Monday, June 18, 2012

Red letter week.

Honestly, it was a red letter week. I don't know if I mentioned last week but this past weekend was the Moscow, Russia Stake's first Stake Conference. (Random note: I recently heard that India received its first stake!) Because the stake is so new we had a few special guests that come to our stake conference. One of them was Elder Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. We were privledged to hear from him on Saturday and Sunday.

Thursday was a momentous day. At the end of June when the Moscow West Mission President returns home the Moscow West and Moscow missions will combine to create a new Russia Moscow mission. This week we had a meeting with both missions. I know when I talked to the family on Mother's Day I mentioned that Bishop Stevenson (the Presiding Bishop of the church) would be coming. Well, he came along with a few others. In attendance was the Europe East Area Presidency and their wives (Elders/Presidents Schwitzer, Lawrence, and Bennet), Bishop Stevenson and his wife, Elder Rasband of the President of the Seventy with his wife, and Elder Christoffersson with his wife. We got to hear from all of them and shake all of their hands after the meeting. We received great instruction. One of the best parts, for me at least, was at the end of Elder Christoffersen's talk. He looked out at all of us and said, "I perceive that some of you, if not most of you, are wondering if the Lord is happy with your service." I'll admit that that had been on my mind. Well, to be truthful that has been on my mind since the first day of my mission. I have a strong desire to serve my Lord and my Heavenly Father and I want to be able to say that I gave my all. But lately I had been wondering or feeling that sometimes I hold back a small part or worry that I am not fully consecrated. It was very reassuring to hear that concern addressed and to feel that it was directed at me. He asked us to pray and told us that we would receive an answer. He said that we would find that our offering is accepted of the Lord. 

Things have been going well with our investigator, Anya. She is a member's daughter (to long time readers she is the daughter of Vika). She is trying to quit smoking and asked for a blessing. My companion asked if we could teach her and she agreed. This week we had her read the Plan of Salvation pamphlet. When we met with her on Friday we asked her what she thought. Her first words were, "I read it and I think I am going to the last kingdom." We then went on and explained the different kingdoms. She stopped us at one point to ask what was the difference between the Celestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms but she felt after reading that the second kingdom didn't seem too bad. We started to explain that only in the Celestial Kingdom there would be progression. She interrupted us, "Nope. That's it. I need to progress so I have to the Celestial Kingdom." She still has a ways to go but she is progressing and now she knows where she is going and has something that she is aiming for.

I'll admit that this week I have seen a lot of tender mercies. On Monday we had a little extra time so we went contacting around a metro near our apartment. We passed out two Book of Mormons. On Tuesday we had a good meeting with a member and travelling back I started to daydream on the metro. About to daydream I had the thought, "You can daydream when you get home. Make the most of the time you have." So to fill my mind with something else I whipped out my notebook where I write down sentences or beginning to phrases that I can say when I contact. A lady was sitting next to me and I asked her for help because I had written a word and I wanted to hear how a native said it. The lady helped me and then read the full sentence and asked why I was here. That day in district meeting we had talked about the Plan of Salvation. I explained who I was, why I was here, and bore testimony of the Plan of Salvation. She actually asked me for my number and when I asked she gave me hers. I have called her but as of yet we have not been able to meet due to her work schedule. 

Then on Wednesday we had a small English club at our Senior Couple's apartment. At first I did not think any of the people I had contacted would come. But Lydia came! She is one of my favorite English clubbers. She is going to her summer house for the summer. To my surprise she came, despite the pounding rain. She realized that I would probably be gone before the summer and wanted to see me before I left. I was so happy and I was able to get a photo with her. 

I could continue with lots more tender mercies. But I want to include a few insights from stake conference and an insight from the Book of Mormon. Right now I am in Numbers in the Bible. One thing I have gained from reading the Bible is a testimony of the Sabbath Day. The Lord mentions several times how important this day is to Him. I have started to count how often the Lord talks about the Sabbath Day. This week I studied 2 Nephi 2 from the Book of Mormon. Although two weeks again I finish my second complete reading of the Book of Mormon on my mission. I have made a goal to continue to read it every day and before beginning at the beginning of the Book of Mormon I have been looking up questions of the soul. In Preach My Gospel (a handbook for missionary service) there is an entire chapter dedicated to the Book of Mormon and a section about which questions the Book of Mormon answers. I have been reading those chapters and finding answers to strengthen my own testimony and to show how the chapter or verses answer that specific question. This week I have been studying "Why does God allow evil and suffering?" One chapter that answers this question is 2 Nephi 2. I have found lots of answers and have gained a testimony of the reality of opposition and the power of our agency. I have been working hard to get over my shyness as I have mentioned the past few weeks. I have learned that whenever you set a goal there will be opposition. Satan is real and he is an enemy to the plan of God and the happiness of man. But the most important thing we can do, and need to do, is to put our trust in God. If we fully trust Him and have faith than we will have a foundation that cannot fail us. Of course, Satan will try to attack that foundation and take that away because it is the one thing we need more desperately than anything else. And that foundation comes in large part by reading the scriptures and especially the Book of Mormon.

In other news I was told today by a Russian Orthodox priest that I would make a good Russian Orthodox woman. But time is short and that will be a story for next week!

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