had grown to love but I am excited to be here. The district here is great and in a lot of small ways it was an answer to some of my prayers. So I am now with Sister Welch, my 11th companion in the field.

As I mentioned last week was crazy and involved a lot of running around. We were supposed to have zone conference last Thursday but we did not receive our tickets until Wednesday which stressed us out. When we got the tickets we noticed that the seats they bought us were a lot more expensive than usual. So amidst all of the other craziness of the day we went to the train station, running all the way there because we were late, and exchanged our tickets for tickets that were not inexpensive. Then there was a crazy running around because we lost our new tickets because on accident they had been placed in the bag of the member who was helping us exchange tickets. By the time everything got resolved and we had our tickets our district leader called us. This is what I heard from Sister O'Neal: "Is it good news or bad news? Please tell me you are joking!" She hung up and I tried to think of the worst possible thing that could happen. I asked if zone conference had been cancelled. It was cancelled because of protests against our church in Moscow. We just laughed all the way to bed.At least we managed to save a lot of money because by the time we found out most people could not get refunds on their tickets resulting in a loss of money.

Thursday turned out to be a good but interesting day. We were told that on Thursday we could not wear our tags or go contacting. Because we had planned on being in Moscow we had no meeting set up and most everyone thought that we were gone. Since we couldn't go contacting we did the best that we could. We sat down and called lots of people and tried to set up something. We managed to get a meeting that night and an inactive agreed to meet on Saturday. Sister O'Neal didn't feel good so while she laid down I got our area book all up to date, which turned out to be a good thing because of the surprise transfer. Then we planned all of our english clubs for the next month and then we had one of my favorite meetings with a member during my mission. 

Friday night was Sister O'Neal's birthday and our culture night. We found out about the transfer just before the night began so it was a nice last hooray before leaving. We went and saw a Russian dance folk group from Yaroslavl. It was the 55th birthday of this dance group so we got to see them and a few other local dance groups performed to congratulate this group. The best was in addition to seeing Russian dance, we saw an Irish step dance and a Chinese dance. All for 200 reubles. It was a steal and so much fun and then afterwards we went and grabbed dinner at a great price. Elder Kuzmin told us that it was the day where all of his dreams were fulfilled.

Despite all the craziness of moving, ticket and travelling problems, unexpected riots we did see quite a few miracles. One is particular was Janna. We teach English to this group of girls at their work. We do a spiritual thought with them but it is a mixed group. Some are interested in the gospel and others aren't. Janna was given a Book of Mormon but because of the other people we have not been able to ask her about it. We tried inviting her to other activities so that we could ask her but something always came up. Well, we had been praying for a long time that we would be able to have the chance to meet with her alone. We went to her work and she was the only one there. We helped her with English and then we had a great spiritual thought and it honestly was an answer to our prayers. The Spirit was there so strongly and she is reading! 

We also met with another lady who is an investigator but always so busy. We managed to meet with her and had a great meeting. All in all the Lord allowed me to experience a lot of miracles and tie up a lot of loose ends in Yaroslavl which is further proof to me that He truly is in control. When I found out about the transfer suddenly a lot more things made sense and I could see how the Lord had been preparing me or helping me. Although there were still lots of crazy things that happened I was able to remain calm because I knew who I was trusting and I knew the Lord would help us so everything would be alright. You would surprised at how cool headed I managed to stay yesterday when we missed a train, had to haggle with a taxi driver, and then our phone unexpected stopped working in Moscow. I just tried to look for the silver lining and the little miracles and then I managed to remain calm and keep smiling.

These last days are going to be great. Like I said this is an answer to prayers and if nothing else I am grateful that the Lord felt He could give me something crazy and knew I could do it. One of the best feelings is to feel His trust and to feel His love. I am excited for the chance to work with Sister Welch and help her in any way that I can.

Thank you for all of your prayers. Please continue to pray that we will find those that are looking for the gospel. I love you all and am so grateful for your examples. Until my final email! 

-Sister Daniel

Monday, October 29, 2012

Walking in a winter wonderland

Life is funny. As you may have guessed from the title it snowed this week on Friday... and until this afternoon it did not stop. It was funny because I remembered my last interview with President, after we cleared up that I had one more transfer left, he said, "Well, maybe you'll get to see some snow before you go home." I responded, "I hope not. I really don't want to buy another pair of boots." Well, Heavenly Father has a sense of humor because we are probably the first city to have snow in our mission. But all is well. I'm enjoying the snow, especially because I know I won't have to deal with it for the next 5 months. Even some of the members were surprised that it snowed so early. They said it had been a while since they had seen it snow this much in October. 

Anyways! This week was a good one. We did a lot of service and went around to different English groups in Yaroslavl. Also we went up on Wednesday to Rybinsk, a city about 2 hours from Yaroslavl. A pair of elders in our district live and work up there. It is a new area and was only opened about a month and a half ago. A few great members live there. Well, we went up, spent two hours contacting, and then had our district meeting. I was really excited to go contacting. Lately we have not been putting in as many contacting hours as we should so I was so excited. It was pretty chilly but despite complaints of how cold it was we pressed on and we talked to a few people and hopefully we have some more potential for the elders. Overall it was a really great trip and I came away very happy.

ON Friday we had our branch Halloween party! At first we were all a little worried because for the first 45 minutes only people from English Club, the missionaries, and the members who planned the party was there. But slowly other members trickled in and then our two families came. It was a success! And it was hilarious to see Russians doing the limbo. Some people could go really low. We were put in charge of all the games and thankfully they all enjoyed them. We played limbo, musical chairs, had a three-legged race, and had to find a candy in a whipped cream pie. I participated in the pie eating contest. I had my face painted as a lion which got ruined but I think they enjoyed seeing a sister willing to bury her face in a whipped cream pie. Overall it was great and so many people came.

There were some great experiences this week. There is a member who got upset at the sisters a while back. We have been trying to fix that and just be nice to her. I called her earlier this week and asked if we could come over. She refused us and told us that she was busy all week. It would be easy to say, "Well, at least we tried!" It was her birthday this week and although she had given us the cold shoulder we decided to do something nice for her. We dropped by on her birthday and gave her a card, chocolate, and a purple flower. She didn't expect it and I think she was happy. Yesterday at church she said hello to us and gave me a hug and she initiated it. 

We also tried to find Larisa. I have only met with her once and then she disappeared. Her work went out of business and she has not answered our calls. It has been very sad but we saw a lot of miracles in trying to find her. We didn't have her address and we prayed that we would find some way to find her. We talked to a former sister and she gave us a lead on where we might find her address. Well we found it! Sadly, when we dropped by no one was home and the person who answered couldn't give us any information. Although we still have not found her, it did not diminish the fact that it was a miracle that we even found her address. The Lord helped us to be after to do all we could to help her.

I have definitely seen so many miracles and answers to my prayers. Yesterday was a great example. I fasted for help in finding new investigators because that is really what we need (it's what all missionaries need). Yesterday in district meeting the training was about finding new investigators. It was not anything new but it reminded me of what I needed to be doing. I remembered so many instances where I talked to someone and it was a great experience. Also, I have received so much knowledge as I have read the scriptures.One thing I have learned to appreciate, or rather a trait I want to emulate is the phrase "easy to be entreated". So often in life things don't happen how you want them to be or how you planned. But what is our attitude when we are faced with a difficult or expected situation. Do I complain or do I press forward with a smile. Do I have to be forced to do what I know needs to be done?These are a lot of questions I have been asking myself as I think about this phrase. Easy to be entreated is really honestly being able to say, " not my will but thy will be done".

This week we have a zone conference in Moscow and I will have my last interview with President before the final exit interview. I'll include the details about those last few days when I find them out. I am continuing to work hard and trying to do my best. I love you all and pray for you. Please continue to pray for the Russian people. 

Sister Daniel

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ups and downs

When I look back on this week I definitely see plenty of ups and downs. Yaroslavl has a lot of potential and especially since this is my last transfer I am trying to do the best I can and use my time effectively. I got a blessing from the elders this week and afterwards I felt very empowered. I received some counsel and in accordance with the President's advice to start laying up in store for the winter months I have been setting some goals. Right now all of our investigators are either not progressing or dropping us. I feel that these are the moments where the Lord is testing us to see how we will use our time and what our focus will be. I'll admit that this week our focus was not in the right place but I repented and decided what I was going to do to change things. Also the Lord is giving us plenty of time to improve. This week looks like we might have quite a bit of contacting. Contacting is still a challenge and hard for me but I am excited to have the opportunity to do something hard for me.  I'm excited because I think there are so many blessing awaiting us this week.

In happier news I am glad to report that I did get to go to Ryazan for Angela's baptism. It was great and I was so happy to see her. Despite a few rough spots (the sauna's pool being cold and a lot deeper than anyone could guess) she was baptized and she looked great! I was glad that President allowed me to travel down to be there. It was a good trip, if not a long one. We travelled all day Friday and most of Saturday. We got on a 4 hour train to Moscow at 7am and then we had a 4 hour bus ride from Moscow to Ryazan. We got to Ryazan half way through English club. Some of the people there were happy to see me and it was great to see that I was missed and that the sisters there are doing well.

We did have a miracle coming back from the baptism. We had to leave pretty quickly afterwards to get back to Moscow in order to catch our train back to Yaroslavl. Our train was scheduled to leave at 8:20pm. We could not afford to miss it. We got a bus leaving from Ryazan at 3:15, however the bus was late and we left 30 minutes late. Thankfully, for most of the bus ride we avoided traffic... until 6:30 when we were only 6 kilometers from the metro. There was construction and it took us 1 hour to go 4 kilometers. My companion got motion sickness and got sick several times, especially with the stop-and-go traffic. When we first hit traffic I prayed and asked the Lord's help to help us get to the train station on time. I really did not want to miss our train. Rather than feel despair as we still sat in traffic I kept looking at the minutes ticking by and thinking, "Yes, we can still make it." We arrived at 7:35 in Moscow and booked it to the train station across Moscow. And when I say booked it, I mean we ran to the metro, ran through the metro, ran to the train, and we made it! And with 5 minutes to spare. It was most definitely a miracle.

Yesterday was an interesting day. The elders have a 7th Day Adventist contact who invited them to a meeting. The elders invited us to come along with them because the man had described it in such a way that it would be beneficial to come. Well, none of us expected what happened. The meeting we were invited to turned out to be the celebration of 21 years of their church in Russia. It was also more than just a meeting, it was a Christian rock concert. If nothing else it made us what to work harder not because we felt competitive but because we saw all the people, all the young children, and all the families. We were respectful and did not proselyte, of course, but it made us want to help our branch grow and made us want to find more families. And overall we met some really nice people who love Christ and had some great gospel discussions. 

Overall I am doing great. I'm trying to keep working hard. I set some challenging goals and already I am seeing some blessings. This week I started a conversation with a girl on the bus, something that has always been hard for me. Another example: I am trying to be "on call" at all times and whenever we walk places I am trying to make the most of our time. This morning as we walked I passed out English Club fliers. As I did so to my surprise I heard English! I stared at the two girls walking by us on the crosswalk. Once we crossed I asked them, "Where are you from?" They were from England and glad to meet other foreigners living in Yaroslavl. 

The Lord is in the details of our lives. Thank you for all of your emails and letters. This week I received a dearelder from Sister Rasmussen :). Thank you for all of your advice and your prayers. If nothing else the mission has allowed me to meet the most wonderful people and help me appreciate the wonderful people, family and friends, that I have. I am excited for the next life and to think that we all get to be together forever, not worrying about distances or time zones. What a glorious day that will be! I am reminded of one of my favorite scriptures from the Bible, Romans 8:16-18:

 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Remember that. We need to endure so that we can be glorified together and all that we go through now is not worthy to be compared with the wonderful blessing that we will receive. Have a great week! Hope the baby comes this week!
Sister Daniel

Monday, October 15, 2012

Time is flying by

It is hard to believe how fast time is flying by. It feels like just yesterday I was writing to you. One quote that I have learned to love and noticed the truth of is a quote by General Eisenhower: "In preparing for battle I have learned that plans are useless but planning is indispensable." I'm not sure if I quoted it word for word but that is the gist of it. One thing I have learned is that planning is very important and I am fine with changing plans but having a week without goals and plans I am not as effective. 

As I wrote last week I am continuing to learn my role here in Yaroslavl. Yes, death transfers are a challenge at times especially when you know how much time you have left in an area. First now the question is "Can I get done all that I need to in 5 weeks?" There is a lot of work ahead of us. It is also hard fighting the urge just to do a lot of things by myself, thinking, "It will be faster if I do it". Sometimes it would be easy to do things that I know how to do but more importantly I have learned that I need to teach my companion. The way I got good at a lot of different skills is because I worked hard and did it enough. Sometimes it requires a lot of patience. It has been interesting to evaluate our missionary work here and here and think that there is something that we need to be doing more and then I think, "That's why I am here." 

It was a good week including finishing General Conference, learning more about investigators, doing lots of service, and our elders had a baptism on Saturday. 

I'll start with the investigators. This week we met with Caroline and Larisa. Caroline is from Africa and is studying medicine here in Russia. On Monday no one besides her showed up to Family Home Evening so we decided to watch some of Conference with her. She loved it and found it very inspiring. Afterwards we meant to have a small lesson which turned into a longer lesson as she told us of some of her questions. At first we fell into the trap of simply trying to answer her questions. But as we tried to answer the question another question would come up. As we talked I was reminded of the quote in Preach My Gospel where eventually every man is backed up to the wall of faith and a lot of concerns come down to the simple question, "Was Joseph Smith really a prophet?" which is answered by another question, "Is the Book of Mormon true?" The more we talked the more I realized that that was what was wrong with all we were doing. It has been interesting to see that the gift of discernment is real. I have been feeling lately like I will sit in lessons and the thought will come to me of what is wrong or what is missing.

we also met with Larisa, a nice lady. She had a baptismal date but got sick right before the baptism and became scared. She works in a flower shop and we helped her a little before we started our lesson. She is really nice to us. We learned a lot about her that my companion, Sister O'Neal did not know. With her it all comes back to faith and trusting in the Lord. Right now she has a lot of trials and the solution is simple but challenging: do what the Lord asks and trust that He will fulfill his promises. One scripture that I shared with her is 3 Nephi 13:31-33. For the past 3 transfers I have found myself sharing this scripture in almost every lesson because I have applied it and it is true. Whenever I have put the Lord first everything else has fallen into place.

We met with quite a few members this week, which has been really nice. The members that I have met I have loved. We have some great youth who take a lot of responsibilities upon themselves. They are great and I admire them so much. I have especially come to love the church youth here in Russia because I see how they are the future and I want to do everything I can to help them.

Of course the one thing we need more than anything is new investigators. If you could, please remember us and the Russians in your prayers. Pray for us to find those who have been prepared. It is so easy to get distracted but we are trying to stay focused. 

In other random news it has been pretty cold this week, certainly colder than Ryazan. As we walked to the baptism a thermometer read 3 degrees celsius. I read it might snow this week here. The Volga river cuts through Yaroslavl and there have been a few mornings where it has been very foggy. There has also been a fair share of rain. I'm just hoping the snow can hold off for a few weeks. But Yaroslavl typically gets snow earlier than other cities so I assume I will see some snow fall before I go.

This next week will be a good and exciting week I think. One of my investigators from Ryazan, Angela, is getting baptized this weekend! I am so happy for her and from what I hear she can't wait. We made some good plans and are working to execute them and not become distracted from our purpose here. Thank you for all of your support and all of your prayers. My prayers are with you. 

Love, Sister Daniel

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hello from Yaroslavl

Sorry that the email did not go through. The computer told me that it did. Lately the system seems to be having some problems, especially when I want to send pictures. Speaking on the 18th would be great. I don't know how early I need to make an appointment but would you set a dentist appointment for maybe the Saturday I get back? Or sometime in the relative future. Also I received two of the three packages! Before my mission I told BYU that I would be back in January but I still need to make a trip there sometime and talk to advisors about major and whatnot. But as you said, we will have plenty of time to discuss these things. But a dentist and/or doctor checkup (or a massage =) would be great).

So the funny thing was that I heard the announcement about the mission age change live. So just think! I heard it exactly when you did! We were at the senior couple's apartment and got permission to watch it live with a recent convert and an investigator who did not end up coming. Actually it haven't been playing and the others were in the hallway so I was setting up the computer so I was the only one who heard it at first and no one initially believed me when I suddenly screamed it. I am reallly excited and I know for the international members this will be great and they might not have to sacrifice so much schooling. Also I think we will see a lot more sisters on missions. Remember my mini missionary? I immediately thought of her because she always said she didn't want to wait 2 more years to serve a mission. Well, here is her chance.

Since you didn't get my email last week you might be surprised to find out that I am in a different city, Yaroslavl. Surprise! Everyone was pretty surprised to find out that I was being transfered for my last transfer but after a few days here I can understand a little more why I am here. It has been fun to see how the Lord is using me and to see that the Lord wants me to share my experiences and to help others. Even to the end the Lord is putting me to work and giving me an interesting challenge.

Last week was a little crazy. We met with lots of people in Ryazan and had quite a few miracles. We met with Nina, who is so busy that we did not meet a lot with her when I was in Ryazan. But she was so sweet and brought little cakes and her brother, who is a member, came and he stayed for the lesson. We focused on the Book of Mormon, because although we cannot meet with her often we felt that if she will read the scriptures everyday she would be ready for baptism. She could progress without us. At the end of our lesson she said she would read everyday! There was no "I'll try" response and she agreed to let us call her every few days to check to see if she has been reading. I was so happy.

Then we met with Angela and had a great lesson about tithing. It was a bittersweet since I was leaving and Sister Hawkins and I first starting teaching her. But we had a good time and we talked about her baptism and she says she is ready and said she would be baptized in 2 weeks! I got a little teary eyed and was so happy for her. Although she has a lot of trials I know that the Gospel will bless her immensely and provide comfort during those dark times.

On Thursday we got to Moscow just fine and I met up with my new companion Sister O'Neal. She is from Payson, Utah and just finished her training. She came out the same time as Sister Hawkins. It is a weird dynamic since she will for sure stay in the area so I see my role as preparing her more fully. Our goals are to help her with Russian and help her become comfortable talking on the phone. She understands Russian fine but is struggling more with speaking or rather it is more confidence. I am actually very excited to be here and although I will not be here long I know that good things are going to happen.

We did see a lot of miracles getting to Yaroslavl. Sister O'Neal had her visa trip on Friday so we spent Thursday and mot of Friday in Moscow. It was a tender mercy because I was able to spend more time with Sister Horspool and Sister Workman, two of my favorite sisters, who went home on Friday. Did I ever mention that my big suitcase broke? Or rather the elders who helped me move to Ryazan broke two of the wheels. Well, my suitcase survived the trip to Yaroslavl thanks to President Makarov, the branch president from my very first area. As we headed to the train station we saw us and helped us. He bought us a cart that all the Russian babushki carry all their bags (we call them "bab carts") so we would roll my bag. Then he took us all the way to train station and helped us when we missed our train.

It has been very interesting to look at myself lately. As of late I have been taking time to think about the ways that I have grown. I have realized how many wonderful blessing the Lord has given me. I have seen traits in myself that I never realized were strengths. I remember at the very beginning of my mission I prayed a lot for a soft heart and for the gift of obedience. Only recently have I noticed that the Lord heard that prayer. Or course He answered my prayer in terms of mission standards and missionary rules because I have seen how inspiried they are rather than seeing them as restrictive. But more importantly the Lord has asked me to do a lot of things and whereas previously I might have gripped or complained I noticed a peace and a desire to do what He has asked. 

I have reflected on this attitude change as I have read 1 & 2 Nephi and noticed the difference between Nephi and Laman. We often forget that Laman and Lemeul did go. They followed their father, even through they weren't happy about it. They had to convinced and had to be calmed of their murmurings. They were exhorted and pleaded with and eventually they went. It wasn't like they were forced to come. Nephi told they they could go back but would face the same fate as those in Jersalem. They made it to the promised land but look at the long term effects. The difference between Nephi and his brothers comes down to faith and attitiude. Nephi had the faith to trust the Lord and as a result he made good things happen in his life. His example of a humble and submissive attitude is one I have been striving to cultivate. It isn't easy and it is hard for the pride but I can see the long term effects and I want to able to say to my Heavenly Father, "not my will, but thy will be done."

Sister Daniel

Monday, October 1, 2012

Preparing for the last move

If you haven't guessed from the title of the email I am moving to a new city this week for my very last transfer. The calls for transfers came this week and I am moving to Yaroslavl. I hear it is one of the prettiest cities in the mission. It is also the farthest city north in our mission and is typically is one of the first cities to get snow in our mission. I am pretty excited. It will be a little strange going into a city and knowing for sure when I am leaving. I just hope that although my time there will be short I can do lots of work and build a good relationship with the branch members. 

This week was a crazy week. Despite the wheelchair project, dinner with an investigator, being stuck in a small town outside of Ryazan with limited transport, translating for the branch and a trip to the woods to see a member, we did pretty well. We did a lot of traveling but our lessons went really well and we saw a lot of miracles. 

Thursday was a funny day. On Thursdays we go out to see Angela who is doing very well. She didn't feel good Sunday so she didn't come to church the week before. From Sunday to Wednesday we played a game of phone tag. But since we always go out to her on that day we went out to her. While we were standing on the bus the thought came into my mind: "What if Angela isn't home? What will we do?" As we walked to her apartment I shared my thought with Sister Hawkins and as we talked she told me that she had wondered the same thing. We got to the door of her apartment and no one was home. Whoops. We called her only to find out that she was actually in Ryazan! Thankfully, Sister Hawkins and I did not get frustrated. Instead we just laughed and tried to decide what to do for the next 2 hours as we waited for the next bus. We walked around, did our weekly planning, and talked to a few old ladies waiting for the same bus. 

For the past 3 months a member in our branch has been inviting us to come to her dacha. Either we were too busy or the weather did not cooperate with our plans. Well, the stars aligned and we went out to her. To get to her place is an adventure. She lives in a small village (meaning maybe 10-20 dachas) in the middle of the forest. We meet her at the bus stop and then we walked through the forest for 30 minutes to get to her home. She took us on a tour of the forest, fried us some zucchini from her garden, and then we had a lesson with her. Although the forest was a lot of fun the lesson was even better. The last time we met with her (about a month ago) we challenged her to read the Book of Mormon. She was skeptical because she had read it before but felt more of an affinity to the Doctrine and Covenants. (I don't know if this is a Russian thing but I have met a lot of people who love D&C but don't like the Book of Mormon). To prepare ourselves I made a chart for her to keep track of the chapters to help her. We arrived and she told us that she has been reading everyday for at least an hour! We were shocked and so happy. She has a lot of doubts but she is doing the rights things. She is reading the scriptures daily and praying. She has also been coming to church more and as she has she has seen some miracles. We left very happy.

Church yesterday was the highlight of the week. We had 27 people at sacrament meeting! Since it was my last Sunday I bore my testimony. As I stood up there and talked it was great to look out and see all of my favorite people at church. A few people who don't often come came. I'm glad I only bore my testimony and didn't give a talk because I said I would probably have cried my way through it. Church was great because I could really see the difference from when I first came and now. There are still a lot of things to fix but the branch is more united and starting to catch a vision of the future. I am excited for all that Sister Hawkins and her companion will see. Ryazan has a bright new future before it. We have been stressing to focus on the future, learn from the past but leave it behind, and adopting a "we can" attitude.

I have learned a lot from Ryazan and I will be grateful for my 3 months here. It hasn't been easy and I have had to work a lot and go outside of my comfort zone a lot more than I previously did. Every time I put myself out there and go outside of my comfort zone I have seen amazing blessings. More than that I have seen that miracles happen everyday. Often they are small to our understanding but that does not diminish the fact that it was a miracle. I am glad that I know our Heavenly Father lives and He sent His son, Jesus Christ to show us the way. I am thankful everyday that they see our potential and strengthen our weaknesses. Although I am weak and imperfect They can still use me to bring about their work here in Russia.

Until next week from Yaroslavl!
Sister Daniel

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I'll admit that I am ready for this Preparation Day. Monday and Tuesday I fell asleep so fast from utter exhaustion.

First I'll explain the delay of Preparation Day. The humanitarian couple in charge of all projects in Russia had a wheelchair project here in Ryazan. They got permission from President Sorenson to use the missionaries as translators for both days. Thankfully, we had Tanya who is an amazing translator so we did not have to do a whole lot of translating. That sounds bad but we were translating medical terms and the district leader and I talked afterwards about how unprepared we would have been. Thankfully, Tanya did the bulk and she did an amazing job but she still allowed me to try translating some parts and I went around and helped people whenever we did things in groups. But now I know how to say words such as paralysis, pressure sores, ramp, wheelchair, scoliosis, brakes, amputee and disabilities in Russian. 

Another interesting note. The couple doing the training was from Richfield, UT. Their names were Jeff and Ilene Thalman. I asked if they knew the Bytheways and they said yes.

But I was able to help in other ways. Sister Hawkins and I helped with most of the set up. Then we helped with a lot of other errands. Such as yesterday, when a senior sister and I went on a 3 and 1/2 hour search for foam all around Ryazan. Most of the training was about the importance of wheelchair safety and helping those in wheelchairs prevent future medical problems such as scoliosis. Part of prevention is making sure that people fit in the wheelchairs and they have the right size. Well, for practice a young boy who is 10 came in and we fitted him. Unfortunately, we discovered that the wheelchairs we had were all too big for him but if we had foam pads it would fit him and he could grow into it. So a senior sister and I went on a hunt for more foam to make the padding. Sister Hawkins was with another senior sister. We went from home depot store to hardware store and it felt like a wild goose chase. At last on our 5th try we found some and last night the wheelchair was delivered to adorable Misha. So now I know how to say foam also in Russia: porolon. 

We did see a lot of little miracles this week. The biggest I think was my attitude. As we have been reading the Book of Mormon together I have noticed Nephi's attitude. He doesn't let anything rock his faith or his trust in the Lord. Even when his brothers are trying to kill him for the umpteenth time he still worship and thanks the Lord! That sort of attitude has been one I have been trying to cultivate and especially lately have been trying to emulate. I noticed a big difference in myself even during times where I might have freaked out or gotten discouraged. Last week a lot of plans fell through. Last Tuesday we made our plan and a backup plan and both of them fell through. We tried calling and dropping by people but no real luck. One contact we called agreed to meet, only the next day she called to cancel and inform us that she would be busy for the next two months. But despite everything we kept a good attitude and it all payed off by the end of the week.

We do have a few potential investigators for which I am very excited. We met with one lady to whom the previous sisters gave a Book of Mormon. Despite mixing up the meeting place we got to her in record time. We were in a park and she was with her son so we did not really get to teach but we explained church, invited her to come, and she consented to letting us come to her home and teach her. 

This past weekend Ryazan had a guest, a former sister missionary, Sister Baloshova. It was great having her visit because she helped us get in contact with former investigators and helped on a few lessons. She called almost every member of our branch and so a lot of people came to church! It was great to see the branch building so full and to have so many come. We met one of our district goals of having 30 people at church!

Perhaps one of the greatest miracles was finding Sasha (Alexandra). Sasha was a former investigator who had a baptismal date in September. The previous sisters met with her but until last week we had never met her. We tried calling her but no one answered. Unfortunately, we had no address so calling was about all that we could do. Well, Sister Baloshova called her and there was also no answer. However, Sister Baloshova knew where she lived. Everything worked out beautifully to find her. We found her home, wrote down her address, and the entry door was left open. Since Sister Baloshova was not a missionary and Russian she was able to get in and to the door of her apartment and Sasha was home! Sasha had no phone and had just returned to Ryazan. While she hasn't been reading the Book of Mormon she did remember her baptismal date and felt bad that she could not make it. She then expressed a desire to continue meeting with us. I can't describe the elation that I felt.

Like every week in missionary work there were ups and downs but I noticed a lot of miracles and tender mercies. Time is short but I could keep going on about all the miracles that I have seen. I have only written a small part. Everyday I am reminded that this is the Lord's work and I am so grateful to be a part of it. It is certainly challenging and taxing but the Lord is sustaining me. I know that my prayers are heard. I am so grateful for the knowledge that my Heavenly Father is never far and I can always talk to him.

Love, Sister Daniel

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wonder of wonder, miracles of miracles

This week turned out to be pretty good. I think in terms of numbers this week was one of the best of the my entire mission! I think this week we had the most amount of meetings with investigators that I have ever had on my mission.

Angela is doing just great. We met with her on Wednesday and Sunday and both lessons were great. She is progressing wonderfully towards baptism and she knows it too. I was so proud of her yesterday at church. She was going around to all the members and telling them that she was glad to see them. She even went up to a few members who were particularly rude to her last week. One cultural thing about Russians is that they are not particularly friendly on the first meeting. Once they warm up to you they are the nicest people. However, sometimes it can be hard for missionary work when you are introducing investigators to members and members are less than warm to investigators. I was a little teary eyed as I watched her go up to everyone. Since she is an orphan we have tried to empathsize that the branch is a big family. In our lesson this week she wanted to know how to say, "I don't have family" in English. Sister Hawkins was talking to her and responded in the best way, "Yes, you do. We are sisters." Her smile got bigger and she was much happier. 

Yesterday marked my two months left on my mission, as Sarah noted in her email. I realized this only yesterday when Angela asked me how much longer I will be in Russia. Lately I have changed from telling people 3 months to 2 months. Then as I was telling her it hit me that it was exactly two months to the day. I also had an interview with President this week. He came to Ryazan to interview the branch president and decided to meet with all of the missionaries. It was a little humorous because President kept saying things like, "I can't believe it's time for you and Sister Horspool" and talking as if I was going home in a few weeks. It wasn't until the end when I asked if he knew what would happen to me next transfer that he realized I still had another transfer! He was greatly relieved to hear that I still had another transfer. 

Yesterday was another landmark in my mission: my first tracking experience. For those of you who don't know what tracking is it is going door to door, knocking, and seeing if the people who live there are interested in hearing about the gospel. Some of you may be shocked that it was my first time. In Moscow tracking was discouraged, especially for sisters. We have enough incidents with drunk men on the street and tacking always brings the craziest stories. Well our elders sometimes go tracking and neither of our companionships could get lessons so the elders gave us a tutorial on tracking. The idea of it was terrifying and my heart was pounding the entire time. But it was fine. The elders and sisters alternated floors and for the first floor the elders waited by the stairs just in case. Most people didn't answer the door but one lady answered and took a Restoration pamphlet. I felt good afterwards especially because it was certainly outside of my comfort zone.

This week I have seen a lot of miracles. On Thursday we went contacting and I was shocked by how many people listened and gave me their number. It was a big faith builder because I know it was not me. I have been trying a lot harder to apply the scripture 2 Nephi 32:9 and really pray over my goals. If I know I am contacting that day then in every prayer I tell Heavenly Father my plan and pray for Him to bless me. Then I have tried to keep a good attitude no matter how things turns out. I remember when Elder Christoffersen came to our mission and someone asked us a question about patience. He quoted Romans 5:3: "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience;" He told us not to worry too much about patience because a mission is a trial of patience. He said that as time goes on the trials of a mission will work our patience. I have been so thankful to the Lord because I have started to notice that I have a lot more patience than I used to. We had quite a few figs this week but I didn't let it phase me. 

As a mission we just started reading the Book of Mormon as a mission from the beginning. The theme that President asked us to focus on was "faith to work miracles." I have learned to love Nephi even more. I have seen the importance of attitude and perseverance. Although he and his brothers were not successful the first two times he did not give up. As I read about Nephi attaining the plates this morning I realized that perhaps the previous attempts were trials of Nephi's faith. He was showing his faith and perhaps the other attempts built his faith so that he was able to perform the miracle needed to attain the plates. Trials do build our faith and patience. Of that I can testify. 

Have another great week! I can't wait to hear about all of your crazy adventures. Keep safe, dad! 

Love, Sister Daniel

Monday, September 10, 2012

September 10, 2012

Well, another week has passed and I realized that this week that I hit my 17 months on a mission mark. I realized it a few days after it happened. We had a combined zone conference and a lot of people asked how long I had been on my mission. As I calculated to tell them that's when I realized that I had hit my 17th month mark. Hooray!

Yesterday I did give a talk. On Tuesday our relief society president met with the branch president so Sister Hawkins and I went to translate. I helped her to ask all of her questions. After our meeting I asked the branch president who all would be speaking so I could gauge how long I should talk. He informed us that we would be the only speakers but we could sing a hymn in between our talks. Our topic was "Preach My Gospel", the missionary manual that missionaries use. I'll admit that I was wracking my brains try to come up with a talk that would not be scatter-brained. I prayed a lot in order to know what direction I should talk. I got my answer on Saturday when we got the new Liahona for September. I thought a lot about the phrase "Preach my Gospel" and what is the gospel. I talked about the missionary purpose, "invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receiving the Restored Gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." I focused my talk on the gospel and then talked about events I experienced with the gospel that lead me to want to serve a mission. Honestly, at this point I don't remember all that I said but I ended up talking a lot longer than I planned and everyone told me that I did a good job. 

Angela is doing well! We had a good lesson on the Restoration. She is reading the Book of Mormon and understanding quite a lot. And she is continuing to come to church. We tried talking to her about a baptismal date but she says she has a few concerns so we are working to resolve those issues. But she is doing great and we are all very happy.

Our mission has a goal to have 85 baptisms by the end of the year. We are doing pretty well as a mission and that is a focus of our mission. We are trying to find more people to teach. We are calling all of our people and going through old contact sheets. We are doing a lot more contacting and trying to follow up on our contacts. On Wednesday we went Book of Mormon contacting, trying to find people through the Book of Mormon. Despite how many people I talked to I did not manage to pass out a book but somehow I managed to get two numbers. Our mission is seeing a lot of miracles and I am positive that we will start seeing some more here in Ryazan. The biggest lesson I am learning is the importance of patience. I have noticed a difference within myself. We had a day where we called everyone that we knew and no one answered. Despite our hopes for lessons they all fell through. That left us with street contacting. A lot of people did not want to talk to us or they would take the brochure but did not want to give us their number. It was a day that would typically frustrate me but instead I kept a smile and tried to keep an open mind. I am trying to do my part, pray a little more, contact a little more, but I know that it is all in the hands of the Lord and there will be miracles so long as we do our part.

In terms of the branch things are slowing getting better. We are keeping contact with a lot more less active members and a few are coming to the church more often. We also recently found a photo album and an old ward list and found some members that used to be on the ward list but are now missing. We quickly divided the list. Although our first priority is finding new people to teach but now we are organized and we know who we should call at night.

Pray for me to learn the language even more. In the next few weeks a few missionaries will be participating in a humanitarian project here in Ryazan. The humanitarian missionaries asked President Sorenson if we could participate and present wheel chair training. He agreed so our district leader and I will be giving wheel chair training. I definitely will be praying a lot more for the gift of tongues!

Spiritual thought for the day comes from the new Liahona. Elder Christofferson wrote a wonderful article about faith and how we can increase faith. "The word that we declare, the word that generates faith in Christ, is the gospel, or good news, of Jesus Christ. Simply put, the good news is that death is not the end of existence and our separation from God is temporary. We have a Savior, Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, who by His Atonement has overcome death and hell so that all will be resurrected and all who will repent and be baptized in His name may have place in the heavenly kingdom of God forever." I love these sentences because the gospel is the good news! That is exactly why I am on a mission. I know that death is not the end and that there is hope through Jesus Christ. Or course we have to remember that faith is hope for things which are not seen but are true. We need to have faith to ask God if these things are true and then be willing to listen to the Spirit which communicates to our heart and mind. I know that we can obtain this hope and experience the joy of the good news. I know because I have obtained it for myself. We can all obtain this hope if we are willing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September 4, 2012

Things week turned out to be a good week. Or at least I felt like it all things considered. As you know on Monday Sister Hawkins and I travelled up to Moscow and on Tuesday I flew out to Riga. Traffic was bad coming back from the airport to the mission office so we were not able to head back to Ryazan Tuesday night because then we would have gotten home around 2-3am. We figured it would be better to wake up early on Wednesday and take an earlier bus. The last time we came back super early (or very late depending on how you look at it) we were dead the night day and effectiveness was not 100%.

Wednesday we got back and traffic for some reason was really bad in Ryazan. It has been raining a lot but this was some of the worst traffic I have seen in our small city. So it took a while to go to the hospital. One of our members, Uliyana, called us while we were in Moscow and told us that her daughter went into the hospital. We went to visit her and although we got a little lost and it was my first time traveling to a Russian hospital we found her room and sat with her. We told us that she was going through and it just about broke my heart. 

In terms of investigators we met with Angela, Oksana, and Alexander. Sadly, Nina is incredibly busy these next two week so keep her in your prayers. Right now our most progressing investigator is Angela. She is doing just great. We went out to her and taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She is reading the Book of Mormon and she asked her to repent in her prayers after we left and she did! She came to church on Sunday and after church we read the Book of Mormon with her. We also managed to resolve an issue over the phone. We invited her to be baptized and she said yes but did not agree to a date but she said she has some more repenting. On the phone we reminded her to pray about a baptismal date and she made the comment that she should be a member of the church first and then get baptized. I was very pleased to tell her that membership is the church is only after baptism and confirmation. I think that will help her have more of a desire. She really is doing so great and we are so happy with the progress she is making and her willingness to exercise her faith. As an orphan without work she has a lot of trials but I know the Lord is helping her.

Friday we met with both Oksana and Alexander. The lessons were good but they were draining. I love Oksana and she is reading the Book of Mormon and loves it. Our biggest hurdle is helping her understand the need for a Restoration. She likes learning about different religions but does not see a need to come to our church. But from our lesson I was able to understand her more and understand her definition of prophets. Our lesson with Alexander was also good. He is praying! That in and of itself is a miracle because our first three weeks with him he refused to pray. The phrase "easy to be intreated" would not be apt to describe Alexander. Right now our current hurdle is the Book of Mormon and getting him to read it. He has read about the Book of Mormon and church history on the internet but has not opened the book itself. By the end of our lesson he did agree to read for 5 minutes and we called him a few days later and he read! Now we need him to read from the beginning and not just flip open and the book and read whatever page to which he opens. 

I have also been working with Sister Hawkins and preparing her to take on more. I told her at the start of this transfer that during the last two weeks she would have the phone and be responsible for most of the phone calls. A lot of missionaries are going home and soon the mission is going to be all new again which increases the chance of these new missionaries will be training sooner than I did. At least it is better to learn these skills with someone who knows Russian as compared to learning it when your companion can't really help. So far she has been doing great and I'll admit it has been fun for me to watch. Watching her and seeing the things that she got the most frustrated out helped me see my own personal improvement. Yesterday we spent an hour calling old contacts sheets and trying to call people we had contacted recently. Most of them didn't pick up or the phone numbers didn't work. I could tell she was getting frustrated while I was amazed by how many people actually answered the phone. I thought it was a pretty successful call session. 

You can know that I am definitely being put to work. On Sunday our Relief Society President was released and Sister Ottley, the senior sister, was called to be the new Relief Society President. Since Sister Ottley does not speak Russian I get to do a lot of translating. A few weeks ago I had a thought that I needed to speak more Russian and I am definitely speaking a lot more and trying to speak Russian more with other missionaries. I am also learning a lot more about the organization of the church. This next week Sister Hawkins and I are giving talks so the Lord is definitely using me. It has required a lot of faith and a lot of patience. 

I am doing great, besides being sick, and I am excited to see what will happen this week. We are seeing a lot of miracles and praying for a lot of miracles. Already we are seeing good things happening in the branch. We are also trying to find new people to teach. Keep praying that we will find the people who are being prepared to receive the Gospel. They are there but we just need to find them.

With love, Sister Daniel

Monday, August 27, 2012

Photos included

So where to start with this week! It turned out to be a good week! We even got our first member present lessons since we have come to Ryazan! We also have a member referral that turned into an investigator! There are still plenty of hard times but I am trying my best to stay happy and optimistic and focused. Thankfully the focus part is not too hard because I just like to pretend that I am always going to be here in Russia so I don't have to think about decisions to be made after the mission. But I did set new goals to help me focus even more.

We met with Alexander and it was perhaps our best lesson with him yet. He asked us about the Holy Ghost and the lesson was great. Alexander has a habit of processing information and when we explain something he will always respond with, "Let me see if I understand you correctly..." and then typically what he says is something crazy and makes no sense. But during this lesson he actually understood! And he was not as argumentative. A great moment came at the end when he asked why we thought the Book of Mormon is so great and why we thought it could answer all of his questions. I beared my testimony and I was determined not to let him interrupt my testimony and I felt the Spirit strongly. I know he felt something because his response was, "No objections." Alexander has also starting giving us nicknames. Appartently Sister Hawkins is destined to either be a movie star or go into politics because her nickname is "Hollywood" or "Ms. Vice President." Alexander calls me "Doctor Freud" because he always thinks I am psychoanalyzing him. 

English club on Friday was hilarious. We are trying to grow our English club but sometimes it is really nice when there are less people so that we can talk more and get less stressed out making sure everyone has a good experience. There were only two people: Sasha (our Muslim Uzbeck friend) and a new lady Ira. We decided to talk about holidays and traditions. We talked about both American and Russian, Christian and Muslim holidays. We all learned a lot. The funniest part came when we talked about Christmas. We said the word and then Sasha looked at it and then said, "Last Christmas I gave you my heart." Sister Hawkins and I about died from laughter. He didn't know what Christmas was before we told him but he knew the words to the Wham song. It got better when as we were walking home Sasha walked with us and told us about music that he liked. He said that he liked a few American bands and asked if we knew them. He told us his favorite band, "Beck-" and we thought he was talking about the band Beck but then he continued, "-street Boys." And then he proceeded to play his favorite song, "Show me the meaning of being lonely." Like Sarah mentioned in an email last year, the 90s are still alive in Russia.

As I mentioned earlier we have a new investigator. I am really excited to work with her. Her name is Angela and she is the girlfriend of a member in the ward. She lives in a very small town outside of Ryazan and miraculously we managed to find her apartment. The town is so small that there are no real street names. The buildings only have numbers. I say that we miraculously found Angela's apartment because it was only with Heavenly Father's help that timing all worked out and their were people to help us. In Angela's town there is really no cell phone reception so although we had her number we could not get in touch with her. We got to the bus stop early but to go outside of Ryazan we had to find another small bus stop. I didn't know what her town was called and Angela didn't know her bus number. All that we knew was that a bus was heading out to her at 11:30. We wandered around and tried asking people where this small bus stop was located. Not a lot of people knew but finally a lady told us where it was. The time was about 11:28. We ran to the bus stop and made it onto the bus. As soon as we got in the doors closed behind us and we were off. Except we had no idea where to get off and we could not get a hold of Angela still. The plan was once we got on the bus we needed to call Angela so she knew we were coming and then she would meet us at the bus stop. Well, without getting in touch with her we rode the bus to the last stop and hoped that building 18 was the right building 18 in the right town. Well, miraculously it was her town and her building! Success! 

We had a good meeting with her. We talked about the Book of Mormon and she is excited to read it. She already reads the Bible and has her favorite scriptures written down and close by. Angela is an orphan and she told us about her story. Although she does have an aunt and uncle she grew up in an orphanage and moved out when she was 17. She believed in God but then she had a hard time and was angry at Him. Eventually, she realized that God existed and she was the one being rebellious and worked to change her life. She has come to church twice and loves it and she was the one who brought up baptism. We helped her prepare some lunch as we were talked to told us that she likes coffee. "But," she said, "After I am baptized I know I can't drink it anymore." Now that we know how to go to her we will go out there every week and meet with her. 

It really was a good week. We got to meet with some less actives member and are working to know the active members better. Every week we have a dinner at the Ottley's (our senior couple) with someone from the ward and it has been a great opportunity to know members outside of the church building. The weather has also been turning colder. Tuesday is particular was very cold and the wind made it even worse. I joked with a few Russians about where the summer went and they responded, "The summer is now over." It has definitely been chillier but Tuesday was the worst. We went contacting and occasionally we had to run to the nearby mall and have a warm up break. Also this week we got a new water filter! The water is Russia is not very good and every apartment should have a water filter. We did have one but it didn't work so for the last 7 weeks we had to buy filtered water from the store and carry jugs home every week. Well, our wonderful elders brought us a new system this week and we got it all set up last night. As Sister Hawkins said this morning, "We are queens. We have a water filter, a mircowave, a new pan, and an electric tea pot. What next? A waterbed?" 

Life is going pretty good. Every day there is so sort of new struggle, whether it is a struggle with the language, contacting, finding new people, or with the branch. But life overall is good and one thing I have learned about myself is that I can't not do anything. Even when it appears tempting to stop trying I learn that there is something a little bit more that I can do. In addition I know that I can always be happy no matter what is going on around me.

Enjoy the pictures! They are from last Preparation Day when we went out to Konstantinovo where Sergei Yesyenin was born (a famous Russian poet). It was so beautiful and no wonder he wrote poetry. The last photo is from today. We had to buy tickets for our bus to Moscow today (the office elders messed up and my visa trip is tomorrow so we have to go out tonight). We walked back from the Bus Station and that was a come stretch of the road. It was slightly terrifying but we survived

Monday, August 20, 2012

Oh the fun of technology

This will be an interesting email as I am typing from an iPad which belongs to out senior couple. I'm not sure how long this will be as it is very interesting to write on. Today we are taking a trip and going to see a city outside of Ryazan and so we are getting our emailing done.

In response to our email regarding my package don't worry about sending a lot of stuff. Remember when I get home I will have almost no clothes so the stuff that you mentioned is enough. I am good on dress socks and a pair of black tights and beige tights should suffice. I believe the size I need is either a small or a medium. I'm not sure because since the start of my mission I have lost weight and I don't remember the American dimensions. But thank you for all that you are doing and for all of your kindness. I'm sure my companions will gladly appreciate it.

Well this week was a good week. We saw a lot of miracles and found out more about our investigators who disappeared. I know numbers aren't everything but I am proud to report that this was our best week number wise. We found out what happened to our investigators Olga and Alexander! While contacting on Tuesday I was standing on Victory Sqaure when Olga and her husband walk up to me. She explained that they had been on vacation and just recently returned. My suspicions were correct, Russians have a tendancy during the summer to disappear and cause us to freak out because they don't tell us these things. However, this week she has still not been answering her phone but at least we have a better idea what happened to her.

Then on Saturday we ran into Alexander. That story is a miracle and just a lot of little things added up for us to meet him. Friday night we tried calling everyone we knew to get a lesson. None of our investigators, contacts, or less active members could meet or they did not pick up the phone. Then we tried to figure out a good activity as we contacted and decided to drop by our relief society president's home and give her something she had asked for earlier in the week. Before we could leave we had to drop something off at the branch building and then we had two options of bus stops. I randomly chose one and as we got there Alexander was standing there. Sadly, he had not been vacation and when we approached him he had the guiltiest look on his face and we knew he was avoiding us. We had been calling for the past few weeks and we had been pretty worried. It was a little heart breaking to hear him say that he had seen us around town a few times but had hid. But we did have a meeting with him yesterday afternoon and we are trying so hard to convince him to pray. He asks many of the questions of the soul but when we try to help him find the answers he won't accept it because the answer is so simple: pray and read the Book of Mormon. He wants worldly and scientific knowledge. Sometimes I want to tear my hair out but we were very bold with him and told him that he needed to pray before we meet again. We told him that he can find his answers but he needs to do his part and that it all depends on him. 

This week we also had our culture night. Because of the summer time and the fact that we are not in Moscow most of the theaters were closed in Ryazan. So we were creative and went to a monastery outside of Ryazan and walked around the small town. It was a fun trip and mostly we walked around and talked. Because time is a little shorter today I will not be able to send photos but I will next week.

The best part of the week is that this week we might have a new investigator! A member, Vitali, has started bringing his younger girlfriend to church. This was the second time she has come to church and she liked it. We got her number this week and she said that she would like to meet. Actually when I was on the phone with her last night she mentioned that she wants to come to church every week and be baptized. Sister Hawkins and I love her so much and so we are both excited to start meeting with her. 

In other happier news the weather is starting to get cooler and already I am pulling out my sweaters. It has also been raining a lot more. Summer was good but I am excited for Fall because more people will return. We also have some exciting work ahead. There is a slight mystery in our branch concerning members that are not on the ward list. Yesterday while looking through former investigators I found a few sheets of paper from 2004. Sisters had written done who they met with, including less actives. A few names I did not recognize and as I looked at the ward list I saw that they were not there! Thankfully there was a number and address so we are going to see if we can find more information about them. Working with the branch and helping them is coming slowly but it is coming.

Another bit of news is that next week don't be concerned if I don't write next Monday. Next Preparation Day I have my visa trip to Riga and with flights and travelling back and forth between Moscow I don't know when I will be writing. But be sure that I will write next week, I just won't know when. 

Well, I love you and sadly I need to get going. Thank you for all of your prayers. I need them. As I wrote to a friend last week I am determined to endure to end and keep working to the very end. It won't be easy and there are plenty of hurdles ahead but the Lord is going to test me on that resolve and I am working harder than before. I know that this is the Lord's work and I am so grateful for the chance to participate and show my faith everyday.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Consider how great things the Lord has done for you

This past week put a few things in perspective. My trainer, Sister Bullough, went home. With her went Sister Thrall, my MTC companion, and Sister Pollishuk, a native sister that was in the MTC with me. It was weird to think that most of the people I have been serving with are going home. In two weeks I have my last visa trip and I will be the only sister traveling with 15 elders. Perhaps the mission office already contacted you but President Sorenson called this week to tell me that Church HQ approved my flight home on November 16. It also motivated me to set more concrete goals and not let anything get in the way.

This week was a better week. Although last week was hard and perhaps Sister Hawkins and I felt a little tense because of it we kept going. The nice thing about when everything starts to go downhill is that you have a lot of time to reflect and come up with new plans. Rather than bemoan it is better to think of it as a new start. We have made a lot of progress in our goals. I have now almost called all of the former investigators in our area book. Most of our investigators have disappeared on us or do progress but have a track record of figs. So we are trying our best to use all of our time wisely and find new investigators. We looked in the area book for investigators with addresses and then set off yesterday to try to track them down. Along the way we contacted. Yesterday was pretty successful! Although the only contact we received was for English club we talked to more people and we counted that at least 5 people were nice to us and didn't immediately turn us away. We also had more chances to testify as we contacted as well. Although we were a little awkward we did our best to approach every family we saw. We want to find a family and families are the hardest to contact because they are very protective and extra suspicious. But we did our best and we learned.

Wednesday night was a great night, thanks to Sasha. A bibliophile in Ryazan recently passed away and Sasha, our wonderful English clubber, had a connection with his sister. His sister didn't want to deal with the books and asked if he knew anyone that would be interested in books. Sasha took us over to this man's house and we had the opportunity to take whatever we would like. There were lots of fun children's book from the CCCP (USSR) and even a magazine from 1952. Apparently when Sasha went over with the elders first Sasha had a moment of realization. This man's life work was collecting books and while the elders and Sasha looked at the books Sasha said, "This man dedicated his life to collecting books. Now he is dead and his books are here." 

The only investigator we got a hold of to meet this week was Oksana. I met her on the street doing Book of Mormon contacting. She surprised me by saying that she already had a Book of Mormon and had read it. She agreed to meet and we had an interesting first lesson. We gave her some commitments and agreed to meet but then every time we tried to set up a meeting she would not show up. Well, we finally met again this week and she read from the Book of Mormon and prayed! We were so happy and she agreed to reading the Book of Mormon again and praying before she read. She said that she really liked the way that we prayed and liked using her own words. She a lot of interesting ideas but she is willing to learn. we just need to help her remember and show up to our meetings but at least we know she is reading and wants to learn.

Of course this week definitely had some funny moments. Most of them I don't think I can describe what made the moment so funny. For example there is a member of our church that loves to give us nicknames. It was funny yesterday when this member compared me and Sister Hawkins. He said that I looked holy, "like the Virgin Mary" while Sister Hawkins looks like "a Hollywood star". Or when the lesson in Relief Society turned into trying to get one of the single men in our branch married. Or my companion being afraid of cats and nearly dying when, as I was saying a prayer, a cat jumped on my lap. She was glad it happened to me because she said that she might have died of fright.

Spiritual thought: Right now I am in 1 Samuel and reading about the downfall of Saul. What struck me as being so sad what that Saul had so much potential. Although Saul had such great potential his downfall came in not being fully obedient or seeking the Lord. The longer he was king the more he let his bad traits overcome his good traits. He began to think more about himself and forgot who gave him his kingship. I found a lot of application this week when there arose temptations perhaps not to be exactly obedient and think I would make up for it by working extra hard. But I remembered 1 Samuel 15:22 "And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of the rams." I know that although it can be hard at times to be obedient  to the commandments or it is easy to justify our disobedience we can remember that we show our love through obedience. As we are obedient, even during the hard times, even during the times we may question God because of times that are happening in our lives, God will bless us and help us reach our potential. While Saul lets the strain of his duties enhance his negative callings we can take comfort from the example of Samuel who "is a signal example of faith, patience, integrity, and self-sacrifice through a long and trying career (Bible Dictionary)". 

Monday, July 30, 2012

News from Ryazan

Well, this week was a good week and we put in a lot of contacting time. Of course through contacting you get the best stories and there were definitely some moments that Sister Hawkins and I have laughed about since. 

Last Monday we went with the elders to go see the Kremlin which what the photos I sent are from. We also went exploring in the woods by the Kremlin which was a lot of fun. Ryazan does have some other interesting sights that we are planning to see sometime soon. There is a museum and a square named for Pavlov, who was influential in the Behaviorist branch of psychology. Also, a famous Russian poet was born in Ryazan so there is a museum for him as well. Next week I'll get back to you on what is his name.

On Tuesday and Fridays we have our English club. So typically on those days we go out with the elders to contact and invite people to English club. We recently discovered something that has led to us receiving more telephone numbers: clipboards! For some reason having a clipboard makes us look more professional and more people give us our numbers. I'll admit that Tuesday was one of those days where everybody turned me down. It felt like every person that I tried to talk to would pull the "I'm in a hurry" "I don't need it, girl" or the simple ignore and keep walking. But! There was one success for which I am so thankful. One lady I talked to seemed very interested and then she went into the mall nearby the fountain square where we were contacting. After she was done in the mall she came up to me again and asked about some of the details. Well, that night she came to English club! I was ecstatic and she had a great time. She couldn't believe that it was free and we were not charging anything. That is typical, though, that most people don't believe us when we say English club is free. I also get asked a lot about that and I also get asked how long you can come before we start charging. All in all it was a very good day.

On Wednesday we had a meeting with a girl from English club. She is actually baptist and has great faith in Jesus Christ. She told us her conversion story to the Baptist Church. We tried to talk to her about the Book of Mormon but in the end she would not take one. But we will continue to be friends with her. It was hard because she was talking about her church and the great bond of friendship and unity, something that we are trying to foster more in our branch. 

We also met with Olga our investigator with a baptismal date. She is warming up to us more. At first, she was a lot more reserved but she is opening us to more. Her date is the 11th of August and so far she is doing well. She is progressing. Our biggest problem with her is a common problem here: prayer. It seems like all of our lessons this week were centered on prayer and the importance of praying for confirmation. A lot of people just don't understand the need to prayer or to pray if they already know sometime is true. It has been a little frustrating at times because I want these people to know that wonderful blessings that come from prayer. I ave learned so much and developed such a relationship with my Heavenly Father that I treasure. I know that so many of our problems that we face can be resolved through prayer and scripture study. 

We did get a new investigator. On Wednesday we went contacting with Book of Mormon. I met a lady named Oksana and talked to her for a long time. It was interesting because when I asked her if she would like a Book of Mormon she replied that she already had a Book of Mormon and she had read it. She agreed to meet and then went off from about something that I did not completely understand. Yesterday we met with her and it was an interesting meeting. She does have a lot of interesting beliefs but as I listened I did find a lot of truth. She has a lot of interesting ideas about the world but she is willing to meet again and she was interested as we talked about the Restoration. We did not finish the lesson but we talked about prayer and she was interested in the way that we prayed. She agreed to try praying and reading the Book of Mormon. We will see where this will go. I have faith that if she will read the scriptures and pray that she will find answers.

Okay! Now a thought from my personal study. I finished Joshua in the Bible and moving on to Judges. This morning I read in the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 26. I really love this chapter because I feel that I learn a lot about Jesus Christ and His character. I especially love verse 24: "He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation." I know that this verse is true and the Lord does all things for our benefit. There have been many hard times but I know that they have helped me and been for my benefit. Also, I have gained a strong testimony of the commandments and that they are instructions to a happy life from a loving Heavenly Father. I know that God loves us and wants to help us. I know that He wants to communicate with Him and we can through prayer. Prayer truly is a precious gift and I know that I can always turn to my Heavenly Father.

Well, I need to get heading off. The elders are here and waiting for the computers to write home. I love you all! Until next week!

Sister Daniel

Monday, July 23, 2012

So to the question of whether or not Sister Hawkins will kill me... I don't know. Typically I would say yes but with the new mission and the mass exodus of sister missionaries everything is up in the air a bit more. In the next two transfers at least 7 or 8 sisters are going home. We'll at least be together for 2 transfers and then we'll see what the Lord decides to do with me. We could stay for a third transfer, I could move, she could move. I could go crazy trying to figure out all the possibilities so I've decided not to think about it and just sing "Que Sera". Sister Hawkins is from Laguna Niguel and an anthropology major at BYU. 

Wednesday night was great. We met with one of our investigators, Alexander Thompson. He is an old man who is Russian but has Scottish ancestry (hence, the last name Thompson). He likes to practice his English but he is reading the Book of Mormon. He has some interesting ideas but if he will humble himself and pray I believe he will find a lot of his answers. He has lots of questions but he tends to believe all sorts of sources but the trick is getting him to believe in God and to believe that he can receive his own answers from God. 

After our lesson with Alexander we went and read the Book of Mormon with a member of our ward. She is great and comes to church but is struggling with her testimony and confided that the missionaries are the main reason she comes. But I love her so much and she is a great help at English club in the beginning group. In our beginning group we typically have Galina and our muslim friend from Uzbekistan, Sasha. (Little side note on Russian nicknames: Sasha is the nickname for Alexander and Alexandra.) 

That night we had a dinner with Sasha and his father. Sasha is awesome and comes to all of our activities. The elders first met his father on the street when they were contacting for English club. Sasha's father told them that his son had always wanted to know English and he was so excited to introduce his son to the American missionaries. Since then Sasha comes to English club and all our sport activities. At our last sports night he invited all the missionaries over so that he could make us plov. Well, this dinner became a reality and on Wednesday the elders, the Ottley's, Galina, and us went over and were fed delicious plov, a traditional Uzbekistan dish. It was delicious and Sasha and his father are perhaps my favorite people. Before we ate Sasha's dad said a few words and talked about how we are an answer to his prayers because he had been praying for a way for his son to learn English and then he met the elders.

This week was a busy week, including a trip up to Moscow for zone conference. Did I say that Moscow is only 1 1/2 from Ryazan? Well, it is actually a 3 hour bus trip. So to get to our zone conference on Thursday our bus left Ryazan' at 4:30 am. Thursday was a long day. We slept on the bus of course but sleeping on a bus is not the best substitute for sleeping on a bed. We had our conference from 9 until 2:30. Our new senior couple had a meeting that night with all the senior couples and they had asked us to help them get back. By the time we got to the bus station it was about 8 but unfortunately the next bus that had free seats left at 10:30pm. So we did not return home until 1:30am. 

When I served in Moscow I did not give a lot of talks during sacrament meeting, especially when I served in the Sokolniki ward. Most of the time I was asked to bear my testimony rather than give a full talk since they had enough people to give talks. Here in Ryazan' I have a feeling that I will be talking a lot more. Sister Hawkins and I gave talks yesterday. I talked about charity and Sister Hawkins talked about love, topics we had chosen because we feel that was something the branch needs to hear and apply more often. I have come to the point in Russian when I can express myself and understand most of what people say to me, especially in church settings. My Russian is not perfect and I still have a lot to learn but I got a lot of compliments on my Russian. What that means is that I get asked to do a lot by members because they understand me. It was a funny transition for me. In other wards we would take turns reading in class and the members would skip over the missionaries to native speakers. Yesterday during Sunday School I was asked to read quite a few scriptures and to give the closing prayer. Another thing about our branch is that church is only 2 hours because there are not enough people to be in all the calling, or there are lots of people who need callings before we can have church for the full 3 hour block.

The branch is a good branch with lots of potential. There is certainly a lot of work here to do. One testimony I have gained on my mission is that the organization of the church is inspired. Callings, home and visiting teaching are programs designed to help members. Our biggest goal this transfer to help members in these areas so that no one gets lost and everyone receives love and nourishment. Of course there are those loud voices that try to be heard and think their way is the only way and the fun Russian quirks that at times, frustrates you. But there is a lot of potential and it is helping those leaders who are trying to listen to the Holy Ghost and help them succeed. 

We also set goals for this transfers for which I am excited. It will require lots of hard work and diligent effort. But now is the time to thrust in our sickle and reap with our might. There is be opposition and we have planned for that. At our last zone conference President Sorenson talked about sacrifice and talked about all that we sacrificed to come here and things that we have to sacrifice everyday. Our pioneers sacrificed lives, family, and wealth. Nowadays we are asked to offer a broken heart and a contrite spirit and I have learned through this sacrifice we are giving ourselves to the Lord. The Lord blesses us with so much and all that He requires is our obedience which requires us to trust Him.

I love you all. Thank you for all your prayers.