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,