Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I'll admit that I am ready for this Preparation Day. Monday and Tuesday I fell asleep so fast from utter exhaustion.

First I'll explain the delay of Preparation Day. The humanitarian couple in charge of all projects in Russia had a wheelchair project here in Ryazan. They got permission from President Sorenson to use the missionaries as translators for both days. Thankfully, we had Tanya who is an amazing translator so we did not have to do a whole lot of translating. That sounds bad but we were translating medical terms and the district leader and I talked afterwards about how unprepared we would have been. Thankfully, Tanya did the bulk and she did an amazing job but she still allowed me to try translating some parts and I went around and helped people whenever we did things in groups. But now I know how to say words such as paralysis, pressure sores, ramp, wheelchair, scoliosis, brakes, amputee and disabilities in Russian. 

Another interesting note. The couple doing the training was from Richfield, UT. Their names were Jeff and Ilene Thalman. I asked if they knew the Bytheways and they said yes.

But I was able to help in other ways. Sister Hawkins and I helped with most of the set up. Then we helped with a lot of other errands. Such as yesterday, when a senior sister and I went on a 3 and 1/2 hour search for foam all around Ryazan. Most of the training was about the importance of wheelchair safety and helping those in wheelchairs prevent future medical problems such as scoliosis. Part of prevention is making sure that people fit in the wheelchairs and they have the right size. Well, for practice a young boy who is 10 came in and we fitted him. Unfortunately, we discovered that the wheelchairs we had were all too big for him but if we had foam pads it would fit him and he could grow into it. So a senior sister and I went on a hunt for more foam to make the padding. Sister Hawkins was with another senior sister. We went from home depot store to hardware store and it felt like a wild goose chase. At last on our 5th try we found some and last night the wheelchair was delivered to adorable Misha. So now I know how to say foam also in Russia: porolon. 

We did see a lot of little miracles this week. The biggest I think was my attitude. As we have been reading the Book of Mormon together I have noticed Nephi's attitude. He doesn't let anything rock his faith or his trust in the Lord. Even when his brothers are trying to kill him for the umpteenth time he still worship and thanks the Lord! That sort of attitude has been one I have been trying to cultivate and especially lately have been trying to emulate. I noticed a big difference in myself even during times where I might have freaked out or gotten discouraged. Last week a lot of plans fell through. Last Tuesday we made our plan and a backup plan and both of them fell through. We tried calling and dropping by people but no real luck. One contact we called agreed to meet, only the next day she called to cancel and inform us that she would be busy for the next two months. But despite everything we kept a good attitude and it all payed off by the end of the week.

We do have a few potential investigators for which I am very excited. We met with one lady to whom the previous sisters gave a Book of Mormon. Despite mixing up the meeting place we got to her in record time. We were in a park and she was with her son so we did not really get to teach but we explained church, invited her to come, and she consented to letting us come to her home and teach her. 

This past weekend Ryazan had a guest, a former sister missionary, Sister Baloshova. It was great having her visit because she helped us get in contact with former investigators and helped on a few lessons. She called almost every member of our branch and so a lot of people came to church! It was great to see the branch building so full and to have so many come. We met one of our district goals of having 30 people at church!

Perhaps one of the greatest miracles was finding Sasha (Alexandra). Sasha was a former investigator who had a baptismal date in September. The previous sisters met with her but until last week we had never met her. We tried calling her but no one answered. Unfortunately, we had no address so calling was about all that we could do. Well, Sister Baloshova called her and there was also no answer. However, Sister Baloshova knew where she lived. Everything worked out beautifully to find her. We found her home, wrote down her address, and the entry door was left open. Since Sister Baloshova was not a missionary and Russian she was able to get in and to the door of her apartment and Sasha was home! Sasha had no phone and had just returned to Ryazan. While she hasn't been reading the Book of Mormon she did remember her baptismal date and felt bad that she could not make it. She then expressed a desire to continue meeting with us. I can't describe the elation that I felt.

Like every week in missionary work there were ups and downs but I noticed a lot of miracles and tender mercies. Time is short but I could keep going on about all the miracles that I have seen. I have only written a small part. Everyday I am reminded that this is the Lord's work and I am so grateful to be a part of it. It is certainly challenging and taxing but the Lord is sustaining me. I know that my prayers are heard. I am so grateful for the knowledge that my Heavenly Father is never far and I can always talk to him.

Love, Sister Daniel

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wonder of wonder, miracles of miracles

This week turned out to be pretty good. I think in terms of numbers this week was one of the best of the my entire mission! I think this week we had the most amount of meetings with investigators that I have ever had on my mission.

Angela is doing just great. We met with her on Wednesday and Sunday and both lessons were great. She is progressing wonderfully towards baptism and she knows it too. I was so proud of her yesterday at church. She was going around to all the members and telling them that she was glad to see them. She even went up to a few members who were particularly rude to her last week. One cultural thing about Russians is that they are not particularly friendly on the first meeting. Once they warm up to you they are the nicest people. However, sometimes it can be hard for missionary work when you are introducing investigators to members and members are less than warm to investigators. I was a little teary eyed as I watched her go up to everyone. Since she is an orphan we have tried to empathsize that the branch is a big family. In our lesson this week she wanted to know how to say, "I don't have family" in English. Sister Hawkins was talking to her and responded in the best way, "Yes, you do. We are sisters." Her smile got bigger and she was much happier. 

Yesterday marked my two months left on my mission, as Sarah noted in her email. I realized this only yesterday when Angela asked me how much longer I will be in Russia. Lately I have changed from telling people 3 months to 2 months. Then as I was telling her it hit me that it was exactly two months to the day. I also had an interview with President this week. He came to Ryazan to interview the branch president and decided to meet with all of the missionaries. It was a little humorous because President kept saying things like, "I can't believe it's time for you and Sister Horspool" and talking as if I was going home in a few weeks. It wasn't until the end when I asked if he knew what would happen to me next transfer that he realized I still had another transfer! He was greatly relieved to hear that I still had another transfer. 

Yesterday was another landmark in my mission: my first tracking experience. For those of you who don't know what tracking is it is going door to door, knocking, and seeing if the people who live there are interested in hearing about the gospel. Some of you may be shocked that it was my first time. In Moscow tracking was discouraged, especially for sisters. We have enough incidents with drunk men on the street and tacking always brings the craziest stories. Well our elders sometimes go tracking and neither of our companionships could get lessons so the elders gave us a tutorial on tracking. The idea of it was terrifying and my heart was pounding the entire time. But it was fine. The elders and sisters alternated floors and for the first floor the elders waited by the stairs just in case. Most people didn't answer the door but one lady answered and took a Restoration pamphlet. I felt good afterwards especially because it was certainly outside of my comfort zone.

This week I have seen a lot of miracles. On Thursday we went contacting and I was shocked by how many people listened and gave me their number. It was a big faith builder because I know it was not me. I have been trying a lot harder to apply the scripture 2 Nephi 32:9 and really pray over my goals. If I know I am contacting that day then in every prayer I tell Heavenly Father my plan and pray for Him to bless me. Then I have tried to keep a good attitude no matter how things turns out. I remember when Elder Christoffersen came to our mission and someone asked us a question about patience. He quoted Romans 5:3: "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience;" He told us not to worry too much about patience because a mission is a trial of patience. He said that as time goes on the trials of a mission will work our patience. I have been so thankful to the Lord because I have started to notice that I have a lot more patience than I used to. We had quite a few figs this week but I didn't let it phase me. 

As a mission we just started reading the Book of Mormon as a mission from the beginning. The theme that President asked us to focus on was "faith to work miracles." I have learned to love Nephi even more. I have seen the importance of attitude and perseverance. Although he and his brothers were not successful the first two times he did not give up. As I read about Nephi attaining the plates this morning I realized that perhaps the previous attempts were trials of Nephi's faith. He was showing his faith and perhaps the other attempts built his faith so that he was able to perform the miracle needed to attain the plates. Trials do build our faith and patience. Of that I can testify. 

Have another great week! I can't wait to hear about all of your crazy adventures. Keep safe, dad! 

Love, Sister Daniel

Monday, September 10, 2012

September 10, 2012

Well, another week has passed and I realized that this week that I hit my 17 months on a mission mark. I realized it a few days after it happened. We had a combined zone conference and a lot of people asked how long I had been on my mission. As I calculated to tell them that's when I realized that I had hit my 17th month mark. Hooray!

Yesterday I did give a talk. On Tuesday our relief society president met with the branch president so Sister Hawkins and I went to translate. I helped her to ask all of her questions. After our meeting I asked the branch president who all would be speaking so I could gauge how long I should talk. He informed us that we would be the only speakers but we could sing a hymn in between our talks. Our topic was "Preach My Gospel", the missionary manual that missionaries use. I'll admit that I was wracking my brains try to come up with a talk that would not be scatter-brained. I prayed a lot in order to know what direction I should talk. I got my answer on Saturday when we got the new Liahona for September. I thought a lot about the phrase "Preach my Gospel" and what is the gospel. I talked about the missionary purpose, "invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receiving the Restored Gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." I focused my talk on the gospel and then talked about events I experienced with the gospel that lead me to want to serve a mission. Honestly, at this point I don't remember all that I said but I ended up talking a lot longer than I planned and everyone told me that I did a good job. 

Angela is doing well! We had a good lesson on the Restoration. She is reading the Book of Mormon and understanding quite a lot. And she is continuing to come to church. We tried talking to her about a baptismal date but she says she has a few concerns so we are working to resolve those issues. But she is doing great and we are all very happy.

Our mission has a goal to have 85 baptisms by the end of the year. We are doing pretty well as a mission and that is a focus of our mission. We are trying to find more people to teach. We are calling all of our people and going through old contact sheets. We are doing a lot more contacting and trying to follow up on our contacts. On Wednesday we went Book of Mormon contacting, trying to find people through the Book of Mormon. Despite how many people I talked to I did not manage to pass out a book but somehow I managed to get two numbers. Our mission is seeing a lot of miracles and I am positive that we will start seeing some more here in Ryazan. The biggest lesson I am learning is the importance of patience. I have noticed a difference within myself. We had a day where we called everyone that we knew and no one answered. Despite our hopes for lessons they all fell through. That left us with street contacting. A lot of people did not want to talk to us or they would take the brochure but did not want to give us their number. It was a day that would typically frustrate me but instead I kept a smile and tried to keep an open mind. I am trying to do my part, pray a little more, contact a little more, but I know that it is all in the hands of the Lord and there will be miracles so long as we do our part.

In terms of the branch things are slowing getting better. We are keeping contact with a lot more less active members and a few are coming to the church more often. We also recently found a photo album and an old ward list and found some members that used to be on the ward list but are now missing. We quickly divided the list. Although our first priority is finding new people to teach but now we are organized and we know who we should call at night.

Pray for me to learn the language even more. In the next few weeks a few missionaries will be participating in a humanitarian project here in Ryazan. The humanitarian missionaries asked President Sorenson if we could participate and present wheel chair training. He agreed so our district leader and I will be giving wheel chair training. I definitely will be praying a lot more for the gift of tongues!

Spiritual thought for the day comes from the new Liahona. Elder Christofferson wrote a wonderful article about faith and how we can increase faith. "The word that we declare, the word that generates faith in Christ, is the gospel, or good news, of Jesus Christ. Simply put, the good news is that death is not the end of existence and our separation from God is temporary. We have a Savior, Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, who by His Atonement has overcome death and hell so that all will be resurrected and all who will repent and be baptized in His name may have place in the heavenly kingdom of God forever." I love these sentences because the gospel is the good news! That is exactly why I am on a mission. I know that death is not the end and that there is hope through Jesus Christ. Or course we have to remember that faith is hope for things which are not seen but are true. We need to have faith to ask God if these things are true and then be willing to listen to the Spirit which communicates to our heart and mind. I know that we can obtain this hope and experience the joy of the good news. I know because I have obtained it for myself. We can all obtain this hope if we are willing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September 4, 2012

Things week turned out to be a good week. Or at least I felt like it all things considered. As you know on Monday Sister Hawkins and I travelled up to Moscow and on Tuesday I flew out to Riga. Traffic was bad coming back from the airport to the mission office so we were not able to head back to Ryazan Tuesday night because then we would have gotten home around 2-3am. We figured it would be better to wake up early on Wednesday and take an earlier bus. The last time we came back super early (or very late depending on how you look at it) we were dead the night day and effectiveness was not 100%.

Wednesday we got back and traffic for some reason was really bad in Ryazan. It has been raining a lot but this was some of the worst traffic I have seen in our small city. So it took a while to go to the hospital. One of our members, Uliyana, called us while we were in Moscow and told us that her daughter went into the hospital. We went to visit her and although we got a little lost and it was my first time traveling to a Russian hospital we found her room and sat with her. We told us that she was going through and it just about broke my heart. 

In terms of investigators we met with Angela, Oksana, and Alexander. Sadly, Nina is incredibly busy these next two week so keep her in your prayers. Right now our most progressing investigator is Angela. She is doing just great. We went out to her and taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She is reading the Book of Mormon and she asked her to repent in her prayers after we left and she did! She came to church on Sunday and after church we read the Book of Mormon with her. We also managed to resolve an issue over the phone. We invited her to be baptized and she said yes but did not agree to a date but she said she has some more repenting. On the phone we reminded her to pray about a baptismal date and she made the comment that she should be a member of the church first and then get baptized. I was very pleased to tell her that membership is the church is only after baptism and confirmation. I think that will help her have more of a desire. She really is doing so great and we are so happy with the progress she is making and her willingness to exercise her faith. As an orphan without work she has a lot of trials but I know the Lord is helping her.

Friday we met with both Oksana and Alexander. The lessons were good but they were draining. I love Oksana and she is reading the Book of Mormon and loves it. Our biggest hurdle is helping her understand the need for a Restoration. She likes learning about different religions but does not see a need to come to our church. But from our lesson I was able to understand her more and understand her definition of prophets. Our lesson with Alexander was also good. He is praying! That in and of itself is a miracle because our first three weeks with him he refused to pray. The phrase "easy to be intreated" would not be apt to describe Alexander. Right now our current hurdle is the Book of Mormon and getting him to read it. He has read about the Book of Mormon and church history on the internet but has not opened the book itself. By the end of our lesson he did agree to read for 5 minutes and we called him a few days later and he read! Now we need him to read from the beginning and not just flip open and the book and read whatever page to which he opens. 

I have also been working with Sister Hawkins and preparing her to take on more. I told her at the start of this transfer that during the last two weeks she would have the phone and be responsible for most of the phone calls. A lot of missionaries are going home and soon the mission is going to be all new again which increases the chance of these new missionaries will be training sooner than I did. At least it is better to learn these skills with someone who knows Russian as compared to learning it when your companion can't really help. So far she has been doing great and I'll admit it has been fun for me to watch. Watching her and seeing the things that she got the most frustrated out helped me see my own personal improvement. Yesterday we spent an hour calling old contacts sheets and trying to call people we had contacted recently. Most of them didn't pick up or the phone numbers didn't work. I could tell she was getting frustrated while I was amazed by how many people actually answered the phone. I thought it was a pretty successful call session. 

You can know that I am definitely being put to work. On Sunday our Relief Society President was released and Sister Ottley, the senior sister, was called to be the new Relief Society President. Since Sister Ottley does not speak Russian I get to do a lot of translating. A few weeks ago I had a thought that I needed to speak more Russian and I am definitely speaking a lot more and trying to speak Russian more with other missionaries. I am also learning a lot more about the organization of the church. This next week Sister Hawkins and I are giving talks so the Lord is definitely using me. It has required a lot of faith and a lot of patience. 

I am doing great, besides being sick, and I am excited to see what will happen this week. We are seeing a lot of miracles and praying for a lot of miracles. Already we are seeing good things happening in the branch. We are also trying to find new people to teach. Keep praying that we will find the people who are being prepared to receive the Gospel. They are there but we just need to find them.

With love, Sister Daniel