Monday, December 20, 2010

Russian e-mail for you!

Well, Christmas is next week, so I guess I'd better start by writing to you about what I'm thankful for. Ha ha because you need something from the gratitude book and I still haven't given it to you. So, for the gratitude book, you could write...

I'm thankful for my winter coat, and that I bargained until I got it for 2400 rbl. instead of 4000. I'm grateful for the scarf mom gave me that she got from China because it stops me from getting frostbite on my nose and face. I'm grateful that my gloves have fur in them, and that I have a furry-inside shapka. And I'm grateful for my boots. And I'm grateful for my cousin Mitch who works at the outdoors store which means I have smartwool thermals which are very very comfy and warm, and I'm grateful for my smartwool socks because they're awesome. I'm grateful I don't have a dastardly in-grown big toenail like Elder Garr does. I'm grateful that my trainer is cool and that we laugh a lot and still work super-hard. I'm grateful that I got letters from home when I went to the mission home on monday. And I'm super grateful that my mom sent me an awesome Christmas package that I opened a few days ago, with star-wars jammies and peanut butter and really good beef jerky that I already ate. And I'm grateful for the African tennis balls because you sent me three of them so I can juggle. And I'm grateful that you made Chris make 2 letters for me because I laughed way hard at what he wrote, and I'm even more grateful that one of my little brothers drew some fast food items smoking and making fun of a weiner who wasn't smoking because that picture made me laugh super duper hard. And I'm grateful that сан санович was so nice to us and wants to meet with us and said he'd come to church (even though he didn't). And I'm grateful that mom tells me every single email that she's glad I'm on a mission and I'm grateful that Sam always gives me advice because it's awesome that we're both on missions and stuff. And I could go on forever with my grateful list but I have to write now because I'm almost out of time.

So, business first. THANK YOU FOR THE CHRISTMAS PACKAGE. I got all your dear elders and letters and the letters from chris and the package all at once, while I was at mission conference Tues and Wed this week (it was in Samara, so they brought everything that had been sent to the mission home). It was the bomb, I read over all the letters a bunch because there was lots of good stuff. And I didn't know I missed peanut butter until I ate some and it was the best thing ever. Russian food is good too, though. We went to макдоналдс (McDonald's LOLOLOL) last week and it was super super good. Russian McDonald's is about a billion times better. They have Big Tasties, which you can't get in america. Dang, I'm off topic. I was going to send pictures of the McDonalds, and some graffiti of a cow that I saw, and a picture of how I used the nativity scene stickers you sent (heh heh), but I need to buy batteries for my camera today so I'll send them next week.

Agh, I haven't said anything and I've only got about 15 minutes left to write! Okay, so before I forget, some business to attend to: I'm going to call home on Christmas, and it will be in the morning for you. I'll probably call at 9 or 10ish tonight after all our work is done for the day, so that means you'll be getting a ring at about 11 or 12 Christmas morning. And this time, IT WON'T FALL THROUGH like in stinkin' Moscow. That was the worst. I'm really looking forward to talking to everyone!! Also, I have to tell you, that we're allowed no more that 40 minutes, so I'll buy a calling card for 40 minutes and it'll shut me off when it runs out. I was hoping we'd get to talk a little longer, but 'tis not so.

So that's that. How are things back home, as you're getting ready for Christmas?? How's Chile? I haven't read either of your emails yet, I always read them after I'm done writing, when I can print them out. So far I've just skimmed. Oh before I forget, be sure to thank Grandpa SO MUCH for the donation!! I was so happy to read the part "from him" in the last e-mail. It made me laugh, I sure miss that guy. Tell him I'm thinking about him! Oh wait, if he's going to be there Christmas morning than I'll tell him myself! A do-hoo-hoo.

Sam, I cracked up at the one sentence I saw from your email this week: GYPSIES ARE REAL. In Russia we call those babushkas. Lol. I think being outside America is such (..for lack of a better word...) experience for both of us. I see crazy stuff all the time, and I love hearing about your stories, too. It's great by now, too, because I really feel like I've gotten settled in to life in Russia (as much as I can be after just a month). Also, that's crazy. One month already?? That's bizarre. Anyway, back on topic... Yeah. Not-America is crazy.

Okay five minutes left. This could be the part of the letter you use for bulletins and ward updates and stuff. I'll tell you a little bit about my week. We were in Samara for two days, about a 2 hour drive away from Old City Tolgiatti. It was an amazing conference, we learned a ton, and I set some new goals that have already been helping out a ton with the work. We had some really cool stuff this week, too. When we got back to Togliatti, we tried going back to an old guy named Nikolai. Originally we taught him a lesson once, and he invited us back. But then when we came back, he said he didn't want to meet anymore. So we were disappointed about that. His health is really bad, he's got a problem where he shakes a ton, and he said right after we left after that first meeting, he started shaking really bad, so he saw that as a sign that he needed to stop meeting with us. But, he also pointed out during that first lesson that there was one point where we were talking about ole Jo Smith that he stopped shaking completely, which apparently never happens for him. Anyways, we stopped by a few days ago just to check up on him, and then he actually allowed us to come back a few days later to meet again. We taught him, and helped him pray. Right before he prayed, he started shaking really really bad, and he got too scared to pray. Shoot shoot shoot times up and ask me about this story and I'll tell you over the phone AHHHHHHH LOVE YOU BYE. LVOE ALEX

Monday, December 6, 2010


In Soviet Russia... SNAKE HOLDS YOU!!!

pictures from the motherland

In Soviet Russia COAT WEARS YOU! Ha Ha I couldn't resist! Say it with the Tyson Dictter Russian accent!) Sorry the photo is turned sideways! Here is the e-mail that came with all the cool photos!
Alrighty alrighty alrighty. So I thought that emailing on time would get easier once I got out here. But even though there aren't flashing red numbers in the corner of the screen, I'm still on a time-crunch, always!! I'll never get to say everything I want to in one of these emails. So much stuff happens. Russia's crazy crazy crazy. I love it. We're super jealous of Sam. I printed up your emails last week, and my companion saw how long sam's was, and he said "How does she have that much time to write!?!?!" Anyways, here's the plan. In order to save time with emails, I'm just going to print off your emails without reading them in-depth. If they're short enough like mom's then I'll scan them for big news first. But what'll happen is I'll write to you first, and then read your letters after. So I'll be responding a week late to any news I get from home, but I figure that'll be best.

Okay, now that that big explanation is done.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I know it's not for another six days but I'd rather be a week early than a day late! Bah ha! I just feel bad because there's no way I'll be able so send a package with a big furry shapka hat for you or anything like that (lol). But I'll write you a nice letter today and send a little gift that will fit in an envelope. P.S. that will get to you probably after Christmas and everything.

OI. Christmas! It feels kind of Christmasy here, too. They celebrate it almost exactly like we do, except their big holiday is New Year's. But they have Father Frost (Santa) and presents and lights and trees and everything for New Year's. And then they celebrate Christ's birth on Jan. 7th, but more as a minor holiday with a family meal and stuff. So it's fun. There's Christmas stuff going up everywhere here. And when I say Christmas I mean New Year's (which is christmas for Russians pretty much).

Man, when I think about stuff like that it makes me miss you guys! I love those days when we used to have a fire going and we'd watch tv and make junk food. Ah good times. I also got an angry letter from Patrick, and I hope he just wrote it before my letter got to him. I wrote him a huge letter from the MTC, and it should've showed up with the package of all the stuff I sent home before I left America.

I also read Sam's story about the investigator. That's really really hard stuff, I think. I always heard stories like that, but it was never a big deal until I got out here. It's hard to have people turn you down like that after you've turned over your whole life to God and His work with the sole intent to help those people. We dropped by a guy's house last week. He's from the Area book and we'd never met him. His name was Nikolai and he was super old and had a condition where he shook all the time. He let us in and we had a really really good lesson. There was one part where we were testifying and he stopped shaking completely. He told us that it was weird that he was able to sit still because he's never able to do that. Next time we came to his apartment, we asked how his prayer went and stuff, and he told us he didn't want to meet anymore because after we left, he started shaking even worse than before. He took that as a sign that he needed to stop meeting with us, but we take it as a sign that he needed to keep meeting with us. Well, everyone has their agency.

Also, this week we had 4 investigators at church, which is a huge deal. We walked Karin to church with his family. They're all members, but he's not because he smokes and drinks a lot. But we've been teaching him and he's making progress and he came to church. That's a huge deal for him. He never ever ever comes.

Other than that, I don't have a ton of news. I held a boa constrictor snake and got a picture. I'm gonna send it to you. TELL ME ALL ABOUT YOU GUYS AT HOME. The longer the email, the better. I'll just print it off and read it later if it's too long. I wanna hear about dad's work and Patrick and Caleb and Seth and Hopey with their school and lacrosse and trumpet and guitar and all that good stuff. I love you guys so much! I think about you all the time, and how awesome it'll be to just sit happy with my family at home! But I love being here, don't nobody worry about that. It's crazy nuts in Russia, but I love it. I walked past some graffiti on the way into the Library just barely that said россия умирает, which means "Russia will die," and whenever I see stuff like that, it makes me laugh a ton, which is weird. I see English graffiti everywhere too, and it's spelled wrong sometimes, which makes me laugh too. Like "What's the deel?" or "I hate emos" or "sk8r". Also, there's a ton of sickle-and-hammers here. And all the streets are named after soviet stuff. Like marx street and lenin street and victory street. Man, Russia's great. Also, there are dogs everywhere without owners. They just wander around in packs. I could write forever about first impressions of Russia, but I'm going to upload pictures now. TELL ME ALL ABOUT HOME. I LOVE YOU GUYS AND I HOPE YOU ARE HAVING AN AWESOME DECEMBER SO FAR.

Love Alex

P.S. Mom next time you see chris will you please tell him to e-mail me? I can receive emails from friends, I just can't email back, I have to write. So tell him to email me!! Thanks love you bye

Monday, November 29, 2010

The first e-mail from Russia!

Alright. Man. I have so much to write. And some pictures to send. I got here and got right to work. The traveling over here was a craaaaaazy story and a ton happened.But here's a little bit of what happened. After I talked to you we got on the plane to New York. That was a really really relaxed and fun flight. The plane was almost empty and it was about half missionaries and half regular people. Then at the JFK airport in New York, we split with most of the people we were traveling with up until that point. From there it was about 8 of us. We barely had time to grab something to eat and then we had to board the flight to Moscow. I remember what it was like getting on that plane. We got on, and I looked around and realized I was completely surrounded by Russians. So me and maybe 5 other people on the plane were the only ones who didn't know Russian fluently. It was nuts.

We landed in Moscow, were received by some senior missionaries from the Moscow Mission, they drove us immediately to the embassy to get some passport stuff figured out, then we got something to eat, and then we checked in at the moscow airport. So after all that, about 7 or 8 hours had passed and we only had a couple of hours for our layover. also, by that time it was probably about 4 or 5 in the morning for you guys, but I didn't care, I was just going to call anyway, because all day long driving around in a crazy little marshutka van and being dead tired and hungry and smelly all I could think about was talking to you guys from Moscow!! But we got there and there weren't even payphones, so we had to go into another area. Then I found out that my card didn't even work! So we sat alone in Russia. That was pretty miserable for me to think about you waiting for a call and then not being able to call. I was really really glad when my mission president said he'd email you. President Sartori is fantastic. Seriously, I can't tell you how awesome he is. Our first interview was amazing.

While I was waiting in Moscow, I talked to a guy named Tmer who's had a really hard life. He was super skeptical and my Russian was really bad but it was an amazing experience because by the end I felt like we were friends and he was really considering what I was saying. I didn't have a passalong card with a phone number on it though. I asked for his number then, and he said he'd give it to me if I could be the one who he talked with. But he was headed to a city called Murmansk, which is up by St. Petersburg and nowhere near Samara. So I told him he could meet with other missionaries, but he didn't want to. I told him if he changed his mind that he should look for other guys with nametags, and he said he'd think about it. I really really want him to find some missionaries but none of it is in my power now.

Oi, I've already used most of my time talking about traveling. I only have a couple minutes left. I've met lots of investigators and we had a baptism on Saturday and it was a crazy day. Russia is really crazy and a lot different from what I've expected, but I've started to get used to it and talk to more people. I can tell you more about the culture and stuff later. I'll have to tell you more about my first week in a letter home or something. It's been a little hard for me but already I've learned a lot and I'm realizing how much lies ahead! This is going to be the best.

I love you guys. Really really really I do. I miss you all a lot and I think about peaceful happy safe Centerville every day. I'm fine here, though. Don't worry about me, momma, we got everything figured out as far as clothes goes. We're going to the Rinok to buy a coat today. I've been perfectly warm here. All the stuff I sent home I really didn't need. I'm pulling out a few hundred dollars today but then we'll get all settled in. just don't be surprised if my account drops for a bit.

It's time for me to go. I'll send pictures next week! Also, i didn't read sam's email so i'm going to print if off and respond next week. ahh this is crazy I wish I could write more! I love you guys!! Stay safe at home!

Love Alex

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

He's in the MOTHERLAND!

Merkley came up for his call from Moscow that never happened. We were up all night waiting but thankfully all is well and he has landed!

Here is the e-mail that came from his mission mom!
Dear Bro. & Sis. Morris,

Elder Morris arrived late last night/early this a.m. in the Russia Samara Mission. He wanted to let you know that his card did not work in Moscow when he tried to call you while in the airport. His flight was delayed/changed, but we met them in our Samara Airport. We were able to visit with him and get to know him on the hour drive from the airport to the Mission Home. This morning we spent breakfast with him, orienting him to our mission and President had a great interview with him. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful elder to come to our mission. We are so excited to be able to serve with him. He has touched our hearts.

P-day is on Mondays. He will e-mail that day.
Elder Morris will be serving in our Old City area in our Toliatti Zone. This is a 1 1/2 hour drive by car from the Mission Office and Mission Home. We have a mission driver who is fantastic and such a wonderful man who helps us take care of our missionaries. Elder Barton will be Elder Morris' trainer and we couldn't have him in better hands. Elder Barton will appreciate the obedience of Elder Morris which has already been displayed in a very humble manner.

Attached you will find pictures of him with us.

President & Sister Sartori
Russia Samara Mission.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Last days at the MTC!


Sam you said you hadn't heard from me so I must have forgotten to address my last email to you as well as mom. Also, I just got your mail and I cracked up forever about that support my business sticker. Seriously I thought it was the funniest thing ever and I'm so glad you recognized my sense of humor in that photo with the crazy old lady with the onions. Hahaha. Alsok, (also+ok=typo) I'm so glad to hear that you're ripping in up out there. Seriously, I can't tell you how it has blessed me to have an older sister serving at the same time as me. And I think both of us serving is a blessing for the family back home... I have to tell you mom that when you told me about Levi coming over I almost cried. For reals, that was some of the best news ever. I mean, of course I knew he would visit while I'm gone, but it was just a reminder for me that you're someone he goes to, even when I'm not there. Same with Chris, I love hearing about how you still get to see him. I don't hear from either of them, but I try to write them every week, and it's a blessing for me to know that my mom cares about my best friends. Man, that was a great email, mom. It killed me because I read Sam's email first today and it was just a bunch of responses to all the stuff you had said in your email so I felt really out of the loop for a few seconds. And I'm SO EXCITED for you and dad to serve in 2021. That's going to be AMAZING. Mom and Dad, they need people like you out here. Look at all the ways you "fellowship" all our friends, and all the missionaries that come by. You're probably more of a mission couple to those missionaries than most of the couples who are already set apart. You're going to be amazing out there and I can't wait. I love the idea of you two on a mission and I know you'll eat it up, mom. Seriously, mom, this mission stuff for you. And Dad will be PERFECT for the field. I echo Sam, Dad really is a scholar. He's got so much wisdom that will help out all the missionaries out here. So PROPS.

Ahhh I really am sad because I don't have a lot of time to write about the other stuff in your email; It's so good to hear about the family back home. I can just picture the boys up late for a risk bash! I really do miss the family time. Agh I need to take the last 8 minutes writing about travel plans so we're all on the same page. I'll send you a good letter, though, for sure.

Okay, so it turns out that I'm actually leaving on Monday instead of Thursday (Thanksgiving). So I'm really sad about that, because I won't get to talk to everybody. But I'm TOO EXCITED for Russia. We've been spending more time talking about life in the field because we're going there so soon and it's getting me way too stoked. CAN'T WAIT. ANYWAY I need to get on with this. So we leave the MTC at about 5 in the morning on Monday the 22nd. Our flight from the Salt Lake airport leaves at 8:35 am, so I'm not sure if that would be the best time to call? I don't know how much time I'll have sitting around at the airport, but whenever I have free time I will call for sure. Anyways, from 8:35 on to 3:18 (New York time) I'm on a plane to the New York Kennedy airport. I only have an hour layover from there to take care of all my stuff and get on the plane to Moscow, so chances are I won't be calling from New York (but once again, whenever I have free time I'll be calling). Then from 4:25 pm (NY time) to 10:10 am (Russia time) I'm on the plane to Moscow. There, I have over twelve hours before the next plane to Samara. I'm not sure how international calling works from the airport or whatever, but if I have to use the calling card I think I might... We'll figure something out. I just want to make sure I get to talk to you all sometime. So then, at 9:30 pm (Russian time?) on the 23rd I get on my next plane, and I get to Samara at 11:10 pm (Russian time).

That's my flight plans. I'm sorry this was a boring email, and I'm sorry that I'm not going to be leaving actually on Thanksgiving. But I'll get some awesome letters headed both home and to Chile to make up for this lame email because I only have 20 seconds left on the timer and I took forever to read the other two eamaalalls aaashheragilsh;alsn;i;e1n2i3LOVE YOU BY

Friday, November 12, 2010


Alright, end of week 8. This is so crazy how fast it's going here. Here's how it goes: Your first week you show up and you look around with wide eyes and say "this is never going to end." And after a week or two you settle in and get used to missionary life and you sit back and say "this is never really going to end," and you're okay with that and really happy to be here. And then (as Bro. Wood says) it's over and you already miss life on the mission! I feel like there's a little mini-version of that process here in the MTC, sort of. The weeks fly but I'm never really going to be in the Motherland (even though I've got three weeks left and I get travel plans NEXT WEEK. boom.) I'm extremely excited, though. And I've got my work cut out for me for the next few weeks. We just learned our official last new Russian grammar principle, so for the next few weeks it's just practice practice practice and reviewing what we've learned so we can actually apply it. So that will be fun.

How was All Hallow's Eve?! It was a regular day here. Nothing different happened, but it was an awesome day. I lurve sundays in the MTC. This week they resumed Temple walks on Sundays so me and my companion were able to walk around for a bit and have some meaningful scripture study. Sam will know what I'm talking about when I say this, but you family back home have NO IDEA the kind of things you learn when you're studying the scriptures literally all day. It's pretty awesome because there's nothing at all to distract from that (for the most part). I mean, there aren't any other aspects of your life that you have to really tend to, so you can just think about it all the time. It's taking over my liiiiffeeee but that's probably a good thing and I like it so there.

Anyways, I'm so sorry to hear about cute li'l Hopey being sick over Halloween! That's so sad for her. Little Nadyezhda. Li'l Nadya. (znachit Hope po-rooski). I'm really going to call hope that from now on because Russian names are the coolest thing ever. I wrote in my letter home about it a little bit, but this is for Sam: So apparently they name their kids things like Hope and Charity and Faith, but also they name some of their daughters Love (Lyubohv), and there's even a male name which translates literally to "Eternal Glory" (Vyechaslav). Is that not the most passionate culture you've ever heard of??! I'm gonna love it there, I can't wait. Three weeks!

The MTC is great though. Life goes by fast. I swear the weeks only last two days each. Do you remember the Devotionals?? That was one thing dad said I would really like and I LOVE them. My district got to do the ushering last week for when Elder Scott came (which means we got to sit on the second row), and some missionaries from a district in our zone got to give the opening and closing prayers (which means they sat on the stand). YEAH. It was great. He talked all about how to gain the spirit, and gave all the districts these handouts with interesting points about spiritual guidance and promptings. I couldn't write fast enough to keep up! I love the devotionals.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

This photo is the Russian squat... It is so cold that they all squat with both feet flat on the ground and believe that if your yahoos touch the ground that you will be forever infertile! (Is that even okay to say in a missionary blog?) Anyway... here is the last e-mail!

Hahaha that story is awesome because Bishop Wadley always knows how to play it cool. Kind of funny to think of him in a weird situation like that. I read the card he wrote to me the tuesday right after I got set apart, just a few days ago actually. He had some really good advice in there and it reminded me of all the good people who helped me out when I needed to get my rear end in gear for my mission.

I'm so glad to hear that Caleb enjoyed the Book of Mormon!! Haha everyone was wondering (of course) why I had an ITALIAN Book of Mormon. Good stuff. But I really hope that Caleb enjoys that. Maybe he'll even get through it before I get back! Also, BIG NEWS about the church: a few days ago, President Monson officially broke ground for the Rome, Italy temple! You probably already heard about that but I thought it was so cool and just wanted to let Caleb know about it. I looked at the pictures for what the planned temple is supposed to look like and it's going to be gorgeous. I love hearing about new temples. I love the idea that these ordinances are really being set up everywhere throughout the world so all of God's children can partake. It pumps me up (as Elder "West Point" Noren would say).

Well what else. The Russian's coming along! We had an investigator scenario lesson where the Sisters in our district taught our teacher, and at one point during the lesson they shared a part of the Restoration video. And it was in RUSSIAN. All our lessons are in Russian now. Man, Russians are so cool. The voice acting (dubbing) was the greatest thing ever. I kind of understood a lot of it, but it's really hard to follow when you're listening to a native. They speak extremely fast. So I had to get a lot from context, and put it together with my limited vocabulary. We've taught a few native Russians who volunteered at the TRC. A few weeks we taught a sister from... Moscow, I think? She spoke really fast and fluently (of course), but it was an amazing experience because we were able to converse back and forth, and address concerns. And more importantly, we were able to invite the Spirit, particularly when talking about the Book of Mormon. There's something about doing that in another language that gets me. I guess it's the idea that this message really is for everyone throughout the world.

Sam, thanks for all your advice. Seriously, I hope you don't feel like you're being overbearing when you write stuff like that because I really look for it in your emails. Stuff like that helps me out a lot, and more than anything it gets me stoked to go out into the world. I've got a lot to learn over the next 4ish weeks, but the closer I get, the more real it becomes! Haha, kind of like a MISSION was in the first place. I've found that you really go through the same thing again once you're in the MTC... And by "same thing," I mean waiting for your MISSION-mission. You boys will know what I'm talking about. But I'm sorry about your last companion!! That sounds miserable... 0/2 haha. But look at you! You're optimism is amazing and I'm positive that it will pay off! If you feel like you're not getting much out of all your hard work, just realize that if nothing else you're an amazing example of a perfect missionary for ALL you're little brothers! Which is ironic because I'm the oldest brother... Hahaha.

Mom, I just got back from the temple and I've just finished doing endowment work for the last of the names you gave me. Thank you so much for letting me do those for you. I really feel connected to those people now. I feel like they've had a huge impact on my own personal conversion here in the MTC. It's absolutely no coincidence the most of my reservations about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith were completely resolved by the end of the temple session today. It's hard to explain. But I feel like I had an extra witness of the Book of Mormon added to my testimony as I've put more effort into studying it, and as I prayed for help in the temple and did these family names. These people have interest in us...

CHARLES wrote me yesterday. I got a dear elder from him and I'm extremely glad about it. He's not living with anyone in our circle of friends, really, so I've been worried that he'd be hard to get back in touch with after my mission. I was going to write him today, so I'm really glad he wrote me yesterday. He said he's started reading the New Testament which is a huge deal. I've been writing to all my boys who aren't on missions right now. I want to keep in touch so that when we all get back from missions they'll feel comfortable in our circle of friends. I think that's soooo important. No one left behind.

Thank you also for sending me that newsletter! It was so fun to read about everyone. I can't wait to get out there

I love you all! Thank you so much for your letters! I hope you enjoyed the pictures and I'll be sending more home soon! Please feel free to send me pictures whenever you take any! (Although my email time is so limited and these computers are kind of slow so it might be best to send physical copies.) Agh! Time over! I will contine this message with my letter.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wowza I only have twenty minutes left to write stuff. This timed email thing is the BEST.

Okay. What do I write about? Let's see. The new elders are coming in TOMORROW. I'm stoked beyond reason. When I got here I remember looking at the Elders who had been in 6 weeks already and I thought I'd never get to that point but here I am. It's so crazy. I'm already halfway done here! It's an awesome feeling. And I can't wait to meet all the newbies. This week has been kind of nice because there's no wait for showers or volleyball or nothin, but it'll be so fun to have a "full house" again haha.

Okay story time. I got a dear elder from Mom yesterday and you mentioned how you were focusing on gratitude because of President Monson's talk. We had an awesome MTC fireside on Sunday and it made me want to change some things to make better use of my time in the MTC and on my mission. So the night before I got the dear Elder, the thought came to me that I wanted to pray throughout the entire next day without asking for anything in personal prayers in order to develop a better sense of gratitude. Okay, so it's not a very original idea, but I feel like the Spirit directed me to that desicion so I followed it. And it was awesome. Yesterday was such a great day because of it. I feel like previously I had this view that a mission is some huge task that's going to beat me to death but it'll be worth it in the end and I just have to hold out through all the trouble and hard work. But ever since I started focusing on all the blessings I've been given--and all the...(dare I say it)... FUN a mission has been--it has made me nearly completely blind to any of the trials that I might be going through right now. Everything is easier and more fulfilling. And what's more, I find out that after a full day of praying in gratitude, my dear old mum's been doing the exact same thing back home! We're definitely connected more than we realize, even though I'm not living with you right now.(P.S. I say a mission is fun, but I don't mean that in the sense that I'm just playing around. When I say "fun," I mean I'm enjoying all the work and learning and all that good stuff. Just sayin.)

Nother story. Yesterday I had a few hours for personal study time and I decided to spend the whole time reading the Book of Mormon and studying the scriptures. I read the verse in Alma 62(?) where Moroni writes in his letter to Pahoran that he does not fear man, but God. That led me on a huge scripture chase about fearing God and standing up against opposition and all that good stuff. I mean HUGE scripture chase, like two hours of awesome stories from all the standard works, Like Paul from Acts 5, and even the midwives during the time of the birth of Moses in the Old Testament. So I want to tell mom where my scripture chase ended: I found myself (with 5 minutes left of scripture study) at the story of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego, and I read the line where they say "But if not..." Immediately I remembered one of those late-night-one-in-the-morning talks I had with you, where you talked to me about the end Hebrews 11, and I turned to that scripture. As soon as I read it, I felt my faith strenghthened immensely, and it was like a personal message from God that after all the learning I had gotten from the scriptures in those 2 hours, the Spirit led me to a verse that had originally been shared with me by my mother! So awesome.

Okay five minutes left. Nother Story. We were looking through Elder Bangerter's notebook and we found a page with meeting notes labeled "Meetings/Boaring Meetings." It was hilarious. We joked about how it sounds like a hunting term. " 'Ere we go a-boarin'!!" New district motto/mascot. We hunt boars???

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

MAN I've only been gone five weeks and my parents have already decided to get all old and go blind and stuff. Hahaha I love hearing stuff like that though because it reminds me of home. Stuff like that is so funny to hear when you know the personalities of Mom and Dad. I'm gonna come back and you'll all have canes!! Haha

Okay, so see what you've started? Last P-day all four of the Elders in my room got our home address and said "I wanna write Ma Morris!!" Good luck deciphering Elder Ortner's letter. He writes super small and he's got pretty bad handwriting... Hahaha. I read over it and I understood what he was saying because I knew the context. Basically, he wanted to thank you for the support, and he said that the package was actually super helpful because they needed to find some clay for an object lesson with an investigator. But lo, when times were bleak, the fart-putty came in the mail to rescue our dear Elders Ortner and Windham. Our most somber respect reaches far to our dearest Missionary Mom, Ma Morris. (Pictures of the us trying to knock over a jones soda bottle with a giant green sticky hand to come.) I also LOVED Caleb's letter, and I loved hearing about stuff from home in the Dear Elder. I always look forward to hearing from home. It gets me through the hard times when I think about all the support. I wish I had a cyrillic keyboard. Then I could take a few moments of pretentiousness and type "I love my family very much" in Russian. BUT ALAS.

Sorry I've been writing really weird so far. Hahaha. How are things at home? Did you love teh pictures? We just took a ton more pictures last Sunday on the temple walk because half our zone just shipped out for the Motherland/Ukraine/Baltic States/everywhere else. THAT'S SO LEGIT. I was way excited for all of them to go... But it's extremely strange not having older missionaries here... It's just weird to think that we're the ones on top. We also get EVERYTHING to ourselves until wednesday in a week and a day. That's when the new elders and sisters come in. Apparently we're going to be getting something like 21 new Russian-speaking sister missionaries. That. Is ridiculous. I wonder how many Elders are going to come in. It's going to be a ton. Anyway, that should be exciting. It will be fun to help out the greenies and kind of get them settled in. I know that helped me out A TON, being able to talk to the older missionaries with more experience. It's so much easier to hang in there during the hard times when you've got people who've gone before. So we'll be doing what we can to help them out.

Our district grew when Sister Alexeenko came in, but then they made a new district of all the Elders who had previous Russian experience. So Elder Ortner, Elder Windham, and Sister Alexeenko all moved to that new district, and now we're just a tight little group of 8. It's really fun, and it's worked out okay. But Sister Alexeenko has kindof had a hard time with her new companions because they're not really as committed as the Sisters from our district (GO 9B!!). So I will be sending ANOTHER updated district photo. WOO. That reminds me, will you send me some photos from home? I'd love to see my dear old family.

Russian's coming well. I memorized the first vision no-pycckuu yesterday. I might sound like a two-year-old deaf kid whenever I try to have any sort of normal conversation in Russian, but at least I can fluently tell people about Joseph Smith! YEAH! But really, I'm surprised at how fast everything is coming. During study it's easy to get down on yourself because you realize how much more there is to learn. But when we actually apply what we've been studying by talking to people, it's amazing to see how far we've come. I really feel like certain things come to my memory that I didn't know I knew off the top of my head. It's legit.

Awesome that people are reading my blog, haha. Or Mom's blog about me, I should say. It's kinda weird because I've never seen in, obviously. Anyway, cool! I really like the idea of it actually. I got some pretty rad photos, so make sure they go up for teh hole wyde interwebz. Haha. I didn't think anyone would really look at the blog, but I've gotten a letter or two saying that friends have looked at it. Reminds me, when did you see Chris, mom? Did you go down there or did he come visit? I really want him to be visiting you guys. I kind of grilled him last letter--AH I NEED TO GO AHHH BYE LOVE YOU

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


OI. Conference was AMAZING, I agree with you there, Sam. I don't know exactly how to describe this past week. I feel like I'm going through my own sort of conversion, and that there's a ridiculous amount of opposition. The adversary does not want me to find out for myself all the things I'm teaching. It's super tricky because I felt like I knew everything before I came out! And now that I'm here, I'll have these super spiritual days where I'm on fire all day long, and then the very next day I'll hit a "low" and start worrying about my testimony and questioning myself. But no need to worry, I can promise you that those times are just temporary--very temporary--and knowing that, I make it through just fine. I remember talking to returned missionaries who say that a mission is a roller-coaster. I always took that with a grain of salt, but here I am! It's amazing though. I'm learning so much through all this. I'm learning to rely on the Lord, and I feel like now more than at any other time in my life I have a personal relationship with my Heavenly Father. I'm learning all of this just like a brand new investigator has to! It's impossible to describe, and it's wonderful. Brother Wood said to our district that during his mission, he felt like he was going through a personal conversion whenever he brought an investigator through. It literally seems to go like this: We find out for ourselves how to come unto Christ, then we go out of our way to find people who need help finding Christ and walk with them through their conversions. I'm satisfied to speculate that we do so much more than just call from a high spiritual place--if that were the case, then the church wouldn't have any problem with doing something extremely general in place of missionary work. But it's a personal work we do with each individual investigator, which requires us to make the journey of conversion with each of them. That's unspeakably significant. Isn't that how the Savior works with us? He personally suffered for us, and knows each of us. When we build real relationships with investigators, we can personally know them, and know what their going through so we can help them. I guess I don't have much experience in the matter. I'm still in the MTC!! But somehow I know that this is what it's like.

Conference was definitely a highlight! Just like dear ole Sam said, it was like a feast! I felt like everything shared was personally relevant, whether it was something I could apply to myself, or something I could explain to loved ones who might need help. Story: President Monson, on Saturday morning announced the new temples and talked about his experiences in dedicating the other temples. I LOVE how he talked about Kyiv, and how he told us about the cultural celebration they had. I choked up thinking about a temple that close to Russia! I felt pretty stupid getting worked up over something that seems so small, but I feel like I have a connection to the Russian nation, and I don't even know them yet!!??!?!! I just thought about how awesome it is that more people are recognizing the church in that area of the world, now. And how fitting it is that the Ukrainian people would hold a celebration in a PALACE to commemorate that great milestone. That just blew me away, for some reason.

And of course, priesthood session was TEH BOMB. I felt so empowered, being able to bear my testimony through song! It was such an amazing experience, and there was power in singing about missionary work. Elder Nelson's (?) talk about missionary work was so awesome because it made me realize how badly I want all my brothers to serve full time missions. I want it so much that it hurts sometimes!! I saw the three of you there with Dad, faithfully following him to come and listen to the prophet, and I felt so proud of my li'l bros. Dad says Caleb wants to start studying preach my gospel. I'm so impressed by my little brothers! They're miles ahead of me. Do everything you can to get ready for a mission!! That means listen to Mom and Dad!!! You will never ever ever regret it. You owe it to these two to serve honorable missions and make them proud. I can't even begin to think of any way I can pay back our parents for devoting their ENTIRE LIVES to us, making sure that we have the Spirit in our home, and making sure that we make the right decisions. You have no idea how important that is until you're off on your own! And of course, more importantly, you owe it to our Heavenly Father! Think of everything He's done for you, all the preparations you received from him before you came to this Earth! Get out there and make our parents proud, boyz!! I love you all to pieces! I can't tell you how happy I was to see you! You're all making me proud, and you'll all be much better missionaries than I could ever be, because you're starting early. Don't give that up!
one minute left. Funny story: Brother Shelyakin heard us all practicing russian really quietly, and he said "speak up! If Lenin whispered like that, there would have been no revolution!!" Then he started imitating Lenin and saying "Dear comrades!" in russian. HAHAHAHA.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Today's e-mail!

OKAY it's already been three weeks and that freaks me out. Last Sunday me and some of the Elders were talking about how we were "almost two weeks in!!!" And it feels like that was two or three days ago. But it's actually been a WEEK. And a HALF. Since THEN. Kinda crazy. Things have picked up.

By the way. Sam your email was HUGE. I loved every bit of it. But I can't wait until I'm actually in the field so I can spend more than a stinking lousy thirty minutes on a novel worthy of my family's reading. This last Sunday, me and three other Elders got bored at the temple walk, so we came back to the classroom early and sat around and watched err-y single one of those Mormon Messages things. I almost cried watching the drunk driver one, dangit. It was really awesome, but I feel like a big baby now. I'm way more emotional here. Maybe. I don't know.

Cool story time. Well, first, actually, in answer to Stacy Smoot/Mom's question, yes, the Russian's coming. It's so RAD. Their grammar is so awesome once you get the hang of it. I absolutely love the language with a passion. It's like solving a puzzle whenever I sit down to translate a thought into Russian. I could go on about how it all works, but I'll write more about it in my letter. Anyway. So cool story. Elder Vargin is an Elder here who is a native of Moscow. He knows hardly any English at all but he's super hilarious. Example. One day he approached me and said "Privet, vinagrette," which means "What's up, unknown-'Russian'-word." So I asked him what the second word was and he said "Is Italian green salad." Hahaha I thought it was hilarious. Mostly because of his accent. Man I love Russians so much. There's a whole district of natives. So yes, I've met a few. They're so cool. But COOL STORY TIME. For reals. I'm trying to get to it, I really am. So this same Elder Vargin came up to me yesterday and asked if I would write my testimony for him in Russian, so he could send it home to his mother and girlfriend, who don't believe in the Church. He's been collecting testimonies of lots of different elders. So yesterday I wrote a page of very simple but very sincere testimony no-rycckuu. I had him read it and it had a TON of mistakes, but he fixed them and I rewrote it and everything. Elder Vargin helped me out, and then I gave it to him and he said really really slowly (because of his limited English), "Thank you. Is very very important for me." I just thought it way super cool because I surprised myself with how much I've retained. And I got to help someone out. It's still so much work though. Sometimes I feel like I'm learning really slowly, but then I go back and try to speak and random words come to me that I didn't know I understood. That's how it is with prayer, too. I'll pray in Russian with no idea of what to say, and then the words just pop into my head. My vocabulary is still extremely limited, but I've gotten to the point where I can speak around the words I don't know in order to truly express myself instead of just repeating a memorized prayer. It's an amazing feeling to pray in Russian, especially when I'm praying for my home.

But my time is already almost up for email time. Man, this kills me. The last five minutes go by really fast. I love your letters and your stories and emails so much!! I love you all, the church is true, and hopefully Dad and the boyz will see me from afar off in the Conference Center. It's going to be an amazing experience. The music is simple, but powerful.



Monday, September 27, 2010

Now he is getting into the life!

CECTPA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! that's no-ryccku for sister. I wish i was better at typing on a russian keyboard cause then I could actually send you some rad lookin stuff. But alas. The timer.

Things are going way awesome here. The first week felt like it took FOREVER but now I'm way surprised that it's already been two weeks. I love this stuff. This whole missionary biznass. I'm learning so much here and I feel like I've known my district for years even though I've only known them for two weeks!! It's bizarre. I really didn't think I would warm up to them so quick when I first got here because I was so preoccupied on missing home and realizing how hard a mission is going to be etc, etc. But it's really really been awesome now that I've settled in. Once I got to know people it got a lot easier.

There are a ton of HILARIOUS elders here. I also met a group of Russian elders and sisters and they're way awesome. I've decided that Russian humor is maybe my favorite type of humor. We have a tutor here who helps us out sometimes, whose name is Brother Shelyakin. He's from Ukraine but he speaks Ukrainian and Russian (he says "Russia and Ukraine, is same place." Imagine it with a heavy accent). He's one of the most amusing people I've ever met. Seriously. Russians/Ukrainians. They know where it's attttt. Also, this same Brother Shelyakin told my district that if you read the Book of Mormon cover to cover in your mission language, then by the end, you will know the language. He went to England on his mission, so he read the Book of Mormon in English, and he said that, "I wake up next morning, and boom--English then is not new different language to me now. It just language that I know perfect that I speak like other language from Ukraine." (Imagine the accent again. Hahaha.) So I started reading the Book of Mormon no-ryccku. It's really difficult... especially because I haven't learned all the grammar rules, cases, etc., that I need in order to speak it and recognize conjugations. Russian is so cool because a lot of times word order doesn't even matter. Every part of the sentence is "labeled" by a conjugation, so you can tell which part of the sentence it is no matter where it is (generally). I'm having so much fun learning it. It's like a puzzle sometimes!! I also note that when I haven't put forth a good effort to have the Spirit with me, then my studying of the language gets tougher.... hmmm.... imagine that.... Gift of Tongues is real, everyone.

SAM i almost forgot i have awesome awesome news. Me and mou Hanapnuk (companion) got selected to sing in an MTC choir for Priesthood Session!!!!! which means we get to leave the MTC on Oct 3rd and go to the live session. AND PRODUCE TEH MUZIKS FOR TEH CHURCH. I'm soooooooooooooooo excited. It's kind of a big deal. Dad, tell caleb and seth and patrick to be watchin for me!!!! I might be on teh tvs!!!!!

Ahh I've been spending all of my email time on this one letter, so I'm just going to forward it to both you and Mom. I've been writing about things that I wanted to tell both of you anyways. But I'll be able to spend more time on the letters that I send, so you'll get more details and fun stories from that.

Anyhow, I have 6:30 min left on this timer, so I'll just talk some more. Mom, I like the idea of the blog if it's something that you want to do. I'm not sure how many of my friends will actually read it but I think it will be good for extended family and such.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The first E-mail from the MTC!

So here is the first e-mail!

I just got done emailing sam and I only have fifteen minutes left to write! this timed email thing is SO STRESSFUL. I have about a billion things I want to write to you, but I can't even think of where to start. Especially with this DASTARDLY TIMER UP AT THE TOP OF THE SCREEN. I can't type fast enough.

Anywho, I just want to start out by telling you that I find myself thinking of you and dad constantly. Really, I didn't think I would miss home so much. I know that sounds awful, but I guess I just took for granted the fact that for the past year almost I've been completely surrounded by a family who loves me and helps me out all the time. I really hope I can convey how much I care about you guys!! and how awesome it is to hear from home!!!! I read your letter barely about Seth and Hope, and Dad at the football game and I had a very discreet cry. Well, I guess according do your definition, i didn't "shed a tear," but i still made the "monkey face." hahaha. Man I only have ten minutes left and I haven't even really started!! I have awesome stories and I want to share them all but I'll have to give you details in my written letter. We went to the temple early today so I've got plenty of time to write about all the fun, difficult, new, different experiences I'm going through. It has really truly been a test of faith for me. Sometimes I even get to the point where I realize that there's literally NOTHING that I personally can do to get me through this. It's 100% a reliance on the Lord, who works constantly on my behalf. I can't even fathom what kind of power Christ has, because the Atonement is so much more potent that I could realize. Of course, I'm talking about way more than just repentance. In PMG it says "The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes up for everything in life that is unfair." In essence, because of the Atonement, we are able to nearly completely bypass all the real heartache that comes from mortality. Or, rather than bypass, overcome. Of course life isn't easy just because of the Atonement. Maybe in some ways it's even harder. But in the end, there's just peace. Everything feels right. I have hard times here, sometimes, but at the end of the night when I kneel and square myself up before God, I always feel comforted and "reeled-in." THAT'S enduring to the end.

Ahh i wish I could write more. And I really didn't mean to get all sappy and write about doctrine and everything that you guys already know about. I just want you guys to know that I'm doing all right here and that THERE'S SO MUCH IN STORE. I'm dying to get out there and really start serving, but at the same time i'm so unprepared!! AHHHH!! Anyhow, again I'm sorry that I didn't get to really write a lot to you, more details will come in my letter, along with some awesome stories (and yes, seth and caleb, I even have a HOBO story for you). Ha ha ha my teacher told us the "hobo story" and I laughed waaaay harder than everyone else because of Caleb and Seth and our little hobo joke obsession. hahaha oh man I LOVE YOU GUYS. keep up the good work back at home so I can come back to that awesome peaceful wonderful home that I know and love!! I pray for each of you individually every night!!! I LOVE YOU.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Mission Begins!

So... to keep anyone up on the doings of Elder Morris in Russia, I have created this blog. You can read along or not but I will have a place to post photos, stories and letters. At the end of the 2 years, I might even make a book with all this STUFF!