Monday, February 27, 2012

You have to love it when the weeks are full.

This week was a good week and I went outside of Moscow on a split to a city called Podolsk, about 30 minutes by train outside of Moscow. One of the sisters who is serving there wanted to see some people before she left. That turned out to be a plus because there are some people the sisters have not met with in a while that were willing to meet because this sister is returning to the States soon. So while Sister Workman went from meeting to meeting I headed to Podolsk with Sister Martiyanava. As you can probably tell from her name, she's from Russia. I'll admit I was a little bit nervous to serve with her for a day because I don't know her very well and she always intimidated me. But I took the attitude of providing service. I remembered that she loved chocolate so I made some brownies and brought some music that she likes. That turned out to be a great ice breaker and she was so thankful for the brownies. We are now speaking 100% Russian on the streets and being with a native... man, my Russian got a workout but it was good to get correction. We had a few meetings and although I was more timid to speak, the only non-Russian in the room, I tried to at least bear my testimony. One lady was impressed by how hard I was trying. The other guy told me I needed to learn Russian. Some days you get compliments and other days you just have to grow thick skin and keep working hard.

On Thursday we finally met with a former investigator, Zhun Zhun (pronounced Jun Jun). She has been an investigator for a while and the last times she met with the sisters was in October. We have tried to set up meeting but she went back to China twice for a month. But she finally met with her and I love her. She is adorable and she wants to have greater faith. Our lessons with her are very simple so we just talked about prayer. She has a hard time with remembering to pray and read the Book of Mormon but she said she would try to this time. She gave us a ride home in her car and as she sat there and I reflected on our lesson I felt so happy to finally meet Zhun Zhun. It was a special feeling to feel that she is very special and to feel God's love for her. He really wants her to be happy.

Friday was a busy day. We met with Elise (who speaks French) in the early afternoon and taught the Plan of Salvation. She loved it and she especially loved learning about Adam and Eve. A great moment was when we explained that in the Garden of Eden it was not possible for Adam and Eve to have children. We read from 2 Nephi 2 and it hit her that the Fall was part of God's plan. It brought her a lot of comfort and it just made her smile to see that the Fall was necessary. At the end of our lesson some of her friends came over and stayed and listened to the end of the lesson. I gave away one Book of Mormon in French to her roommate. At the end before we were about to leave Elise asked us, "When is my baptism? When can I get baptized?" So we set a date for March 10. She is great and as we were leaving she told us that after last week she went out and bought a dress for church. Last week she came from work and wore pants and she noticed the women in dresses and skirts so she bought a dress for herself. 

Then Friday night we had our culture night and it was probably one of the best nights ever. On the recommendation of Elder Hatch, our mission doctor, we went to a balilaika (I have no idea if I spelled that correctly) concert and heard Russian songs from World War II. It was incredible and I did not want the concert to end. The songs were great and some had some humor. One song was called "The Final Battle" and the singers talked about how it was the last battle and how long they had been away from Russia. One of the lines was, "It has been so long since I have seen my mom". It was a blast and the sad part was that they did not sell cds because I think all of us would have bought one.

Saturday we met with Vika and she is continuing to do great. She gave a talk on Sunday so we helped her prepare a little bit. We also did some service. She loves our company and talk us a Russian kid's game. But I think most importantly, our service has helped soften the heart of her ex-husband who is staying with her. He was so suspicious of us at first but he was excited when we came over and asked the elders for a blessing. He even accepted a Book of Mormon!

During dinner Vika paid me a compliment. We were talking about different roles in business such as leaders, supporters, etc. To explain she used me as an example. She said that I was a leader but the first time we met she did not know that. She said that on our first visit she thought I was so timid and shy. She said, "I would have never imagined that she would have such opinions and principles. I would follow Sister Daniel to the front lines." I have always been timid and shy and it has been interesting to hear from others how I have changed. Another sister in the mission also told me that she has noticed that I have grown in confidence. 

Sunday as usual was a long, but good day. I translated sacrament meeting for the senior couple, or tried to at least. Most of the times translating isn't too bad but there are some people I have a hard time understanding. But I made it through. We went to International Ward with Elise and there I translated Sacrament Meeting into French for her. It was interesting because all the talks were on tithing and while I know some gospel vocabulary in French I quickly had to figure out how to describe tithing but I survived and she understood. Elise loves church and the ward is excited for her baptism. Thankfully, she can meet several times this week so we can prepare her. It is humbling to be teaching someone who trusts all that you say.

After church we met with Zhun Zhun and talked about the Book of Mormon. She recognizes that she needs to read but she has a hard time. But we committed her to reading and shared some of our favorite scriptures with her. When we asked about meeting this week she actually asked to meet 2-3 times a week. I think she really likes how she feels when she is with us and wants that for herself. We are trying to think of ways to help her remember commitments and show her that the Book of Mormon is great and exciting. In some ways it is exciting to teach her because I have started to try to be creative and think outside the box. It is also great to have to teach so simply.

Phew, that was our week. An interesting and busy week to be sure. And with Elise and Zhun Zhun we have another busy week. Anna could not meet this week but we keep in contact with her and I think she was pretty upset at work for not allowing her to meet with us. But we are meeting with her this week!

Now for a little fun part. I am sure when I come home I will have strange habits. As I already said a long time ago Russians love mayonnaise. I have learned that Russians love sour cream as well. This week I have dipped my dumplings (pelmenis) in sour cream and eaten them with vinegar. In the past I have dipped them in mayonnaise as well. I have also put sour cream and sugar on my crepes (belinis) as well.

Thankfully, the weather has not been too cold. Although it has been warmer I slipped on the ground twice this week! I am just fine except for the big bruise. The first fall has an interesting story. As we were coming home from culture night we had a fun adventure. We were walking and saw a man grabbed a ladies purse. Thankfully for her, the man was drunk and as he tried to run away he fell down so she reclaimed her purse with ease. Five minutes later we were about to go underground to cross the street. As I looked down the steps I noticed at the bottom of the steps a puddle of blood and a police man. I figured it would be better to avoid the stairs so we went down the ramp instead. It was a little slick but I was being careful. I just about reach the bottom when my foot slid out from under me. I just laughed and we made it home. Still don't know the cause of the puddle of blood but that is probably for the best.

Well, I love you all. I keep you in my prayers always. Thank you again for all of your support and prayers. I love you and I love this work and the Book of Mormon. I have gained a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon and have grown to cherish this book. It truly has the power to change lives.

Until next week,
Sister Daniel

Monday, February 20, 2012

This week ended up being quite a week of service. And it put my French
to the test. Phew.

On Monday we had the priviledge of hearing from Sister Lawrence who
spoke about the signs of the second coming of Christ. As always it was
enlightening and instilled a desire to live a better life and become
more prepared. At the end Elder Lawrence (of the Area Presidency and
Second Quorom of the 70) spoke to us. Last week it was announced in
church that our stake is going to pray and fast that Moscow will find
the buildings that we need for the church. Since Moscow is one of the
largest cities in the world, property is hard to come by. Also, most
of our buildings are find to find and are tucked away into nooks and
crannies. We don't have a building large enough to hold the stake. The
fast will be next fast Sunday but Elder Lawrence encouraged us as
missionaries to include this cause in every prayer that we say.

Monday was also the coldest day of winter. It reach past -30 in the
morning. We missed the coldest part of the day but it was still pretty

Tuesday we had a mission conference in preparation for the mission
tour next month. It was also the day we are supposed to speak 100%
Russian outside the apartment. So far that has been interesting and a
bit of a challenge at time. But our mission needs it and it will be
exciting to see how our language abilities grow.

Wednesday we did service at Vika's apartment with the elders. As
always she was so happy to see us. She has been coming to church
everyweek so far and is becoming fully active. She also told us that
she will receive her patriarchal blessing next week so I am especially
excited and happy for her. English club was great as always and some
elders made root beer floats (they got extract from a package from
home) and it was fabulous. I forgot just how delicious root beer is
and I tried to savor it as I devoured it. The Russians seemed to like
it a lot and they said it tasted like Kvas (I disagree).

Thursday was a mixed day. We went out to Izolda, an old lady who lives
outside Moscow. I feel like I have hit a wall with her. We talk about
faith with her but she says no matter what she does she will only have
weak faith. I left a little drained and sad. But her nephew came over
and she became a lot more animated and we got to hear her talk more
about the church to him. He liked us and said that we had light in our
eyes. Of course, he asked some of those questions in order to test us
about how we react to certain situations, like beggars for example. We
tried our best and I felt happy testifying to someone and leaving him
with a good impression.

Then we met with Anna! She is continuing to be fabulous. In the past
few weeks her love for the Book of Mormon has grown so much. Before
she read it like a book, but now she is receiving answers to prayers
and finding wonderful insights as she reads. We always start by
talking about her reading and each week we go longer and longer
because every week she is learning so much. We talked about baptism
and the Holy Ghost with her and asked her to pray about a baptism
date. It is always hard to come up with commitments because she is
continuing to do all that she needs to to progress. When we asked her
to pray about a date she said that that day she had been thinking
about that and with a new job she needed to start thinking about this
things more concretely.

On Friday we met with Elise, our investigator from Chad who knows
French. We went over to her apartment and we watched the Testiments
movie with her. She loved it and liked seeing how the Bible and Book
of Mormon support each other. She knows the Bible really weel and is
taking the intiative in reading. Last week we gave her the Restoration
pamphlet. At the back are questions to help you study and understand
the parts of the lessons. We didn't ask her but she went through and
answered the questions and looked up the references. My French was
rusty but at least I understood all that she said. Oh! She gave the
opening prayer during our lesson and in her prayer she bore testimony
about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's calling as a prophet!
Elise also came to church on Sunday! At the end she said that she was
really happy that she came. We are meeting with her this week again to
talk about the plan of salvation and I think we can set a baptismal
date with her.

Friday morning was a little rough I'll admit. Our landlord came over
to collect rent and he was not very nice to my companion and would
make fun of her Russian. He would say, "She can't get offended or mad
because she doesn't understand!" In some ways it was a blessing that
she could not understand him. She thought he was funny. But I knew
what he said and I did not like it. I had a hard time having charity
as he was being so mean. After he left I had to sit down and have a
long prayer before I could return to my studies because I could not
feel the Spirit. But as you can tell from our meeting with Elise, the
day got better and I tried my hardest to forgive him.

Saturday Sister Workman and I headed out early to help at a church
conference. It was a conference for the adults over 30 who are not
married. One of the members from our ward called us and asked for
help. I felt glad to know that they felt that they could turn to us
for help. We helped most of the day but I felt great. I got to talk to
people from all over Russia and I just felt great helping. I learned
some interesting things as well. During Soviet times bananas were a
sign of wealth and good living. There were always bananas at communist
party meetings.

Sunday was great although because of Elise she spent most of our
church time with the international ward. Afterwards I was so exhausted
trying to keep my French and Russian straight. And afterwards I found
more people in the ward that knew French and can help if I am

Well, I have 1 minute left on my time. I love you all and thank you
for your prayers and your support. It is working miracles in my life
and in the mission work. Prayers are much more powerful than we think

Monday, February 13, 2012

Moving on up.

This week turned out to be a much better week which was a huge tender mercy. I'm not sure what made last week so very hard but I am starting to get some ideas. On Tuesday night we were told that we were having a special mission meeting the next day. We had no idea what the meeting was about but we soon found out. President Sorenson revealed what is happening with the Mocow Mission and the Moscow West Mission since the Moscow West mission president goes home in June. We know what is happening (and it is very exciting and opens a lot of doors of possibilities) but it will soon be announced in the church news so keep a look out! In the meeting President Sorenson revealed that in most of our letters to him last week it appeared to him that almost all of us had rough weeks, either due to illness or just hard times. To him it was a testimony that Satan is not happy and was working on us. This has provided some comfort as I look back on the challenges.

I'm not sure what made the difference but this week was very different. It was a great week. I'm sure part of it is due to your prayers on my behalf. That doesn't mean that the week did not have difficulties but at least as a companionship we got along fine and had some fun times along the way. I have noticed a lot of good changes in my companion and I am excited and humbled that I have the privledge of seeing her change and become better.

On Tuesday we had district meeting and it was good as always. Afterwards we went to an outercity about an hour away to meet with an inactive member that lives there. She is an old lady and she was interesting. We were with her for 2 hours and when we left I felt so drained. The first half hour she talked about her problems with her family and most of what she said was doctrinally sound. She showed us her Book of Mormon and every verse in it is highlighted. Then she asked the question, "What has the prophet said about the AntiChrist?" Afterwards she preceded to tell us all about the Anti-Christ and read Russian Orthodox prayers about protection against the Anti-Christ. Oh goodness. We tried to start a lesson and I think we got 4 sentences in before she started to ask questions like, "Where are your works? Where is the evidence of your charity?" and be a little confrontational. I did not feel the Spirit and I did not like the atmosphere. But then at the end she talked about how we were an answer to prayer and how she was so happy to see us and loved us. I have mixed feelings about this meeting but we will probably see her once more this transfer. On the train ride back I slumped in my seat, exhausted, and read the newest Liahona for comfort. But I did receive comfort and it makes for a funny story. Our district leader was laughing as we recounted the story.

Wednesday we found out the news about our mission and what will change in our mission. We also got a phone call from some other sisters in our mission. "We have a French investigator for you. She has been searching for the church for 6 months and referred herself." This new investigator is from Chad and has lived in Russia for 20 years. We meet with her on Friday and that was one of the best and most interesting lessons. Elise's first language is French and she has good Russian. Thankfully, I got a hold of some French teaching phamplets and I studied them all day. Our lesson was a mixture of French and Russian and I have to say my French is so rusty and my French has a touch of Russian in it. The teaching was simple but I managed in French. Sister Workman would teach in Russian and Elise (since I spoke French) mainly responded in French and thankfully I understood everything that she said. Phew. The lesson was great and she loved it. She had always wondered why there were so many religions so we were able to answer her questions. When we talked about prayer she made the comment, "How is God supposed to give you anything if you aren't willing to ask?" She invited us over to her house and wants to learn more. She said as soon as she receives answers to her prayers that she will be baptized. She prayed at the end and asked Heavenly Father to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet and thanked Him for our lesson. She is amazing. Sadly, she was not able to come to church but when she called to tell us she said that had read the brochure we left her and she loved it. She also kissed the French Book of Mormon that the other sisters gave her.

Thursday we met with Anna and she is doing great. She said that Thursday nights she has a hard time sleeping because she keeps thinking about our lessons and all the new things she is learning. Her Book of Mormon reading has changed quite a bit and is more enriched than it was before. As she shares her insights I have learned so much and when she shares thoughts I have new thoughts occuring to me. With her I really understand the promise in D&C that we know when we are teaching by the Spirit because both the teacher and the learner will be edified. On accident she left her Book of Mormon in the ward building and she described how she felt to me on Sunday. She said, "I thought that my bag felt light. At first I checked for my wallet and my documents. Then I discovered that what I had forgotten was more precious than money." 

We are continuing to help Victoria who has been coming to church and is meeting with the bishop. I have been blessed in my time in Sokolniki to see two members reactivated and I have been touched to realize my role in helping them come back. I forgot to mention this last week but on a particularly bad day Elder Francom told me that he had a meeting with a few members and our senior couple. They went around in a circle and shared a spiritual experience. There was a lady there, Olga, and her spiritual experience was when the sisters (and she mentioned us by name to the group) dropped by and after we left she thought about church and felt like she needed to come to church. Since our visit she has come to church every week. I believe I wrote about her to you in December. We dropped by and she said she would be at church the next day. Appartently, she had been inactive for a long time but after our visit she has come every week so I thought she had only been less active. 

Sunday was great. Amazing member missionary Masha bought me a pair of warm wool mittens. Also, one of the elder's investigators brought (I think the elders said "tricked") his female friend to church. She stayed for all three hours and stayed afterwards with us as we read the Book of Mormon. I tried to go out of my way to talk to her because at one point I looked over and she was by herself after Sacrament Meeting. We chatted and she was so nice. She took a Book of Mormon and we just had a good time talking. At night she sent us a text apoligized for recommending some music that might not be appropriate and she thanked us for the day. She said. "today I felt comfortable and cozy just like at home. Bless you!" 

And Maria, who was baptized in December, is doing great! She is strong and loves the church. We talked about missionary work and she taught us. She pointed out that we can still testify and share the gospel even if we speak different languages. 

Yesterday was also really cold and we went contacting in a park. Although that park is typically busy there were not a lot of people. But we took lots of pictures and had a good time freezing and walking around. We talked about random things and discussed our contacting strategy. My feet felt like they were about to fall off and my cheeks and nose hurt so much. My hair had frost and Sister Workman's eyelashes were frozen. 

So as you can tell this week was a good week. It did have its downs but the ups outweighed them. Sister Workman and I are getting along fine and getting work done. It helps that right now we have a lot going for us and we are focusing on the work more. There has been a lot more kindness. Again, I don't know what changed but something has and I hope it keeps going. 

Thank you for your help and your support.

Monday, February 6, 2012

There are always ups and downs.

This week was a little rough at times. When I look back at it really I had a lot of good things happen, which goes to show the importance of attitude. This week we got a lot of figs which is always a little disappointing. But we made the best of it, I suppose. On Monday we were supposed to have a meeting with that new surprise investigator and we even arranged for a member to come. Unfortunately, because her phone number did not work and she probably forgot she never showed up. So, instead we read the Book of Mormon with the Valya, the member. 

On Tuesday I actually went a split with Sister Carlson and that was great. She did a training on the Book of Mormon and then we set out on the metro with the goal to hand out two Books of Mormon. She is amazing and handed out a Book of Mormon and got a contact. I did not hand out any but I did talk to some people and I tried. I still have to work on that whole "awkwardness" thing that I do so well. We did lots of talking and trying to understand my companion. She also asked how I was doing. We had gone on a split with the Training Sisters not long ago but our district leader called Sister Carlson and Sister Fralovo and expressed some concern to them. It was good to talk to Sister Carlson and just feel the joy of missionary work that radiates from her. She always motivates me to do my best and sometimes I worry about whether I can give my all until the end of this transfer. I know that I will endure and survive but I want to really do my best work.

Wednesday we helped Vika, our inactive who is really working on becoming active again. We are serving her every week now and helping her to learn the hymns because she loves music. She also feeds us delicious food and tells us how to things certain things the "true Russian way". Then we made some brownies for English club and as always, English Club is great. One of the ladies is our group really wants to help me learn Russian and so she has been so nice and teaching me lots of words. 

Thursday we had a great meeting with Anna, our investigator about the Plan of Salvation. Wow, I was learning all sorts of new things and she was teaching me about Adam and Eve, why having a plan is important, and the purpose of the Final Judgment. As we discussed the final judgment she made the comment that judgment is really for our benefit. "God knows based on our works where we will go. The judgment helps me to understand why we are sent to different places." We also discussed baptism and she said that the decision to be baptized was made the minute she walked into our church. Right she is thinking about summer and she just wants to better understand and recognize the Holy Ghost. Anna and Vika have been my biggest blessing this transfer.

Friday was rough. I woke up with the biggest headache and felt like I was going to be sick. Unfortuantely, that was the day when we were supposed to have 3 lessons and I was not feeling up to it. I slept but every time I stood up I felt nauseus again. So we called some other sisters and asked for their help. Luckily, one of the them was sick so she came over and stayed with me so my companion could go to the meetings. Thankfully, for my companion our most important meeting cancelled. The sister I stayed with was Sister Horspool, who actually trained Sister Workman. Together we tried to think of ways to help Sister Workman and how to motivate her. As well, we discussed the work and our missions. Having had some challenging transfer we talked about the lessons we had learned and about reaching our potential. Sister Horspool paid me a compliment. She said that she has noticed the I have gained a lot more confidence. Sister Horspool and I go way back to Freshman Year at BYU.

Saturday I was in a bad mood and the events of the day made it worse. No one was answering their phone and I could not get a hold of Valeria, who was recently baptized and has only come to church once since. Then we were supposed to have a meeting and she never showed up then she called and asked where we were. Thankfully, the day improved and we went with the elders to Vika's apartment to help her clean. With Sister Workman we mopped her floor and moved a lot of boxes. I am always happiest serving and some good manual labor helped. 

Sunday was a mixed day. Church was good. But I realize now that I was overly emotional and every small thing was getting to me. Before going out to go contacting I had to go to the bathroom to pray for strength to get through the day. And I did survive and I talked to a few people on the metro. Unfortuately, I did not give out any Books of Mormon but I did try. 

That was our week, filled with lots of good things but some challenges as well. It has been a bit chilly here. On Wednesday it was -20C and it was cold. Sometimes I don't like the cold but most times I don't mind it too much unless we are out contacting for a looong time. It is a nice relief from our apartment which is sooo hot. All of our vegetables go bad so fast if we don't put them in the fridge. 

This will be an interesting transfer and every prayer helps. I am working really hard on trying to not be so judgmental and working on my patience. Some days I feel like I am at the end of my rope. Who knew enduring to the end of a transfer could seem so daunting. But each P-Days reaffirms that I survived =)