I'm glad you all enjoyed the pictures. I thought you would enjoy the picture of the accordion. I imagine Sarah perhaps rolled her eyes :) To answer your questions I am still in Sokolniki until Thursday. Thursday, well, no exactly knows what is happening or how I get to my new area with both mine and Sister Hawkin's suitcases. In your prayers please pray for President. He has a lot more on his shoulders and trying to learn and coordinate a bigger mission, double in size. I'll still get the package.
I'll also tell you the story of the accordion. Really, it is not an amazing story but to me it was a testimony that God loves me, knows me better than anyone else, and that everything is possible through Him. Nothing is beyond His power. Two weeks ago we had a week with no meetings. To be honest it reminded me of when I first arrived in Russia and Sister Bullough and I struggled to find people and to meet with members. So when the situation came again I tried to handle it without frustration. Well, one night I called the elders. A few weeks earlier during lunch at district meeting a few elders and I talked about accordion and how much we loved them. Our district leader was on a split so he was out in an outer city. He and his companion were at the train station and saw a market. Both of them bought accordions for about $100. Over the phone I was asking them all the details. Then as Sister Gish and I were saying nightly prayers Elder Knight called back. "Sister Daniel, you have an accordion." Shortly after they bought their accordion a lady came up to them and told them that she had an accordion that no one is using. She felt bad that they paid for an accordion when she had one at home collecting dust. Well, the elders got her number and she gave them the accordion. Viola! I was smiling the rest of the week and all day when the elders gave me the accordion.
Well, it was a really good week! It was our last full week in the area so Sister Gish and I had a lot to do to prepare the area and the apartment. We met with most of our investigators and informed them that we would be leaving and preparing them for the new sisters.
On Tuesday we had a meeting with the new Russia Moscow Mission. It was a great meeting and I received some ansers to my prayers. One speaker said something that pierced my heart. He was from the mission presidency and talked about his own mission. He begged us to stay outside the apartment as much as possible. He said that missionaries are at their best when they are among the people that they serve. This hit me not because I always stay inside but because it is so easy to waste time and linger in the apartment, especially around dinner time. It helped to refocus me and to set goals. I am glad that I am going to be training and I wouldn't mind training the rest of my mission because I feel the importance of setting a good standard for future missionaries and setting the bar high.
We met with Zhun Zhun this week. It was a good lesson and the Lord has been giving me a lot of blessing. We started by telling her that we were leaving. She was not happy but what she said has stayed in my heart. "Sister, you changed my life." I know that it wasn't me but the Lord and I was sure to point that out to her. She changed as I helped her do the things that would strengthen her relationship with her Savior and Father, such as praying and reading the Book of Mormon. The Lord had allowed her to be an instrument to help her and that truly is a sweet feeling. One thing I have learned on my mission is that my mission is really only the beginning of my missionary service and connection with the people I meet here.
The lesson was good. We talked about being cleansed from sin and how she can be cleaned. We chose this lesson because a few times during pervious lessons she talked about feeling and being dirty. We also talked with her about the blessing that come from baptism and what baptism could mean for her. A lot of misisonaries have taught her and she knows that she want her to be baptized and join the church. But I asked her if she knew why she needed to be baptized and the blessings. She didn't know so we explained. She asked us to give her time. We asked her why. She said that she wants to get married (she has a boyfriend and have talked about marriage with him) and she wants to join the church with him. His heart has softened a lot and she talks to him about the church and now he tells her to go to church.
We didn't have a baptism this week. Last week we gave Anya a baptismal date for August.
Yesterday was a miracle to me. It was my last Sunday at church so I bore my final testimony. But to me the miracle was all the people who thanked me for my service. After Relief Society a few sisters came up to me and thanked me and gave me hugs. It warmed my heart and I felt like my service did touch members and I did feel appreciated. I did serve in Sokolniki for nine months, half of my mission. It was my refiners fire. I had some of my highest highs and my lowest lows. Of course the most important person to please is my Heavenly Father but I wanted the members to be please with my service. The sincere appreciation I felt warmed my heat and when I reflect on my last Sunday my eyes still get a little teary. After church I was all smiles and gratitude.
This week I have just gained a stronger testimony of prayer. We have had a lessons during the week and the key to their concerns is prayer. Or rather prayer would solve their concerns. We met with one lady who is a member but has lots of other beliefs that she gets from random books. She believes the Book of Mormon is true but does not believe in the Plan of Salvation. (Sidenote: Russians are really good at opening the scriptures to a random page, reading the first verse they see, and finding answers). She kept telling us her beliefs that the church doesn't share. We asked her to read the Book of Mormon, all the way through, and to pray about the Plan of Salvation. We testified that if she prayed God would tell her.
In another lesson the lady was disgusted by organized religion. She knows religious history very well and has not liked what she has read. She stated that if someone was to ask her to which religion she belonged to she would not choose Christianity or Islam. I told her how I chose my religion and that I know the church is true through prayer. At one point she asked "Did God come and personally tell you." I responded that I did not see God's face but He did come to me through the Holy Ghost. Unfortunately, her husband walked in at the moment we got down on our knees to pray with her. I have a firm testimony that God hears and answers our prayers. If we want to know truth, especially eternal truths, Heavenly Father will tell us, if we are humble enough to ask Him. And we can trust His answers. He will not lead us astray or lie and we can trust Him with all our hearts.