We met with Alexander and it was perhaps our best lesson with him yet. He asked us about the Holy Ghost and the lesson was great. Alexander has a habit of processing information and when we explain something he will always respond with, "Let me see if I understand you correctly..." and then typically what he says is something crazy and makes no sense. But during this lesson he actually understood! And he was not as argumentative. A great moment came at the end when he asked why we thought the Book of Mormon is so great and why we thought it could answer all of his questions. I beared my testimony and I was determined not to let him interrupt my testimony and I felt the Spirit strongly. I know he felt something because his response was, "No objections." Alexander has also starting giving us nicknames. Appartently Sister Hawkins is destined to either be a movie star or go into politics because her nickname is "Hollywood" or "Ms. Vice President." Alexander calls me "Doctor Freud" because he always thinks I am psychoanalyzing him.
English club on Friday was hilarious. We are trying to grow our English club but sometimes it is really nice when there are less people so that we can talk more and get less stressed out making sure everyone has a good experience. There were only two people: Sasha (our Muslim Uzbeck friend) and a new lady Ira. We decided to talk about holidays and traditions. We talked about both American and Russian, Christian and Muslim holidays. We all learned a lot. The funniest part came when we talked about Christmas. We said the word and then Sasha looked at it and then said, "Last Christmas I gave you my heart." Sister Hawkins and I about died from laughter. He didn't know what Christmas was before we told him but he knew the words to the Wham song. It got better when as we were walking home Sasha walked with us and told us about music that he liked. He said that he liked a few American bands and asked if we knew them. He told us his favorite band, "Beck-" and we thought he was talking about the band Beck but then he continued, "-street Boys." And then he proceeded to play his favorite song, "Show me the meaning of being lonely." Like Sarah mentioned in an email last year, the 90s are still alive in Russia.
As I mentioned earlier we have a new investigator. I am really excited to work with her. Her name is Angela and she is the girlfriend of a member in the ward. She lives in a very small town outside of Ryazan and miraculously we managed to find her apartment. The town is so small that there are no real street names. The buildings only have numbers. I say that we miraculously found Angela's apartment because it was only with Heavenly Father's help that timing all worked out and their were people to help us. In Angela's town there is really no cell phone reception so although we had her number we could not get in touch with her. We got to the bus stop early but to go outside of Ryazan we had to find another small bus stop. I didn't know what her town was called and Angela didn't know her bus number. All that we knew was that a bus was heading out to her at 11:30. We wandered around and tried asking people where this small bus stop was located. Not a lot of people knew but finally a lady told us where it was. The time was about 11:28. We ran to the bus stop and made it onto the bus. As soon as we got in the doors closed behind us and we were off. Except we had no idea where to get off and we could not get a hold of Angela still. The plan was once we got on the bus we needed to call Angela so she knew we were coming and then she would meet us at the bus stop. Well, without getting in touch with her we rode the bus to the last stop and hoped that building 18 was the right building 18 in the right town. Well, miraculously it was her town and her building! Success!
We had a good meeting with her. We talked about the Book of Mormon and she is excited to read it. She already reads the Bible and has her favorite scriptures written down and close by. Angela is an orphan and she told us about her story. Although she does have an aunt and uncle she grew up in an orphanage and moved out when she was 17. She believed in God but then she had a hard time and was angry at Him. Eventually, she realized that God existed and she was the one being rebellious and worked to change her life. She has come to church twice and loves it and she was the one who brought up baptism. We helped her prepare some lunch as we were talked to told us that she likes coffee. "But," she said, "After I am baptized I know I can't drink it anymore." Now that we know how to go to her we will go out there every week and meet with her.
It really was a good week. We got to meet with some less actives member and are working to know the active members better. Every week we have a dinner at the Ottley's (our senior couple) with someone from the ward and it has been a great opportunity to know members outside of the church building. The weather has also been turning colder. Tuesday is particular was very cold and the wind made it even worse. I joked with a few Russians about where the summer went and they responded, "The summer is now over." It has definitely been chillier but Tuesday was the worst. We went contacting and occasionally we had to run to the nearby mall and have a warm up break. Also this week we got a new water filter! The water is Russia is not very good and every apartment should have a water filter. We did have one but it didn't work so for the last 7 weeks we had to buy filtered water from the store and carry jugs home every week. Well, our wonderful elders brought us a new system this week and we got it all set up last night. As Sister Hawkins said this morning, "We are queens. We have a water filter, a mircowave, a new pan, and an electric tea pot. What next? A waterbed?"
Life is going pretty good. Every day there is so sort of new struggle, whether it is a struggle with the language, contacting, finding new people, or with the branch. But life overall is good and one thing I have learned about myself is that I can't not do anything. Even when it appears tempting to stop trying I learn that there is something a little bit more that I can do. In addition I know that I can always be happy no matter what is going on around me.
Enjoy the pictures! They are from last Preparation Day when we went out to Konstantinovo where Sergei Yesyenin was born (a famous Russian poet). It was so beautiful and no wonder he wrote poetry. The last photo is from today. We had to buy tickets for our bus to Moscow today (the office elders messed up and my visa trip is tomorrow so we have to go out tonight). We walked back from the Bus Station and that was a come stretch of the road. It was slightly terrifying but we survived