So to the question of whether or not Sister Hawkins will kill me... I don't know. Typically I would say yes but with the new mission and the mass exodus of sister missionaries everything is up in the air a bit more. In the next two transfers at least 7 or 8 sisters are going home. We'll at least be together for 2 transfers and then we'll see what the Lord decides to do with me. We could stay for a third transfer, I could move, she could move. I could go crazy trying to figure out all the possibilities so I've decided not to think about it and just sing "Que Sera". Sister Hawkins is from Laguna Niguel and an anthropology major at BYU.
Wednesday night was great. We met with one of our investigators, Alexander Thompson. He is an old man who is Russian but has Scottish ancestry (hence, the last name Thompson). He likes to practice his English but he is reading the Book of Mormon. He has some interesting ideas but if he will humble himself and pray I believe he will find a lot of his answers. He has lots of questions but he tends to believe all sorts of sources but the trick is getting him to believe in God and to believe that he can receive his own answers from God.
After our lesson with Alexander we went and read the Book of Mormon with a member of our ward. She is great and comes to church but is struggling with her testimony and confided that the missionaries are the main reason she comes. But I love her so much and she is a great help at English club in the beginning group. In our beginning group we typically have Galina and our muslim friend from Uzbekistan, Sasha. (Little side note on Russian nicknames: Sasha is the nickname for Alexander and Alexandra.)
That night we had a dinner with Sasha and his father. Sasha is awesome and comes to all of our activities. The elders first met his father on the street when they were contacting for English club. Sasha's father told them that his son had always wanted to know English and he was so excited to introduce his son to the American missionaries. Since then Sasha comes to English club and all our sport activities. At our last sports night he invited all the missionaries over so that he could make us plov. Well, this dinner became a reality and on Wednesday the elders, the Ottley's, Galina, and us went over and were fed delicious plov, a traditional Uzbekistan dish. It was delicious and Sasha and his father are perhaps my favorite people. Before we ate Sasha's dad said a few words and talked about how we are an answer to his prayers because he had been praying for a way for his son to learn English and then he met the elders.
This week was a busy week, including a trip up to Moscow for zone conference. Did I say that Moscow is only 1 1/2 from Ryazan? Well, it is actually a 3 hour bus trip. So to get to our zone conference on Thursday our bus left Ryazan' at 4:30 am. Thursday was a long day. We slept on the bus of course but sleeping on a bus is not the best substitute for sleeping on a bed. We had our conference from 9 until 2:30. Our new senior couple had a meeting that night with all the senior couples and they had asked us to help them get back. By the time we got to the bus station it was about 8 but unfortunately the next bus that had free seats left at 10:30pm. So we did not return home until 1:30am.
When I served in Moscow I did not give a lot of talks during sacrament meeting, especially when I served in the Sokolniki ward. Most of the time I was asked to bear my testimony rather than give a full talk since they had enough people to give talks. Here in Ryazan' I have a feeling that I will be talking a lot more. Sister Hawkins and I gave talks yesterday. I talked about charity and Sister Hawkins talked about love, topics we had chosen because we feel that was something the branch needs to hear and apply more often. I have come to the point in Russian when I can express myself and understand most of what people say to me, especially in church settings. My Russian is not perfect and I still have a lot to learn but I got a lot of compliments on my Russian. What that means is that I get asked to do a lot by members because they understand me. It was a funny transition for me. In other wards we would take turns reading in class and the members would skip over the missionaries to native speakers. Yesterday during Sunday School I was asked to read quite a few scriptures and to give the closing prayer. Another thing about our branch is that church is only 2 hours because there are not enough people to be in all the calling, or there are lots of people who need callings before we can have church for the full 3 hour block.
The branch is a good branch with lots of potential. There is certainly a lot of work here to do. One testimony I have gained on my mission is that the organization of the church is inspired. Callings, home and visiting teaching are programs designed to help members. Our biggest goal this transfer to help members in these areas so that no one gets lost and everyone receives love and nourishment. Of course there are those loud voices that try to be heard and think their way is the only way and the fun Russian quirks that at times, frustrates you. But there is a lot of potential and it is helping those leaders who are trying to listen to the Holy Ghost and help them succeed.
We also set goals for this transfers for which I am excited. It will require lots of hard work and diligent effort. But now is the time to thrust in our sickle and reap with our might. There is be opposition and we have planned for that. At our last zone conference President Sorenson talked about sacrifice and talked about all that we sacrificed to come here and things that we have to sacrifice everyday. Our pioneers sacrificed lives, family, and wealth. Nowadays we are asked to offer a broken heart and a contrite spirit and I have learned through this sacrifice we are giving ourselves to the Lord. The Lord blesses us with so much and all that He requires is our obedience which requires us to trust Him.
I love you all. Thank you for all your prayers.