Monday, January 30, 2012

Good Week in Moscow

This week has been a better week. On Monday for P-Day we went lazer tagging to celebrate our district leaders birthday. I don't remember whether or not I mentioned that last week. Either way it was lots of fun and I didn't come in last! (Actually I was second to last but it's not last place right?) After we went lazer tagging we emailed home, then rushed home to change clothes and then we went on a split. My companion, Sister Workman had her visa trip on Tuesday so she was heading to President Sorenson's house and Sister Rasmussen returned to me (she is currently in a threesome companionship). Sister Rasmussen and I started to return to the apartment to drop off her things and we were almost there when the Asisstants to the President called. 

"What you are doing right now?" they asked.

"We are almost to our apartment," I responded.

"How soon can you get here [meaning the central building]? There is a girl here and she lives in your area."

So we ran (literally at times), careful not to slip on the ice, to the center building in the center of Moscow. A girl who was in Sister Rasmussen's group at English club was there. We met with her and talked about God and our relationship with Him. We then gave her a Book of Mormon and taught about prayer. I'll admit I was so frazzled at the beginning of your meeting but at one point I was having trouble understanding and I was trying to figure things out so I asked right then if we could say a prayer. After the prayer the lesson went a lot smoother. She agreed to read the Book of Mormon and we have a meeting set up with her for tonight. When I tried calling her, to confirm the appointment, the number did not work so I am really hoping that she remembers.

On Tuesday we had district meeting and it was fun because Sister Ramussen and another elder who had previously served in Sokolniki was there. We talked about finding people to teach and it was nice to have some new input from other missionaries. I'll admit on our split Sister Rasmussen and I talked a lot. We had a lot of catching up to do and in some ways it was a therapy of sorts. I also had her help me understand some records that I did not understand. During the night it was a little frustrating because there had been some lack of communication on whether or not my companion would be returning that night or the next day. We needed up meeting back with Sister Workman late at night.

The next morning was a little rough for some reason. We had Sister Rasmussen with us during our studies and that companion study was so awkward and I felt like I was pulling teeth. Companionship studies have been better since then and perhaps it was the third missionary that made it so difficult. After Sister Rasmussen joined up with her companions we worked on the area book and tried calling people from it. Unfortunately, no one answered. (As Sister Companion I get the phone. I'll admit making calls and taking calls are not my favorite but I do it and manage not to be too awkward.)

English club that night was small but it was still fun. We talked about schools and explained the American School system. In Russia there is homework but most of their points and grades are made up on oral recitation in class and oral exams. Russian universities just finished up their exams and now universities students get two weeks to relax before the new semester begins.

Thursday was a fun day. It was transfer meeting and although none of the sisters were transferred we were still able to go because a senior couple is leaving soon so they bore their final testimonies. It was great and it was a spiritual rejeuviation that I needed. We then handed out flyers for English Club. One lady gave me a hug and another man told me to return to America. Sadly, the meeting for that night "figged" us (a fig is when a meeting doesn't shop up or cancels on us). 

Friday was a very busy day. We met with an inactive, a recent convert, and an investigator. The inactive is doing great! She is reading the Book of Mormon everyday and the Liahonas and is recognizing that she feels the Spirit. She has come to church and wants to become active and remain active. She realizes that she does not understand everything and doesn't quite have a testimony but she wants to. In the course of the week I saw a huge change in her and I was so excited. I have been blessed on my mission to see the power of the Book of Mormon in changing people. The Book of Mormon is incredible and can bring about so many miracles.

The other two lessons turned out a little differently than planned. Our recent convert has not come to church a lot since her baptism. The biggest problem is that she never told her family because her parents are protiv (against the church). That is a big barrier to overcome and she has had a lot of trials lately but she still meets with us and her friend, Masha who is a super member-missionary, calls her frequently and invites her to activities. Originally we had planned to talk about missionary work but then we found out about some of her trials so we changed the lesson and talked about the example of Nephi and the Atonement. 

An investigator requires a lot of patience. She has her own set of ideas but she likes our message. Now that I have a firm testimony of the Book of Mormon I think that it will become important for her in learning the truth. 

That is the brief recap for the week. It has been a lot colder this week. Perhaps because it came so gradually I some days don't notice how extremely cold it gets. But I have started wearing a hat and I can tell when it is really cold because my face hurts. Also if we are out contacting for a while our feet begin to freeze and it is that feeling when your feet are numb but feel too big for your shoes. Yesterday, we went contacting in a park for two hours. It was not as cold as it was some other days but by the time we were done my feet were frozen. Rest assured, I do bundle up and when we go contacting I pull out my thermal underwear and wear it under my tights. I'll admit I don't mind the cold too much and I am happy that it is colder so I can say I have a Russian winter (I'm sure anyone who served or been to other places in Russia is laughing because Moscow is not too bad in comparison).

Contacting in still challenging but we set a goal to go contacting for an hour everyday. Now that we do it the most challenging thing is to make every minute matter. Sometimes there is "contacting" that involves more wandering around than just stopping and trying to talk. And I feel that sometimes we get so caught up in trying to "feel" which way we need to go rather than going where we are and trusting that there are people in our path or if there is a certain place we need to be then we will be directed. But I've found that the first three people and the first three rejections are the hardest. Once that barrier is overcome it becomes a lot easier. And the barrier then renews itself the next day so you are back at square one again :) 

Russian is coming along as always. I don't know if mentally something has changed but I just really want correction at this point. I get so happy when I am corrected so I can fix my errors. I just remember when I first got here correction was hard to take. And I have had some companions who don't like to be corrected too. But now I become happy because I am learning so much and then I go out share what I learned to others.

Overall, things are going pretty well. It is still the beginning but I am trying to keep this optimism up. I started a "happiness journal" where at the end of each night I write down all the goods things that happened that day. Sometimes it is tangible things and other times I write down realizations that I had that day. They might be small but I always end up going to bed in a happier mood and it helps me remember that "all days are good days. Some are just better than others." What also helps me is just trying to remember that I am not perfect and realzing all my weakness and shortcoming keep me humble (I hope). 

So that has been it for the week. Thank you so much for all the prayers and the support. I am so blessed by all of you and you have helped me experience so many miracles. Thank you.

PS: Next time I will be better on sending some winter pictures. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mission Report

This week was a surprisingly better week. I am learning to deal with lots of little things and working on loving and helping my companion. There are still challenging things of course but I learn to deal with it. Again, progress comes slowly but I am working on trying to understand her. 

On Tuesday we had a Sister's Conference which was very nice. We studied women in the Bible and thought of their traits that we would like to emulate. The theme of the conference was Helman 5:12 and faith. The food was great but the best part was being able to talk to other sisters. I took the time to talk to Sister's Workman's former companion and gained some advice as well as talking to other sisters. We also got the new Relief Society books, "Daughters in my Kingdom" and were encouraged to read a little from it.

I'll admit we have not done as much contacting as we should have. Part of it was that we worked on the area book and I found out that Sister Workman likes to organize. We also had a good companionship inventory where I learned a lot about how my companion views her language which gave me more insight into her. 

In terms of meeting we had a few! There were good but some of them had me walking away a little frustrated. We met with one inactive lady, who complimented me on my Russian, and she has a lot to overcome but she says that she wants to resolve her concerns. She likes the "mormon culture" but has some doctrinal problems with the Plan of Salvation. But to my surprise (oh, me of little faith) she has been reading the Book of Mormon and she called it "a pill for the soul". I was suprised and overjoyed and I hope that as she keeps reading it will help her resolve her concerns. 

We also met with Izolda, an old lady who is inactive due to health problems. It was a good lesson but frustrating in the end. We talked about Heavenly Father and how much He loves her. We shared President Uchtdorf's talk from General Conference and she loved it. But when we asked her to pray and ask God to know how much He loves her she said that she wouldn't because she feels that God would tell her how bad she is. 

Sunday was really good. A lady from Geneva came to church so I translated for her, mostly in English and then a little French. Her first language was French (mine is so rusty) but her English was fantastic. She asked questions about the church in Russia and we talked about the temple. She gave me her address and said to look her up whenever I go to Geneva. After church we read from the Book of Mormon with Valya, a member of our ward. She reads in English and we read in Russia. It was good training since reading outload is my weakest skill in Russia. Valya also corrected our pronunciation and helped us to say words that missionary say wrong. We then helped her to say the words "ten" and "tan", and "bed" "bad" and "bat"which are hard for people learning English. 

Russian is coming along. Somedays it is hard and I get a mixture of feelings. The same day I received a compliment on my Russian from an inactive I talked to our relief society president. She was asking what we typically do and I explained contacting. Without thinking she made the comment that it must be hard when you don't know Russian and then asked my companion if she spoke better Russian than me. Sometimes it can get a little discouraging but I try not to let it bring me down and try to let it humble me instead. 

Things are getting better and I am just trying my hardest to be diligent. It is colder now so I have my winter coat on. Let's see what this next week has in store for me!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Weekly Update

This week was pretty good. We got a new investigator and she has been so prepared for the Gospel. Like life in general, everyday is a rollercoaster it seems. But since I got a blessing from the elders overall I have felt a lot better. As a companionship we are trying to go contacting everyday and somes days are harder than others. But there are tender mercies from the Lord to be found everyday. 

I'll admit I thought I had patience before but I am getting a crash course in patience and choosing optimism. Prayer has become an anchor for me that I need everyday. After the blessing that I received from the elders I talked with one of the elders that gave the blessing. He said that as he was giving the blessing the strongest impression that came to him was to let me know and make sure that I knew that I was not alone. So that is the mindset I adopt and whenever I feel down or alone I just remember all my friends, family, and most importantly, the Lord and I feel better. 

Yesterday we went contacting with a member from our ward, Masha. Masha is almost 20 and was baptized a year ago. Since her baptism she has wanted to serve a mission. I'll admit, she is a better missionary than I am and I learned so much on how to contact. It was a humbling and inspiring experience because I saw even more areas for improvement and growth. But the blessing of it was that I noticed that I did not feel down on myself afterwards but felt more motivated to improve. We also read the Book of Mormon in Russian with another Young Single Adult. She reads in English and we read in Russian. I still have lots of room for improvement.

This past transfer has provided a lot of challenges and a lot of emotional struggle but I think I have grown a lot and learned more what type of missionary I want to be and trying to bring that vision to pass.

In other news! It has been predicted that the temperature will get done to -13F this week. Yikes! But hopefully I will have some good stories to come out of it. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ups and Downs

This has been a week of ups and downs. First off, the weather: it has been unseasonably warm. Quite a few Russians have complained that this winter has been terrible. In fact, it rained two days this week! I am still in my fall jacket and that keeps me warm enough with an occasional sweatshirt underneath. But as everyone points out, winter is not over yet. Most of the snow that melted with the rain earlier this week has been replaced by some fresh snow this morning.

Like I said this week was full of ups and downs and I'll admit that this transfer has been one emotional struggle after another. Every other day feels like a roller coaster. On Monday, just as P-Day was coming to an end, the sole of my boots broke so we rushed to buy another pair. On the plus side, because it is winter all the winter boots are on sale. 

Wednesday was probably the best day of the week. We had a training with Elder Bennett. He is in the Europe East Area Presidency and he spoke in last general conference. This is an interesting benefit of living in Moscow where the area offices are because we get to hear from general authorities and their wives. They also come around and visit the Russian wards and observe how things are going so it is not terribly unusual for Elder Bennett, Elder Lawrence, or Elder Schwitzer to show up for sacrament meeting. 

Anyways! He presented a training on finding investigators and it was interesting how he went about it. He did not use any notes and really followed the Spirit and asked us question. When he wanted to illustrate a point he used stories from his own mission in France. He also said that he was not going to say anything that he had not heard the Prophet or the Apostles say and he said some things that blew me out of the water. We began by reading Mosiah 3:19 and writing down the words that stood out to us. Then he had us evaluate ourselves and talk about what things in our mission culture we would like to change. Most of what we said came down to contacting and being more outgoing on the street. Elder Bennett did not give us the answer of how to better perfect contacters but rather built us up spiritually and pointed out how urgent and little our time is. I suppose the overall theme of his training was agency and that it is our choice whether to talk to people, or to choose optimism and he pointed out the consequences. Elder Bennett was a mission president for the Samara Russia mission and when he received the call President Packer looked at him and said, "Russia is the new Brazil." On a personal level Elder Bennett said that today really does affect the rest of eternity. He said if he hadn't been the missionary he had been and promised his wife, then girlfriend, that they would serve missions together she would not have married him. (Interestingly, his wife refused marriage 3 times because she wanted to serve a mission so he gave her a highlighted talk by President Kimball, I think, and promised her missions before she said yes). Before lunch he ended with a question, "Are you willing to talk to thousands to find the one?"

Then he gave us a commitment. He gave us over an hour to go out and talk to people. He told us not to come back until we had fun. I did have fun but it turned out to be a bittersweet experience for me. I did talk to people and I tried to help my companion but I ended up being taught a lesson about agency and opportunity. We all got together and talked about our experience after lunch and helped to fuel each other.

Thursday we had another zone meeting (with New Years and Russian Orthodox Christmas a lot of people are busy or away) and talked about the Book of Mormon and how we are going to accomplish our goals this coming year. The stake has a goal of 80 baptisms this year. In order to accomplish this our mission standard is one new investigator a week. Also after Feb 14 as a mission we are going to 100% Russian outside our apartments since there are not too many new missionaries anymore. 

Friday I went on a split with the training sisters. Sister Fralovo came to me and we practiced contacting together and how to contact using the Book of Mormon then we went out and did it. It was really refreshing and it was just good. The best thing is she complimented me on my Russian and said that my Russian was good and that I had a gift. With being the senior Russian speaker in my companionship I have realized how limited I am in my Russian but Sister Fralovo's words gave me comfort and hope.

Yesterday was very good. We had a meeting with a recent convert, Vera, and I always look forward to meeting with her. Anna set up a meeting with us on Friday and said that we has questions and she feels that we can answer them. We are really hoping that she will become an investigator and we has been so busy that finially setting a meeting was a miracle for me. Jun-Jun, a chinese investigator, wants to start meeting with sisters again. So things are picking up and I am getting excited. I also got a blessing from the elders yesterday. Like I said, this transfer has been a real emotional challenge and I have never felt so helpless and so overwhelmed. The blessing said a lot of things I needed and reassured me that I am never alone and that the Lord has heard all my prayers and given me as much help as he can without taking away any agency. More than anything the blessing provided comfort and gave me direction on what I need to do.

Well, that was my week in a nutshell. Everyday is a roller coaster and teaching me how to improve and putting my faith to the test. More than anything I learning to put my trust in the Lord. I like the new Liahona a lot and the talk by Elder Christofferson. Rather than be overwhelmed by the weighty goals I am learning to break them down and just make it one day at a time. 

I love you all very much and am so grateful for your support back home. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

This week was an interesting week and a week full of trials in some many ways. Monday was P-Day and our landlord was supposed to come and fix our sink since last week he said he would come on Monday. So we stayed inside waiting for him to drop by once our P-Day was over. We worked on the area book and tried calling a lot of people. Unfortunately, he never called or showed up. Tuesday we had district meeting and it was something that had been on my mind a lot. Our district leader talked about finding people, and more importantly talking to people. Then we went carolling, probably my favorite form of contacting, and when we returned home for dinner I felt really tired. I took some of my dinner time to take a nap and when I woke up I still felt tired. On a whim I decided to check my temperature. To my surprise, because really all I felt was tiredness, I had a fever. The fever got worse on Wednesday. Again, I felt fine except that I was so tired and had a high fever. It went down throughout the day but we still ended up staying at the apartment during the night because our landlord decided to come and an hour earlier than he said he would come. He tried to fix our sink himself but discovered he couldn't so he called his son to come over. So our landlord stayed with us for 4 hours and it ended up being an interesting night since he knows no English and he is an interesting man. But now our sink is fixed!

Thursday we had a Preach My Gospel training with our zone. We did a lot of roleplaying and it was interesting to see the focus of the training. We spent the longest talking about the Book of Mormon and President Sorenson made a comment that it would be an important tool, perhaps more so than it already is, in our missionary work this next week. Interestingly, during our roleplays I ended up with two Russians so I got my Russian work out. But over all it was a great reminder about how much fun teaching lessons are and teaching and testifying about the Gospel. 

Friday was also interesting because I woke up at 3am feeling awful. That feeling continued until later in the night. When I started to feel better I was so sick of being coped up inside the apartment, since I had already been sick earlier that week. Besides, I had a goal to meet. The previous night as I called our district leader, Elder Francom, we started talking about Russian and how everyday is a new battle to talk to people and open our mouths. We talked about how when we talk to people we just feel good about ourselves and feel most like a good missionary. So our companionships set a goal to talk to 8 people. I was determined to reach this goal. As we travelled to visit inactives I made an effort on the metro to talk to people. Mostly, I asked Russians how to say certain words correctly. The first two were scary but I did it and the people were really nice. One of the people that I talked to spoke French! We were walking on the street and I saw a black guy so I wished him a new year in English. He responded with a "Bonjour" so I reciprocated in French. We had been walking but when I spoke in French he just stopped in the street and looked so happy to hear French so I went and talked to him and invited him to church. I learned a lot from trying to reach this goal. At the end my companionship talked to 6 people and I talked to 5 of them. But I tried to talk to someone on every metro ride. As we returned home I had only talked to 4 people and I knew this would be my last chance to talk to someone. We were riding the escalator up and so I turned to the lady standing behind me. My first thought was that she looked really scary but when I asked for her help she was very nice and helped me a lot and would come up with a way to help me remember the word. At the end of the night we reported to Elder Francom the results and we all felt a lot better about ourselves and more determined to reach this goal because we knew we would be reporting to each other.

Saturday we went to President's house to stay the night. The elders in our district stayed together but all the sisters in the mission went up to President's. It was a fun night and it was interesting to see and get to know better all the sisters in the mission. We watched Harry Potter 7 Part 2 which made all of us really excited. Afterwards we had dessert and sat around talking. Close to midnight President shared a spiritual thought and even quoted Harry Potter! At midnight we drank soda and listened to all the fireworks. The fireworks continued all night. By 1am most of the sisters had gone to bed. Those of us still awake watched Charade, an old Audrey Hepburn movie. It was a fun night. 

On Sunday we returned home and I had a good chat with Sister Bullough. Although it has been 3 months since we served together we still love being together and even joked with President that we would like to serve together again. She mentioned to me that she was thankful to have me as her companion because I wanted to work hard and even when things did not work out we still had fun and a good time. Those were words that I needed to hear.

Because New Year's is a big Russian holiday we only had Russian church for one hour at 5pm. The black man that spoke French came to church! But he missed the intertional ward so he stayed for Russian and I ended up trying to translate into French. Try is the key word in that sentence. It was really hard and as I was trying to translate I forgot a lot of basic verbs like the word to remember, souvenir. But I gave him a French Book of Mormon and was able to bear testimony of it. He said he would read it and come back next week so I am very excited. But of all the miracles this week I think the one that meant the most to me happened last night. I called a recent convert to ask she would have time to meet. Those who know me know that I hate talking on the phone. Well, talking on the phone in Russian is worst but I still do it because I need to and I know it is important. I ended up talking to Vera for 25 minutes and it was fun! The conversation went all over the place but I had fun talking to her and it did not feel awkward or strained considering that it was in Russian. 

This week was an interesting week and a humbling week. I felt alone a lot of the time and I have learned that sometimes I need to be vocal about things that bother me. I am not good at resolving conflicts since when I have tried in the past the results have not always turned out well. But I was honest and tried to be loving and show my love afterwards, following the advice the scriptures. I still have a ways to go but as President Uchtdorf said, "Learn to be happy now". Sometimes dealing with companions is tough but I can control my attitude and so much depends on the attitude with which we approach things. I am learning about courage and exercising faith. All I can say is thank goodness for the Atonement.

PS: In other news I finished reading the Book of Mormon (in English). We started reading it as a mission in October and I finished!