t was great to talk to you all yesterday. I am always so surprised by normal the call is when I do call. That's always a great feeling. I love you all and it was great to hear about your lives and talk to you. I'm sad Justin couldn't talk long but it was great to be able to see him nonetheless =)
While last week was hot the past few days have been cold. I'm not complaining about the cold and I am perfectly happy to be wearing a jacket.
I would not say that this was a slower week but it was a different week. We ended up with 2 meetings this week but with quite a few last minute cancellations and one of Russia's biggest holidays we did not do too badly. We even gave out a few Books of Mormon.
Tuesday was an interesting day. Because Sister Gish was in the pilot program from the MTC to see if they should shorten the MTC stay time, a man from the MTC has been going and visiting all the missionaries that were in the test group. So on Tuesday this man, Brother Packer, came to visit us and observed us. He watched us as we did companion and language study together and then interviewed us separately. He gave us quite a few compliments and said that I was doing a good job trying to help Sister Gish use the materials we were given in the MTC. Sometimes I wonder about how well I am helping so hearing an affirmation of my work was encouraging.
Training has been interesting and as with everything in life it requires patience. Sister Gish is great although she was different from what I expected. Every missionary is so different and I suppose that when I first found out I was training in my mind I was expecting someone who was exactly like me when I came to Russia. Her strengths are different from mine which is a good thing and it has been fun to see how certain members or the ward need her strengths and abilities. The hardest part is all the Russian but we are working on that and trying to explain and practice. I have taught Russian to most of my companions and helped them improve their grammar. I wonder if this is the Lord's way of giving me experience because He wants me to a be teacher or if He is showing me what it would be like if I became a teacher. Either way the Lord has given me constant reminders that many of the gifts He gives us are for the purpose of blessing His children.
On Saturday we did have a good meeting with Yelena. We met with Yelena about two weeks ago and I have kept in contact with her on the phone and would call her every few days (aren't you all so proud of you?). On Saturday she invited us over and although we did not get into a Gospel discussion we talked with her a lot and took the time to get to know her and see what is important to her. At the end I did find a way to testify about the gospel. We talked about missionary work and I mentioned that we pay to come on missions. She looked at us, a little like we were crazy, and asked, "za chem? (Why?)". Simply and wholeheartedly I replied that the gospel so important to me that I want to help others to know what I know. She still looked at us like I was crazy but I hope that by knowing what we sacrifice to do will impact her. We set up a meeting with her for Tuesday and I am excited to see what will happen.
Sunday (yesterday) was a good day at church. I have been trying really hard to speak to more people in the ward and improve the member-missionary relationship. I have noticed that some people have warmed up to me more which is very encouraging. I am now to the point where I recognize most of the members who typically come so I always do a quick scan to check for any newcomers. Yesterday there was a baby blessing and the family, the father is actually the second counsellor in the stake bishopic, brought some family members who were not members. During Relief Society I went and sat by the member's mother. I just chatted with her and then the mother went to talk to someone. While the mother was away I asked the member about her mother. I was surprised by how much the member told me about her mother and at one point as the member was talking about her mom she started to get teary-eyed. Watching this member almost cry as she talked about her mother's spiritual state impressed upon my soul. I saw how much members want their family to be happy and enjoy the happiness that they have. Then I felt like the member helped create opportunities to help me. At the end of church the member turned to me and said, "We will be leaving in 10 minutes. Ask her if she will meet with you." Then after I talked to the non-member mother, the member came up to ask me how it went. It was a small experience but for that last hour of church I truly felt like I was united with this member to help her mother.
I'll admit that the past few weeks I found myself in a funk of sorts. I know I am not a bad missionary by any means. I try my hardest to be obedient every day. But lately I have been questioning and reflecting on the past few months and evaluating if I have been using my time in the best way and choosing a better part. Sometimes I worry that I am more like Martha than Mary. But I am trying my best and trying to improve areas that I know I can do better. I am not perfect but I am working on my weaknesses. Most importantly I am so grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ and to know that repentance is possible. Every day I am so thankful to my Heavenly Father for sending me His son. Without Him I would not have hope. Thanks to Jesus Christ I always have someone to turn to for comfort. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and my Redeemer. I know He lives and continues to help me everyday.