Monday, March 26, 2012

Back in familiar surroundings.

Well, this week was an interesting one. Last time I wrote to you I was in a threesome and now as I am writing I am again in a threesome, although with different sisters. My short term missionary finished her mission and because I cannot be alone I moved in yesterday with the Perovo sisters, into my old apartment. Which means that for for my companions are Sister Horspool and Sister Fralovo. 

So last week Sister Horspool was with Masha (my short-term missionary) from Sunday of last week until Thursday morning. I'll admit that she was and continues to be a huge blessing to me. On Monday night we had to return to Perovo and get some legal documents. While we were there we did some cleaning around their apartment. One thing I have learned to appreciate is cleanliness and I have gained a real fondness for cleaning. 

Tuesday we had district meeting and then we went singing with the district. We had a lot of fun and as we sang it started to snow. Our hymns books were soaked and so were we. Then that night we had a meeting with someone in Perovo, a potential new investigator. It was a good lesson and as it went on we had a lot of fun and the lady remarked at how strange that was: to be smiling and laughing with people you just met. We were late coming home but I am proud to say that we ran in order to be home as soon as possible. We ran as much as we could and then we walked up and down every escalator. We were so tired but I was happy. 

Wednesday was interesting. We had district meeting with Sister Horspool's district. Afterwards we went to the ward building in my area to have a meeting with a lady who has called us a few times to complain about her life. We met with her but all she wanted to do was complain and between two Russians I could not get a word in. At one point Sister Horspool interrupted the lady to ask the question I wanted to ask, "Why did you come and meet with us today?" She was complaining about lack of work and money and we explained that we could not help her. We explained what we are here to do but anytime we asked her a question about religion or what she thought she would not answer it. Finally we ended the meeting with a prayer and invited her to come to church.

After that draining meeting we had a lesson in French. On Sunday the International elders came up to me and told me, "We have 3 new investigators and they want to meet on Wednesday and they don't know English or Russian. Can you come?" Of course, I agreed. I did not teach the entire first lesson but said enough to introduce the Restoration film, which we watched in French. Afterwards, I answered their questions and they agreed to meet again. It was strange to have 5 missionaries in the room and I was the only one who could communicate with them. My French has become really rusty and I know grammar and sentance structure is not my forte in French anymore. But at least I was able to answer their questions and explain the Book of Mormon. Afterwards, Elder Hayes from International said, "I have never wanted to hug a sister missionary so much." because he was so grateful for my help.

Thursday was an early day. We had to meet at 6:30am to join with Sister Horspool's companion. When we got home Masha and I slept. One thing I forgot to mention, on Tuesday after district meeting I caught a cold. Thankfully, it is almost gone but there were some rough days. We also met with Elise. She is doing great despite a lot of hard times. She found out that she is being evicted from her apartment. But she has faith that everything will work out fine and she knew that after baptism she would face some hard times.

Saturday was an interesting day. We met with Ullia, a member who was baptized last year. She has been sick for the past two months and for a long time I could not get a hold of her. I was pretty worried. But we had a good lesson with her and we are trying to help her find friends in the ward. After that we had a meeting with some person I did not know. I called a number in the area book and found out that the person who owned the phone moved back to Chad. But her sister agreed to meet with us. We got lost for 2 hours but eventually we found her. It was strange because she had no idea who we were or what missionaries are but she agreed to meet with us. She had the tv on and although I asked to turn it off she kept it on. It made for an awkward meeting. I gave her a Book of Mormon and invited her to church. Unfortunately, she did not come.

Sunday was a good but long day as always. After church Masha met up with her parents and I went with the Perovo sisters. I'll admit that I am glad that Masha had a great experience but I am glad to be in the threesome. She will be a great missionary when she is 21 and has gone to the MTC. I think most what made the time hard was the age difference. As with every experience I have learned a lot about myself and how I react in certain situations.

I'll admit that this threesome will be interesting but I am excited for it. Mostly, I am excited for the chance to finally serve with Sister Horspool, who I knew before the mission. Mainly, we talk about missionary work and how to be more obedient, which I love. Last night we talked about goals and how we can help the mission and it made me so happy. We talked about problems we have seen and how we can work to fix some of the problems. And she has been a big help to me during some hard times and in understanding why I felt the way I did. I feel like I am closer to working towards my full potential. We don't know how long I will be with the Perovo sisters, and I know it will be hard working two areas, but I am excited for this opportunity.

That was a rough outline of the week. Hopefully, spring will come soon. This past week there has been a lot of snow. Thankfully, it has not been too cold. Like I said, I look forward to spring.

Thank you  all. I thank the Lord for how much He has been watching over you. Remember that I love you and appreciate and cherish all your prayers on my behalf.

-Sister Daniel

Monday, March 19, 2012

Every day a learning experience.

Well, where to begin describing the week?It has been a learning experience for sure. I am learning a lot about myself and what is important to me as always. Since we received that new area book last week I spent a few hours a couple of days this week organizing and calling everyone in the area book. Since I think it had not been touched for two years most of the number did not work. But one lady picked up! Unfortuneately, she was on her way to the airport but she told me when she would return and asked that I call her when she returns to Russia. Then on Tuesday I finished calling the people in the area book and we headed out contacting in the park. We passed out two Books of Mormon. I'll admit that contacting is a little easier with a native since they can understand all the questions. But I think I realize that regardless of the language the most important thing is just being willing to approach someone. 

On Wednesday we had our conference with President Schwitzer and it was really good. He talked a lot about repentance, making sure that our investigators understand the terms we use, and the Book of Mormon. At the very beginning of the conference we recited D&C 4 which I managed to memorize in English and in Russian. He said a lot of interesting things and made a lot of interesting points. For example he read from the Book of Mormon about Ammon and his brethern, some of our greatest missionaries, and pointed out that we all want experiences like theirs. However, President Schwitzer raised the point, after reading about their trials and willingness to serve for the rest of their lives, "do we want to go through what they went through?" He also pointed out the differences between shepherds and teachers. I guess one of the themes of the conference overall was the need for obedience and why obedience is so important. At the end President Schwitzer said, "Obedience matters for the sake of those you teach." 

Another interesting things he talked about was the scriptures. For one of his assignments he got to go to the archives of the church. The presentation was titled, "Treasures of the Church." He was so excited thinking that the treasures might be some Book of Mormon artifacts. When he arrived he found that the treasures of the church were books. The Book of Mormon Jospeh Smith and others read out of just because the martyrdom, Oliver Cowdrey's transcription of the Book of Mormon, original copies of sections in the D&C. He realized then that the treasures of the Church are our scriptions. He drew the parallel to Lehi in Book of Mormon. Lehi gave his fortune and risked the lives of his sons to get the brass plates, the Old Testament. 

Those are some of the highlights from the Conference. On Thursday we met with Zhun Zhun. She had not been able to meet the week before. Thankfully, Zhun Zhun has been praying and as she prays she says that she is coming to understand the earth. Unfortunately, we are having a hard time getting her to read the Book of Mormon on her own. She is great and has lots of questions. With Zhun Zhun progress comes slowly but she has a desire to learn more and understands that we have sin, in fact the words she used were, "steeped in inquity." Right now we are trying to help her understand who Jesus Christ is and what He means personally to her. We are also working hard on getting her to come to church.

We had a few other lessons with some inactive old ladies this week. One of them talked about how much better my Russian has gotten since I first visited her. I am glad that they notice a difference but at the same time I remember just how hard I was trying at the time to communicate. 

Saturday was rough in some ways. Our landlady dropped by and when she saw that I had a native with me she started to complain to her about how bad my Russian is, in front of me and I understood perfectly. Everytime I tried to talk I could only say two words before she would interrupt and then turn to Sister Pavlenko and make her explain or complain about how she could not understand me. Then she got upset that I did not have a document for her that she asked for when the day before I told her husband that she needed to call our lawyer and deal with her to get it. I'll admit I think the times I have been the angriest on my mission has been dealing with these landlords. Whenever they leave I always have to get on my knees and pray because I don't feel the Spirit when they come over and once they leave.

But on the other hand, afterwards, we had a good lesson with Elise. Elise is doing great and talking to her friends about the Gospel. Afterwards we went to a conference with her to celebrate the 170th anniversary of Relief Society. She loved it all. 

Sunday, as always, was a good but long day. It was made busier because Sister Horspool, another missionary joined our companionship. Sister Horspool's companion has to go to Estonia for a few days to renew her visa so Sister Horspool will be with us the next few days. It has been good to talk to her. Having a short-term missionary is fun and it does help my Russian since even at home that's the language we speak. However, sometimes it is good to be able to talk about some of my struggles with someone who understands all stress and some of the emotional struggles of missions. But overall it is nice having someone who is so excited about missionary work as a companion and being able to practice Russian so much. Of course there are funny cultural differences. Confirming my theory that Russians love mayonnaise, she likes to put mayonnaise on everything. We made a quick cheesy pasta tv dinner and while I ate it plain she put mayonnaise and ketchup on it. 

Sunday was a good day because Anna stayed for all three hours of church. And during Gospel Principles she talked a little bit about her love for the Book of Mormon. Sadly, she will be Germany this week and we were not able to meet this past week. But she continues to read and last time we meet she said that she has been reading the illustrated Book of Mormon stories to her daughter. 

That is a rough outline was what the week has been. Of course there have been some miracles. One ladies I called from the area book moved back to Chad. But she gave her phone to her sister and her sister agreed to meet this weekend. 

I have a minute to finish. Yikes! I love you all and you are in my prayers. Thank you for all of the news and telling me how are you doing. Thank you for all you do for me.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A new companion and a baptism.

Well, as of right now I have a companion and at least for two more weeks. Last Monday the training sisters called me and told me that they found a short term missionary for a little while. She is from Perovo (the ward that I last served in) and is 18 years old. Her name is Masha Pavlenko. So far the days have been good. She understands some English but we mostly talk in Russian. This has been good practice for me and we get by. 

This past week really was an exciting week. On Wednesday I had my visa trip so I got to spend the day with some of my favorite missionaries. It was a good day and we were able to go to the temple and do some work for some Russian names. Or, rather, most were Ukrainian names. I understood quite a bit. The hardest part was figuring out where the stress fell on the names. It was mostly good to talk to other missionaries from different areas and ask them how they do the work in one area. One missionary told me that he and his companion just go up to people and ask if they want to be baptized. Most of the time this gets people to stop and has provided interesting opportunities to talk and give people Books of Mormon. On the way back Sister Thrall and I talked. She was nervous for her new area so we talked and after she got a blessing she felt much better. 

Thursday was transfer meeting where I received my new companion and said goodbye to one of my former companions, Sister Carlson who is now back in Utah. Afterwards, with Sister Pavlenko we returned home, unpacked, bought some groceries, then headed out to go see Elise. We taught her the last of the commandments and talked about her baptism. She was so excited and had been inviting her friends and telling her family in Chad about her baptism. Although her mom is Catholic her mother said, "Hallejuah", which was a huge comfort for her. 

On Friday we did weekly planning and it looks like we have some good things coming up this week. Afterwards, since we had no meetings we went out contacting. We managed to pass out 2 Books of Mormon. Of course, contacting is still as hard as ever. But as we got going it got easier. 

Saturday Elise was baptized! And our investigator, Anna came to the baptism. Elise was grinning the entire time. The service was a mixture of French and English. The first talk was in French by a lady in the ward who studied French at BYU. Afterwards she was baptized in French. Immediately after her baptism, still in the font, she started to laugh and cry from happiness. Her pumped her fists, hugged the man that baptized her, and said "Hallejuah" a few times. Afterwards she said that if she were to die right then she would die happy. We all felt the spirit so strongly and quite a few of us shed some tears. I asked Anna what she thought and she said that the baptism was something really special.

After the baptism we were supposed to have a meeting with Zhun Zhun. Unforturnately, she cancelled on us so we returned home to prepare some things for Sunday and call some people from the Area Book. As we were returning home two girls stopped us on the street and starting asking us some questions about my tag, etc. One of them said something interesting and when I asked her about it the girls revealed that they were members. They gave us some advice and afterwards I realized some areas that I really need to improve in. It was a good practice and I went home and wrote down all that I needed to work on and the questions that they asked so that next time I can respond better. 

Sunday was a long day. It started with an early trip to the ward building to practice a song for sacrament meeting. Then it was church. Because the March 8 is international women's holiday (and a big holiday in Russia) Russia made this Sunday a regular working day. All the children were in school too. There were not a lot of people but considering the day there were more people than I thought. I know the elders were happy that there was less people to hear us sing. The song turned out well but they had been dreading singing it for the past week. 

After Russian Sacrament meeting we had International Sacrament meeting where Elise was confirmed. For a while we were getting pretty worried because the meeting started and she was not there. I tried calling but I kept getting the automated message that the user was not available. But she came in during the last verse of the Sacrament hymn. Because it was a working day she had to get permission to leave and then travel from work to the ward building. After her confirmation (also in French) she was so happy again. She said she felt like she had a warm blanket wrapped around her. She kept thanking me for leading her to the right path. Really the Lord had been preparing her for a long time. 

After church we had an interesting lesson with a former investigator in another area. She is Russian but refuses to speak Russian with American missionaries and always tries to get the Russian missionaries to try speaking English. It is a little frustrating when you are trying in Russian and then she says, "I can't understand you in Russian. Just speak English." But she had some questions about the Book of Mormon. She feels like it is just a copy of the Bible. But during the lesson I had an interesting realization that she does not have a firm testimony of Jesus Christ and does not understand His role in our lives. We committed her to reading the Book of Mormon every day. Honestly, that is the only way for her to resolve her concerns. 

So that was our week! Kiev, a new companion, and a French baptism! We'll see what this week has in store for us. On Wednesday we are meeting with President Schwitzer, President of the Europe East Area for the church. He is conducting a mission tour and I am anxious to learn how to be better. Well, I love you all and hope you continue to have a good week!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Every now and then there is an odd number...

First off, I should give the most exciting news: Elise passed her baptism interview and is getting baptized on Saturday! I am very excited for her but her excitement definitely exceeds my excitement. When she came out of her interview she was grinning from ear to ear and came up and hugged us. 

Second, I know what is happening with transfers. On Friday we met with President Sorenson and he told us what is happening. I am staying in Sokolniki and Sister Workman is leaving. She will be serving with a native, something I had suggested, as well as others, to President. As for my companion.... drum roll, please.... I have no idea. This week we are losing two sisters and no sisters are coming in until next transfer. Rather than close an area, President told me that they are searching for a short-term missionary for me. So far we have not found anyone. Until then I will be with the training sisters, Sisters Fravolo and Horspool, in Perovo (my first area) and the three of us will work both areas, which is pretty much all of eastern Moscow. It will be an interesting transfer to be sure. The other day Sister Horspool and I were trying to figure out how to coordinate church and district meeting and working two areas. I think for church I am going to try to go on splits with members so that I can attend my ward. We are still trying to figure out all the details until a companion is found for me. Most of the people who would be interested in serving a short term mission right now are in school or working.

This week was interesting and as always I learned new things. Monday and Tuesday we met with Elise and taught her the commandments needed for baptism. She had no problem, in fact, she was already living the Word of Wisdom. She is so golden that it is mind-boggling at times. 

Sadly, we have not met with Zhun Zhun this week. She cancelled on us. However, when she cancelled she told me on the phone, "Sister! I prayed and it helped! I am going to try really hard to pray every day." That had me floating on air all day. 

Wednesday was a tough day for me. We went out and went contacting. It was hard because I really wanted to give out a Book of Mormon that day. I felt all alone that day. We were just saying hi to people but doing nothing else. At one point I got frustrated and I did not want to be wasting our time. So I changed my tactic and took out my flashcards. Instead of just saying hi I started to ask people for Russian help. Some people provided help and those ignored me when I went up to them. But by the end I counted how many people I had approached. I had not done much but it was more than what we were doing. As we were leaving a lady stopped us and commented on how pretty we are and asked us why we were here. I had a Book of Mormon in hand and took the opportunity to give it to her and talk to her a little bit. She accepted it and I was so happy that a few tears escaped. I'll admit that contacting is something that I still struggle with. Although I have come a long ways I am still awkward and shy. But it is something that I need to improve so I will need to keep trying.

But then that night at English Club one of the members in Conversational group gave me a book by Tolstoi as a present. Today I am buying her a thank you gift for all of her kindness.

On Thursday Zhun Zhun cancelled on us again. So we took the time to prepare some soup for Adella. Adella is a former investigator from Cuba. We have been trying to meet with her for the past two months but it has never worked out. Last week we had an appointment but she got sick. So we decided to bring her some soup and brownies. Previously, she had given us her address but not her appartment number. We went to the apartment but when she tried to call she did not pick up. And we didn't have her apartment number so we could not leave it with her family. Then an old Russian lady came by. We talked to her a little bit (although we tried to explain who we were she still thought we were Russian Orthodox missionaries) and she told us that it was too dangerous for us to be out on the street. She walked us to the metro and as we returned home Adella called us back. We found out her schedule so we could try again but, again, she would not give us her apartment number. I just had to laugh at the situation.

On Friday after interviews with President we met with Anna and she is still doing great. She is thinking of being baptized in May now. She now has a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon and it is answering her questions and helping her resolve any of her doctrinal issues. She brought her daughter along and she is adorable. Mostly she was content to color and play video games during our lesson. 

Saturday afternoon was a little stressful. We met up with some other sisters to prepare a musical number for Elise's baptism. On the way to the Central Building I lost our cell phone. I still don't understand how. I had it in my hand and then when I exited the metro it was gone. I searched my bag and my pockets multiple times. Finally she met up with the sisters and I used their phone to call our phone. The lady who picked it up answered. She said she would return it and call the other sisters phone when she was done with work. We stayed with the others sisters and practiced our musical number. Finally, the lady called back and we agreed to meet. She returned our phone and asked us why we were in Moscow. I gave her a Book of Mormon. In the end she said that she was not interested in religion but she took the book and was interested in us. 

This week was interesting. It was not a bad week but a lot of emotionally hard things happened. A lot of people have been telling me to not be so shy and to have confidence. I guess that was hard to hear when I was trying so hard this week on overcoming those hurdles. But at least I know and the Lord knows how hard I am trying. Yesterday, I asked the elders to give me a blessing. When we got home after the blessing it was an emotional roller coaster and I felt bombarded emotionally. Thankfully, I took comfort from the scriptures and the new Liahona. Despite all my fears and worries, I felt comfort in the end and recognized areas for improvement and started to set some goals for this new transfer. I started to write down all my weaknesses and my strengths. Then I started to set some goals and small things I can do each day to overcome my weaknesses. There is always room for improvement.

Overall, I am doing fine. I am excited, nervous, and interested to see what this transfer will bring. Sometimes I am frustrated and humbled to know that the Lord sees me as who I can become, rather than who I am right now. He has placed a lot of trust in me and of course with trust comes responsibility. Sometimes it is overwhelming but it is always humbling in the end. I just want to always live up to the trust that the Lord places on me. Thank you for keeping me in your prayers. I think too often we take the power of power for granted when really they are the means of bringing to pass many miracles.

I love you all and pray for you.
-Sister Daniel