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 Most of the snow that melted with the rain earlier this week has been replaced by some fresh snow this morning.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. 

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