Monday, October 24, 2011

Another trip to Kyiv!

Hey, it was great to hear from you! As always! First things first, please pass on my love to Aunt Kristin. That's got to be a big blow to their family. Tell them I love them, and I'll be praying for her, ok? I'm really glad to hear that recovery is going well so far. Maybe if it hasn't already been suggested then a priesthood blessing from Dad and Grandpa would be a good idea? Especially before surgery. Oh I hope everything goes really well! I got a little knot in my stomach when I read the second email about Sam contacting home, too. I'm assuming that it has to do with Kristin's accident, right? Wow, lots of big news came this week. It seems like everyone and their dog has left on missions. And my generation is starting to slowly come back from theirs. It all flies by!! Wow, I don't really know what to write about.

Also, just got a call the one of the branch buildings in our zone got vandalized! Kind of crazy. Some graffiti and a little bit of fire, but nothing serious! Okay, so as far as my week goes, I went to Kyiv again. It was awesome because they didn't think we'd be able to go to the temple again, but they were able to get the flights needed and I got to go!! It was amazing. It was awesome to go through in Russian again. Kyiv is a golden city. People there are so nice, and the church is really really strong. Elder Maksymov has told me all about it. It's about an hour away from the airport and so the mission hired a driver to come pick us up. We were able to talk to him a little bit about our church, and he was an incredibly nice man, too. Real smiley. One of the Elders in our group got permission to see his brother there, who has been in the Kyiv mission for about a year and a half. That's kind of like Caleb and Seth. They went to lunch across the street from the temple and got to do some contacting together. I can't even imagine what it would be like to do missionary work with a broseph. That's one of my dreams. Maybe if one of the three get called to a Russian speaking mission, I'll go pick them up for the last week of their mission and then do some work with 'em. I'll start saving now!! By then there will be a couple more stakes in Russia and maybe a temple or two under construction. Goose bumps. I'm glad that you got to go see Chelsee talk. She probably did an awesome job! Tell her hi for me, I haven't written in a little while. I'd be happy to send a letter off if I can get her MTC address. I'm scared that if I write today then she won't get it before she goes to the MTC in a couple weeks. She's going to do so awesome! And she's being sent to a really awesome mission. I'll bet she runs into Maksymov's parents there. Depends on where she serves, but they go to the stake center that's right there on temple grounds. I got some really amazing pictures of the temple this time because it's overcast and it's fall. I wish I would've thought to bring my camera. Maybe next week I can send some.

Biggest news from me this week. Next week Elder Maksymov has his visa trip to Kazakhstan so we're going to ride up on a train so Samara together and I'll work one day up there while he's gone. Also, next week is transfers. Again. I feel like I've been with Elder Maksymov for a week or two and now it's already transfers again. Anyways, we'll see what happens. I'll be happy to stay here because there's so much fun stuff going on in Saratov. In about 2 weeks (a little less) I'll have been serving in the same area for 6 months straight. Kind of crazy, especially because it definitely doesn't feel like I've been here that long. But I came and it still wasn't summer. And now it's freezing. Snow's gonna come soon. I feels it in my bones.

This has been a crazy writing session with lots of interruptions, so I'm sorry it's not a good email. THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING. I love you and pray for you every single day. Thank you for all you do, especially mom and dad. I feel so much support and love coming from home, and not every missionary gets that, so I feel really lucky. Thanks for everything you sacrifice to make Sam and I happy! REALLY happy, I mean, in the eternal sense. It means a lot. Really really really really a lot. Sam, thanks for your example. Mitch, you've got really beautiful eyes. Thanks for reading these too, even though they're kind of boring. LOVE YOU.

MOM, WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT MY GUTS???
ALEX

P.S. THANK YOU for putting together a package. I'm excited for christmas and it's not even halloween yet! I'm going to put together a Christmas package for the family sometime soon, too.... any requests? Maybe a stray cat or dog? or a pidgeon? There are lots of those. Haha!
P.P.S. I hope you got the love your guts joke hahaha. I thought it was pretty funny at least.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Okay I'll post his letters again...


This nice Russian lady sends me pictures of Alex almost every week. She feeds him too! Here is the e-mail...
Hello family!! I just realized that I can be sending these emails to Mitch every week, too, so I'm going to start doing that. Spam!! Ha! How is everyone doing? It was nice to read your emails a little bit before I started writing. Last week at the post office it was crazy and I didn't have a lot of time to do anything. This week the Williams are back in Saratov and they let us come over and use their computers. They're from Utah, somewhere down past Provo. Linton? I don't remember. Sister Williams asked about the fire in Centerville, apparently she heard about that too.

Life is crazy. I'm glad that everything is settling down for you, mom! You're a trooper. We've been praying for you, so we know everything will be good. Fasting helps, too. My companion and I also started a fast yesterday for our zone. We've got CRAZY stuff going on in Saratov. A couple weeks ago President Sartori came down and announced a Stake in Saratov by July 1, 2013. He sort of set an official goal, I guess you could say. Lots of members have known that they're close to a stake, but now it kind of became something they're all working towards instead of just rumors. Ever since the Priesthood Conference where President announced it, there's been a ridiculous amount of opposition. It's been coming from all fronts--missionaries getting sick, branches getting weaker, goals not met, people getting aggressive on the street... It's all way exciting. I feel like I've sobered a lot just by seeing what's ahead. We're really focused and giving it everything we've got. I absolutely love the challenging times like this because I feel like the Lord is so close. I have an awesome companion who's helping me focus more on the spiritual side of things. I've felt overwhelmed in the past, but I've realized that at those times I wasn't doing everything I could to rely on God and invite Him even more into the work. What's been happening is we're doing everything in our power (which isn't too much when you think about it), and then really searching for guidance through prayer and fasting. I know it's really simple, and it's a lesson that I thought I already knew from earlier on in life. I feel like my mission has been a lot more of me "re-learning" simple gospel principles in a more profound way than of me learning something completely new for the first time. A mission is an amazing experience in that way, and I feel really grateful for everything the Lord has put me through.

I loved the picture of Caleb in the Russian stuff because that's definitely regular clothing for old farts in Russia. Picture grandpa Sherm in his regular clothes, but then imagine that he has this really obsessive fear of getting his head cold at all and give him a bunch of fur all over his clothes. That's Russia in the winter!! I love Russian winter way better than summer. It's starting to get really cold really fast. It doesn't help that we don't have hot water in our apartment. Freezing showers every morning!! I've gotten used to it... I didn't know you still played volleyball, mom. You are so devoted to type up a big long letter to your poor wayfaring strangers even with a broken finger! I love hearing all the news. That's way cool that Mary has decided to go on a mission, too. When does Kim head out? Anyways, I'll keep praying for you and the family. I miss you all a lot. We really do have such a fun family. I don't know what we're gonna do when Dad turns into an old fart with his buddy Jeffrey (that is what the kids call Richard's pot gut) that he keeps feeding every day. Dad's been due for about 5 years now!

Anyways, I've got about 4 minutes left. (I asked what he wants in his Christmas package) Requests... Hmmm... I think a CTR ring in Russian would be a really cool gift. I wouldn't mind some new garments, too. I wear Dri-Lux medium tall shirts and medium bottoms. Maybe throw in a pair of onesies for kicks. Then I'll match dad. Hahaha. As far as food, send me anything spicy/cinamon flavored and I'll be happy. Hot tomales are good. There's also a CD I want to get from our itunes. Other than that, just send a TON of family pictures. I LOVE pictures from home. Anyways, that's all the suggestions I've got.

LOVE YOU ALL TO PIECES. My time is up! Until next week!!!

LOVE ALEX

Monday, August 29, 2011

POVORYASH!!


Another photo from a Russian member...
and here is the e-mail...Hello! It's me again! How's everyone doing? This was probably the hardest week of my mission! But I got to baptize VXXX on Tuesday!!!! He is the most golden investigator I've ever met on my whole mission!!!! I don't know if I even talked about him. About a month ago, I was at church and these members came up to me with their 13 year old cousin named IXXX, who's not a member. I talked to him and he's a gr8 young man. His cousins invited us over that night because IXXX's dad, VXXX, was living with them and having a really hard time in life. Sister IXXX offered that he could get a priesthood blessing if he wanted, and he was down. So we came down. We taught him the first lesson, he really opened up, and by the end of the lesson he was smiling and laughing. I'll really never ever see a man so prepared to receive the gospel. You should see the way he treats IXXX. He had some crazy stuff going on with his wife and moved out to live with his cousin, and he took his son with him. When we first met him, he was slumped in a chair, wearing a bathrobe and boxers, with this crazy dark sad countenance. That's IMCOMPARABLE to this Tuesday when he was wearing church clothes and he couldn't stop smiling. He didn't even physically change that much, but he somehow looked like a million bucks. He even still had some beard-scruff. But it was like there was a beam of light coming out of his face. He was all in, too, because he had a ton of stuff that could have easily stopped a regular investigator from getting baptized. Half a week before he got baptized, he moved back to EXXX, the city across the river from Saratov, and Elder CXXX found out that he and his wife were not officially married. So they had a meeting that night and talked about how he either needed to move out, or he wasn't going to make his date. There weren't big problems other than that, because the whole month we had been teaching him he had been living with his cousin away from his wife. The wife was on the meeting, and that was a miracle too because she just said "I don't want to get in the way of anything. I'm not going to stop you from doing this." Miracle, because the first time he mentioned it to her she lost it a little bit. But then he left some literature laying on the table, and she picked it up and started reading, and now she loves the church and has made some big changes and is a candidate for baptism herself, in the coming month. I can't get over how amazing VXXX is. I called Elder CXXX on Saturday and he was getting ready to start a meeting with VXXX, so VXXX grabbed the phone to have a little chin wag with me. He said "I get the Gift of the Holy Ghost tomorrow. I'm going crazy! I'm not going to be able to sleep tonight because of how excited I am." So IXXX is getting baptized in about a week. He would've gotten baptized with his dad, but he was gone at a camp until the end of the month. VXXX just gets everything. He understands it all. On one of the meetings he talked about how he's like a pioneer and all these people after him are going to get raised in the church now. I kind of hope that there's some possible way for me to go see them get sealed in Kyiv after my mission. I totally know he's headed there with them. When we were teaching him he was running at "baptism or bust". Quit smoking: sure. Move out from girlfriend: no problem. Come to church: I'll come for the rest of my life. He did whatever it took! What a champion! I love that family so much.

So that's the good. I was out of the city a lot again. I went down to a little village called Marx to go on splits for a couple of days. It's crazy down there. Everyone knows/doesn't like the missionaries because it's such a little town and the church has been there forever, relatively. Also, yesterday, we went down to Zavodskoy to help out some of the Elders down there. That's also a tough area, I think. It was fun though. I love Elders FXXX and EXXX. Our own area suffered because we were out of the area a lot. Kind of like the whole month. But it's all good. I'm STILL settling in after having the whole zone heaped on my shoulders when Scott left. I can call him that now because he's home. Or Bro. HXXX. Povtoryash!! Zdrastbuduslav!! Because he's working at the MTC apparently. Those aren't even real words!! We just always used to joke about him purposely teaching horrible Russian in the MTC. And we'd all still be out here in Russia and suffer whenever a HXXX missionary comes out to the field. So things here are still going good. I'm probably going to be in Saratov again next cycle, but I'm most likely going to have a new companion. We'll see. Just 2 more weeks left in the cycle--that's scary. I've got a couple really good friends finishing out this cycle, and it's going to be sad to see them go. They're District Leaders so we end up working together a lot. It's been a lot of fun. Dangit, all the kids are growing up!!

So that's all from my end. Thanks for letting me rant! I got a chance to read most of what you all wrote but I didn't get to write a lot about it. Dangit! But it's so awesome to hear that things are good. Pass on my love to all the family, I love them all dearly. And hang in there Megan! We'll be praying for you. The first cycle is the worst thing in the world, but that fact just makes the rest of the mission that much better! Keep on keeping on, boys, you'll all be amazing missionaries. Okay my time's up. But I LOVE YOU.

BYE
Alex

Monday, August 22, 2011

Another week in Saratov

Alright, I'd like to thank everyone for coming out today! Okay, great. Let's get started!

You can ask Elder CXXX about that one. Heh heh. How's everybody! I really enjoyed the emails back home. I've noticed this and probably mentioned it before, but it seems like we're all in sync with each other. Sam is really lost in the work and talking about how amazing stuff is changing her whole mission, and mom is doing really well right now, too. Crazy stuff is happening up here as well. Literally our mission is changing. The Russia Samara Mission is breaking out and becoming a consistently baptizing mission. There have been months where we get a lot of baptisms (relatively) and then things die down, but this time it seems like we're consistently having more and more success as a mission. Things that used to seem impossible are becoming the norm from month to month. Our mission used to struggle really hard to get over 100 new investigators in a week, but over the course of just 2 or 3 months things have developed so that we're finding around 130 a week on average. The same thing is going on with baptisms. It's really exciting to watch everything unfold. The members are all getting excited about everything, too. People keep talking about how close we are to getting a stake here in Saratov, and eventually a temple. There's been a lot of opposition, too, which means where on the right track. I've been here since May, and the whole time I've been here, I've never seen so much animosity towards the missionaries here in Saratov as I have over the past few weeks. Interestingly enough, right when we started baptizing more people than usual is right when people started getting meaner and more aggressive on the streets... It's definitely a sign that Satan knows what's going on. He doesn't have too much more time before we have a stake established and a temple built in this city, so he's going all out. I've been thinking about that like crazy over the past few days, and I've started to realize how privileged I am to be serving here in this city right at the turning point. The mission is such a real experience, in an indescribable way. I've never recognized the reality of both powers on the other side of the veil as I do now, serving here in Saratov. I feel amazing working here because I really feel like I'm running around in the trenches of it all. It's the most spiritually satsifying feeling. As a missionary, you get called right up into the front lines. It's all just a huge war! I love thinking about it this way: Someone in the MTC said that the Lord doesn't send His missionaries out into the front lines of the battles to hold down His Kingdom--it's an all-out attack on the offensive. It really feels like that, especially serving here as a senior leader in the mission. It really sobers you up. I just can't believe that I get to be a part of something this big. When the church is established and a temple is announced in Saratov (and it won't even be that far in the future), I'll be able to say That's my city! I was part of the battles that went on there! It's an overwhelming thought for me.

That's what's going on in my headddd. Sorry for lack of details of the week. It was a good week though, lots of splits, and I got to set a baptismal date for this Saturday with an investigator in another area. I'm sorry I didn't get to write much, I really spent too much time reading. I love your emails! Thanks for your support and your prayers, we need them both!! Keep on keeping on, Sam. You're an awesome examples. Boys, this is the most incredible thing you could ever get yourselves into! Don't you dare let it get by.

I LOVE YOU

Alex

Monday, August 15, 2011


I think this is Alex's companion right now...

YEAH. I was really happy to hear that you made it to Elder HXXXs talk. I've been waiting to hear any bit of news from him. He's probably had a crazy couple of weeks. I got a kick out of him coming to family home evening, though. We used to joke about that, I think it's funny that he agreed. I miss his group of missionaries! There were lots of awesome missionaries that left when he left. There were some really good mission friends in that group. It feels really weird now that everyone's gone. Kind of feels like I'm on a new mission, like I just came out into the field or something. I'm one of the oldest on the mission and I haven't even hit my year mark!! It kind of weighs down on me.. That's probably a good thing, though. If you remember/get around to it, pass along to Elder HXXXsizzle that MXXX PXXX's son PXXX just got baptized this weekend. I had a good long chat with Bro. PXXX about that one. It was a blessing to be able to talk to him about it. He told me he's been praying for years about that one. PXXX went on a week long trip to a youth conference with his best friend, who's a great member, and something changed, so he decided to get baptized. I thought about all the work you put into your calling back when you were a YW leader, mom. It makes all the difference. The WXXXs, the senior couple serving in our branch, are called to work with the YSA here in Saratov, and they were really involved with the conference. That's something I could picture you and dad doing so well. You'll probably end up being on an assignment similar to theirs once you get in the field. Anyhow, MXXX's an amazing member, one of the ones I feel privileged to know. That's one of my favorite parts of serving on a mission is the friendship with the members. In all of the other branches I served in, language skills were still developing, and I got moved around every cycle, but now that I'm going through my third cycle here in Volzhski branch I've come to know a lot of the members and really love them. And we have the best branch in the mission!! We've got all the superstars. By the way, the name AXXX isn't very familiar... It must be someone from Samara, where Elder HXXX served most of his mission.

That's what's going on in my head right now. In other news, I was in 2 different areas for 4 days this week, so it was kind of a crazy week. While I was on splits in ZXXX, the Elder I was with got punched in the face by a drunkard. It was kinda nuts. And this Elder's only been a week out in Russia! He's a champ, though. From what I've heard, it hasn't changed his willingness to do the work at all. We followed after the man to get a picture, but he turned and saw me and covered his face. And then the battery ran out on my camera, so we left. And then my camera wiped my SD card completely... So we ain't got no evidence. Dang, it was fun though. Reminds me of Elder XXX. Same thing happened to him, his first week in Russia too! Don't pass that on, I don't think he wants to tell his family until he gets home. In fact, I hope I'm not worrying you about this... We really are protected. I've been in a few sketchy situation where everything turned out completely fine, even when it maybe shouldn't have. Maybe make sure that other mothers with sons in Russia don't read this stuff haha. Oh, and about the camera... I want permission to spend 100 dollars on a new camera. I think mine has died... It does weird stuff with the batteries, meaning it shuts off all the time, and it also wiped all of my mission pictures ever on that SD card. Good thing Sister KXXX sent you a bunch... Anyhow, let me know if that's alright. I would only have to pull off about 15 dollars or so from the account because I've still got a stash of money, so you wouldn't have to add anything to my account.

Saturday, we had that baptismal service, and we got two of our investigators there! On the bus ride home, LXXX taught me some ancienct African. He's definitely one of my favorite investigators. He's getting ready for baptism on the 27th!! It's awesome how he just kind of fell into our hands while we were contacting. He's getting to be a pretty good friend now too. We're also working with a relative of a church member and his son, and they're both really solid investigators. Lots of good stuff is going on right now, we're just having trouble finding, especially since we're in different areas a lot. That will get better, though. We'll figure something out.

That's about it from me. I got some letters from early July about 2 weeks ago, and they were fun to read. Got some good pictures and a way funny letter from Hope that she wrote right after I broke my foot. I decided I'm going to have to write more. I love emails, but the handwritten letters are so fun to read. It must be the same for you back home! I've been horrible about writing. But I'll have lots of time today, so I'll take care of that for sure. Dad says Seth is 5'9'' and 160. BEAST. Just because you're taller than everyone else doesn't mean you have to beat everyone up, SETH. I mean at football. I love hearing the stuff from home. I try to write about little details whenever I can, but I forget about stuff. Thanks for your little details!! It would be cool if Patrick could bring me a Little Caeser's pizza, though. Does he still work there? I remember hearing he quit and then started up again. Pass on all my love to them!! I miss them all. I'm loving it out here, but it's going to be so nice to see each other again in a year. Anyways, we won't think about that quite yet. Keep getting ready for your missions! I'm proud of all my little brothers!! LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH.

ALEX.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Momma's trunky...

I haven't read over the emails yet but I did catch that mom's already counting down!! Hahaha that was fun to read. Kind of freaky at the same time because it's making me realize how long we've been out. I've had two companions finish out their missions with me (and lots and lots of mission friends go home), so I always hear about what their moms are like as the end comes up but it's never come from our mom!! Kind of crazy! 3 cycles goes by way too fast. Good thing Sam is in her prime. That means things will be going triple-time. Last cycle with Elder HXXX went by ridiculously fast. We were so dang busy. Our mission is going through a huge change right now. Almost all of the senior missionaries left last weekend, so now even though haven't hit my year mark I'm one of the oldest. There's just one more group of about 10 missionaries who are on their last cycle right now, and after that, the only people left will be a bunch of missionaries younger than me. We were in Samara for council this week and looking around the table, half of the zone leaders there were in a group that came out just 3 months ago. It's been actually a pretty huge adjustment for me and I'm still feeling a little overwhelmed trying to take the reigns, but everything will be good. One thing dad has always stressed is enjoying the ride and taking things as they come instead of crushing yourself with self-expectations that are too high. I've been a-crushin'. That's one thing I want to work on. We've been doing good work and seeing so many miracles, but I realized the other day that I'm not enjoying the moment enough. When I look back at all the areas I've served in, I get homesick for them. But in every single one of my areas that I've served in, I was always too ready to move on and didn't enjoy the work in the moment. So I'm going to stop writing a journal entry and then there will be something here good to read.

Momma! I got your cards with Russian. I understood what you were trying to get across, but there were a few sentences that were hard to decipher... Maybe next email you could send me the text in English, and then I could translate or something...? I loved the cards, though. that was a way good picture that I wouldn't mind a copy of myself. I was also excited to here that there was contact with Elder HXXX! Even though you yourself didn't get to see him. He didn't know what to do with himself because he didn't do anything to get ready for home at all. He was working right up until the last day, which was cool but apparently made everything crazy for the assistants. heh heh.

Anyhow, I don't know what happened to all the time! I've got to sign off already. I love you so much!! This week has been a little crazy and I haven't had time to even really read the letters I just got from you, but I'm really looking forward to it today. I miss you. Thank you for your support and prayers. I'll try and get a better letter off next week. LOVE YOU

ALEX


Monday, August 1, 2011

A GREAT WEEK...The KIEV TEMPLE!



THE CAST IS OFF!
Hello everyone!!

I got to read through mom and Carol's mail, but I didn't get to read through sam's all the way. Tell Carol for me that it was so nice of her to write! I love getting letters from extended family here and there. I'm glad to hear the kayaking thing went well, too. Patrick's a champ. You'll have to go ahead and give him a chest bump for me. You too, Caleb. Anyhow, it was fun hearing from you. Things are good here. Today I'm walking around on Pday for the first time without the foot brace thing. I went on my visa trip without crutches, and we ended up walking around a lot actually so I think that helped me strengthen it up. Elder HXXX left last night at about 1:30 on a plane, and he says he doesn't know what time his farewell is at. I know it's on the 14th, though. I left him your number and he promised to call you folks. I hope it'll work out.

This week was undoubtedly the craziest week of my mission. It feels like a month has gone by. I think I'm going to have to go day by day over what happened or else I'll forget stuff. I have never felt so stretched EVAH. It's really rewarding to look back at the results, though. So let's start with Monday. Nothing really happened on Monday, but it feels like it was 3 months ago. We went over to EXXX's house because it was his birthday. He turned twelve. We had some cake and shared a spiritual thought for about 40 minutes. I love that family. I feel like I've known them for 5 years, not just 3 weeks. EXXX is the most golden person in the world, too. Aside from the fact that he is a 12-year-old Russian Paul Woodward, he studies his scriptures all the time without anyone nagging him, he's extremely smart, never fights with his brother, and he's going to be the best missionary in the world. On Sunday, he got ordained to be a deacon. He came up to me after and said "am I allowed to invite friends here so that you can baptise them, too?" Sure thing, Elzar!! Last night his mom said that he's already been talking to her about going on a mission, and we haven't even brought it up with him.

But back to the week. TUESDAY, we went up to an emergency lesson in Solnechney. Elder BXXX worked all month with TXXX, the one who broke her foot. About two months ago, I was on splits with Elder BXXX when we found her for the first time. She started coming to church, and she was the one who has (had) the tithing concern. She had a miracle and we thought she was going to get baptized, but then she changed her mind and it looked impossible. Then we met with her at EXXX's baptismal service and she set her mind on getting baptized but still didn't want to pay tithing after. That was a week ago. It was a way spiritual lesson. So on Tuesday, I went up to Solnechney on a taxi with Elder BXXX and we had a lesson. It was the most amazing lesson of my whole mission. By the end we were all exhausted. It was completely led by the Spirit. She expressed lots of concerns at the beginning, but by the end, she was dead set on getting baptized on Saturday. Elder BXXX and I didn't organize a lesson because he lives in a different area, but we both came up with ideas and once we were on the lesson, it all just came together. I've never felt more strongly that Heavenly Father was talking to one is His children through me, by the Holy Ghost. It was exactly what she needed, and we had no idea. She got baptized this Saturday. I was so stoked to have been on 3 pivotal lessons with Elder BXXX, even though she's from a different area in Saratov: the find, the lesson where she realized the baptism is what she really wanted, and the lesson where she committed to living all of the commandments. Dang, that one needs to go in my journal. It was a highlight.

WEDNESDAY we get a call from the Elder in Marx, and they tell us that LXXX is back on track for baptism. She seemed lost at the beginning of the week, but the elders had an amazing lesson with her and rescheduled her baptism. But she could only get baptized on a day when the missionaries were out of their area for a visa trip. So last minute, we came up with a game plan to ship Elder HXXX and BXXX off to hold down the fort while we were all on our visa trips.

THURSDAY I was down in Angles with Elder AXXX while his companion was off in Marx. We held the fort down in Angles to secure SXXX's baptism. Thursday night, we race home in a taxi and all the elders come to stay in our apartment for the visa trip next morning. We woke up at 3 in the morning to make it to the airport in time, so we had really little sleep, and our apartment was trashed from having 8 missionaries sleep there.

FRIDAY WE FLEW TO KYIV AND WENT TO THE TEMPLE. It is the most beautiful place. We got there three hours before our session started so we had time to take pictures and look around the temple. We did a session in Russian and that was one of the coolest things ever. The visa trip itself was crazy all day long on friday. We didn't make it back to Samara until about 4 in the morning, so we had a straight 24 hours with just a few hours here and there on the airplane. The next morning we got up at 7 and drove with the mission driver 7 hours back to Saratov. The whole time I was gone, Elder HXXX was up in Balakovo working with some investigators who were on the way to baptism. They ended up baptising 3 people in one weekend!!!! That is insane for one area. I've had 4 baptisms this whole year and they pulled it off in one weekend!

SATURDAY we drove forever with little sleep (bumpy Russian road), got home with a few minutes to get the sisters moved into their new apartment and then raced off with Elder HXXX's stuff to get him on the train.

SUNDAY we had a crazy day at church that I don't have time to write about. There's a HUGE transfer going on right now because everyone's going home and it's been absolutely nuts getting everyone where they need to be. It's been exhausting. But the biggest miracle is the by the end of this month, we had 8 baptisms in our zone. 8!!!!! We set a goal for 7 and halfway through the month, i didn't think it would work.

I HAVE TO GO I LOVE YOU ALL

ALEX

Monday, July 25, 2011


Zone Conference this last week with a sweet note from his mission mom!

Here is the e-mail...
Hey everyone!

I just have 2 things to say real quick. 1st, WE BAPTIZED EXXX. If paige woodward ever reads the blog, tell her that I baptized her little brother. I try to get some pictures sent from the baptism of me and my companion with PXXX and his family. Heh heh. 2nd, ALLISON'S BABY IS DUE ON MY YEAR MARK. Not a coincidence. Now you have to name him Elder Rutherford Alexander Elswood Morris IV. But I digress!

So, this week was amazing. We're really on track for our zone goal. I don't know if that means anything to anyone, but we've been killing ouselves to pull everything together for the July 7 baptisms. Our missionaries here are rockstars, we've got a killer zone. But the biggest thing is all the little miracle-investigators that popped up out of nowhere. Yesterday IXXX got baptized. She was the one down in ZXXX who called Elder MXXX out of nowhere. We had lots of investigators at EXXX's baptism last saturday. TXXX, the woman who broke her foot the day before I did was there. We did splits and so I was able to teach her with Elder BXXX after EXXX's baptismal service. That was awesome because for some reason I really get along with that investigator. She said that while she was at the baptism she felt something she has never felt before at any other church. We explained that the mission of the Holy Ghost is to help people come to know truth, and that the feeling she had was probably an answer that this is what she needs. She's accepting everything really well and we blew threw a lot of her big concerns that lesson by teaching some simple restored doctrine about the nature of the Godhead. Moments like that are what make a mission worth it.

EXXX is the man. He got confirmed yesterday and stayed at church for all three hours. That boy is going on a mission!! I want to make sure he gets ready because he's solid. Okay, so he's only twelve. He's so amazing though. The branch president had him come up and introduce himself over the pulpit after his confirmation (for some reason), and so he told how many people are in his family and what year he is in school. Then, president asked him to say what he likes to do with his free time, and EXXX said "I like to study the Bible and talk about it with my mom." I got a kick out of that. He's the coolest. We're going to stop by today because he's celebrating his 12th birthday and we promised we'd stop by for a half hour. Also, we're going to start working with his sister to get her baptized. That family's the best. That's my favorite part about the mission is the interaction with the investigators and the members. We have the largest branch in the mission (70-75 people) and I'm stoked because I know I've got at least one cycle left her in SXXX. All my other areas I've been kicked out after a cycle, but now I'm settling down here as the old king of SXXX. Zone Lord. Goodness gracious, Sam. It weirded me out when you said that until I read where it was from. Anyways, I'm loving this area/branch. I feel like I've got some really good bonds with members here. Lurve them.

This email is SO explicit. Way too many names. Sorry everyone.

Let's talk one more time about how Levi's little baby is going to be born on my year-mark of my mission. That's pretty dang cool.

Moving on. I'm not sure what else to say... We've got a lot going on this week. I'm going to be out of my area for a day and a half because we've got visa trips. I'm going to the Kyiv Temple. Cry cry. Seriously, this is a big day for me. I can't even imagine what it will be like when there's a temple in our mission. Saratov's making leaps and bounds towards a Stake right now... I'm feelin' the pressure... Man I want to stay here until the end of my mission. Which reminds me that I have a broken foot that mom wanted me to talk about. After I wrote last week, we went to a nice (nice) clinic where the doctors don't hate americans and they took care of me. They gave me a good diagnosis, told me where it's broken and stuff. It's just a tiny little fracture in the 3rd and 4th bones on the right side and it's healing up nicely. I've been starting to put weight on it while using the crutches and things are looking good. Give me about another week and a half and I'll be good! It hasn't held me back too much. I've been living in that huge apartment with Elder BXXX and LXXX and HXXX, and we just switch off going to different meetings in a taxi. I've been doing all the regular missionary work except for street contacting. Lame.

So that's all the time I have! Love you all so much!! Thanks for the gr8 emails. Pass a hello to Levi and Allison and Chris. I'll be sending some good letters off today... for the first time in a long time.... Tell hi to the brothers and hopers. I love my brosephs!! Keep those boys on track!! They're amazing!! (Hope too)

LOOOOOVVVVEEE

Alex.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hello everyone! Hello Seth! Happy Birthday!! I wish I would've sent you an awesome letter 2 weeks ago like I was planning!! Instead we were packing and moving to a new apartment last P-day. I still have a half-finished letter for Sam that I started working on on the 4th of July. No bueno muchachos. I'll try to be better, but this P-day is going to be a crazy one as well. I hope you has a good ole birthday. Sounds like it was a really fun week with the family reunion and all. The Harry Potter thing sounds like Caleb and Seth came up with it! Sounds really fun. I've seen a couple billboards for Гарри Поттер 7 around here, haha. It sounds so weird to hear Russians say English stuff like that. I remember the first time I ate at McDonald's in Russia, I thought it was hilarious that everything on the menu was just the original names with a Russian accent. But I digress! What a waste of email!! Don't you worry, Seth (and all siblings). I got some cool stuff for your birthday that I can give out when I get back.

So I don't really have a ton to write, to be completely honest. This week has been not so great because of the foot. It took us a really long time to get packed and moved in to our new apartment because I'm immobile without crutches, which means that I can't really help carry stuff anywhere. But the members here are amazing. I want to take them all home with me. They were having institute in the branch building the day that we were moving, and everyone came together and got all our stuff moved in way quick. It felt like when we moved into our Centerville home and all the Elders and Young Men in our ward came over and helped us move in. Bro. N even brought over his work van, so it fit all our stuff way easily. Really, that's probably been the best part of my mission so far, is working with all the members and seeing them in action. They're the best of the best here. I've noticed it a lot more since I've been in Saratov, because this was one of the first cities in Russia that the church was established in. The church is really strong here. On top of that, we get to serve in one of the best branches of our district (in my opinion). We've got a member of the 70, the District President, Elder and Sister K, and a bunch of other members that were among the first baptisms in Russia about 20 years go. They're all so amazing. But I digress! What a waste of email!!

Once we got all moved in, I just spent most of the day making calls from the Area Book every day with Elder B while Elder H and L were out on splits. There was one night where we set up a few meetings in the church building in the evening, so we took a taxi up there after lunch and just made calls for hours until the meetings. Then the meetings fell through and we made more calls! I shouldn't complain. It's actually been pretty good for me, probably. Plus this week we saw so many miracles in such a short amount of time. Literally within about 1 hour earlier this week, we had 3-4 baptisms just fall into our laps as a zone. That's huge because our goal for this month is 7, which we've been busting ourselves to try and accomplish. Here are some examples: First. A lady from a village about 100 km outside of Saratov called a companionship in our mission who she's never met. She said she has met with the missionaries about 2 months ago (before the transfer) and so she's been taught everything and been to church a couple times, but due to some testimony concerns she stopped meeting with the missionaries. Her words were "I've been praying all day about it and really thinking about it, and I realized today that I need to repent and be baptized. I want to drive in today and get baptized if I can." WOW. So the missionaries have made arrangements with the branch to help her get travel money to come in and get baptized, and also they've set up a fund for her so she can come to church at least 2X a month. Second Miracle. An investigator in another area broke her leg. Miracle! Just kidding, there's more. She works like crazy so even though she comes to church, she's never been able to meet with the missionaries. But now that she's sitting at home, one of the babushkas in that branch agreed to come over to her house every morning and study the Book of Mormon with her. The missionaries were able to meet with her, and she accepted the invitation to get baptized! That one's cool because Elder B and I found her while we were on exchanges in his ares. Third Miracle! This one's in our area. Elder H and L were talking to a girl on the street when a random lady walked up and said "Please pray for (name I forgot) and (name I forgot)" and then walked off. They chased her down, turns out she's a member who hasn't been to church for 6 years. We agreed to meet with her family. We went over there (H and I) and they are the most golden hearts on the face of the earth. She got a blessing and came back to church and they are back in action again. Also, none of her kids are members and her 12 year old son really wants to get baptized this Saturday. It just fell in our laps! It was such a huge testimony to me and God is looking out for all of His children. We really have no reason not to trust him. At the beginning of this week, we had no idea how our zone was supposed to get 7. But He turned everything around in literally 1 hour. It's been so amazing. But I digress!!!! What a waste of email!!!!!!!!

So my time is already up! I hope this email was okay to read. I kind of had fun writing it. Thanks for your support! I love you so much. I'm praying for you! I hope things are really going well there. Sam, rip it up!! You don't have much time left! I'm scared for you!!! But I digress! LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVEEEEEEEE

Alex.

P.S. Mom, apparently Elder H's homecoming is the 14th, but I'll get back to you on where and what time.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The rest of the story...

HELLO.

I knew that was bad news. I'm really sorry if you got worried! But the news is that I broke my foot. It also doesn't help that in Russian there's only one word that they use for both foot and leg. Anyways, it's not as bad as anyone is thinking. It's actually a really lame story. We live about 300 feet from our branch building, and we were on our way to church, carrying some boxes of Liahona magazines. Russian roads are a joke because they don't ever get repaired so they're all uneven. So I was crossing to street to the church, and I didn't see the huge pot-hole in the road because of the boxes, so I rolled my ankle really really hard and kind of felt a pop. And then got hit by a car. JOKE. I didn't even fall over, I just got to the other side of the street and then kind of limped another 100 feet to church and sat down. I thought it was norm, but then I blacked out while I was sitting down, which was weird. I also felt a little bump on the side of my foot. So nothing was wrong at all with my ankle. It's just a fracture in my foot or something. Nothing wrong with tendons or anything as far as I know. So it was great. Members were showing up and I was in the coat room laying on the floor with frozen veggies on my foot. They gave me a priesthood blessing, too, so everything was smooove. They called a doctor, he gave me a shot in the bum, which was weird, and checked my blood pressure, which was norm, and then they drove me to a clinic where they got an x-ray and put a cast on. Then we ordered a taxi and made it back for the last 10 minutes of sacrament meeting!!! We had a thing called Invitation Sunday that we had been planning for 2 months. It was a special sacrament meeting focused on simple doctrines about the Atonement. The point of it was to focus on non-members so that all the members would invite their friends. It turned out to be really successful--usually we get 3 or 4 investigators at church (in our branch of 65-70 members), but yesterday we had 10 nonmembers!!! Real glad we didn't miss that. We spent hours and hours making calls to get people to this thing. So there are the details for mommy. I'm really sorry you got worried about that. Everything is good, some members hooked me up with some crutches because the clinic didn't give me any. I've just got to stay off it for 3 weeks and then everything will be norm. Kind of a bummer because we're supposed to move into a new appartment this week. Also, Elder XXX only has 3 weeks left of his mission. So we're going to have Elders XXX and XXX move into our new apartment with us so they can take turns ripping it up with my companion and babysitting me. This actually works out good. So that's my story. Really anticlimactic story, right? Very unexciting. Except for the successful sacrament meeting. Yeah!!!

But enough of that boring stuff! I got your pictures!! Yeah!!! I looked through the pictures you sent with all the boys after that priesthood meeting. Goons!! I think the actual picture-taking makes more of a memory than the pictures themselves when you've got those four together. It was easy to see while looking through the pictures how impossible it is to get all four of them making norm faces in one picture. Tell Caleb for me that the face in the flower-pot was probably my favorite one. My boys are all grown-up looking. So weird that Pat is going to be a senior in a few short months! Is it weird that the first month of summer is already way gone? It's going by fast. So I didn't get much of a shot to read through any of the other news that you sent me because both the emails from mom and Sam were really long, but I did see that Justin is being ordained an Elder. That is awesome news!! I really wish I could be there. He's a solid kid, I can't wait to hear about his endowment. That really is a big event.

The mission is good. I don't have many specific stories to share. We were up in Samara for half the week and then the rest of our time we spent getting ready for Invitation Sunday, so we didn't have a ton of meetings or time on the street. OH I forgot to finish my story about XXX! So we gave him a church tour after we met him and his mom on the street. He loved everything and promised to come to church, which he did the next day. He also agreed to get baptized on the 30th!! He's such a humble man, completely willing to do anything that the Lord asks. We gave him a Book of Mormon and he started reading 2 chapters a day. He showed up at church the next day. It was testimony meeting (last week). He pulled me aside after the meeting to talk to me. On our first lesson we talked a lot about prayer and our relationship with Heavenly Father as His children. XXX prays really really often but he said he doesn't feel much because he sins. But he keeps on praying anyways. He told me after Sacrament meeting that he wanted to bear his testimony but the meeting ran out of time. He was going to go up there and talk about how he knows that God answers prayers, because he woke up in the morning and prayed really sincerely because he didn't know where to go, and then ten minutes later we approached him on the street. It was a huge testimony to me that if we're doing what we're supposed to then the Lord can use us to reach out to those who are ready for the gospel. Right now our boy XXX is getting ready for baptism, but he didn't show up to our monday meeting with him because some people from his former church found out he had a Book of Mormon and tried to beat him up. Elder XXX was the one who found that out because XXX ran into them on the street. We have no way to connect with him except through his mom, because he doesn't have a phone. So that's the story. Love the man! Love the mission! Everything's going good. I love you all a lot as well. Keep getting ready for the mission, it really changes you. It seems a ways off for those younger boys, but really, you'll be surprised how fast it all flies by. I feel like it was not long ago that I was the one saying my mission was forever away, and now it's already almost halfway done. Don't let your preparation time slip by. Everything will be better if you take is seriously. I love you!

Love

Alex.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


RUSSIAN TRANSLATION from a computer app:
Hi, family! Sister XXX wants that I have written something to you, that you did not worry. All properly! We already went to clinic and all was solved. I have a small crack on koctoyke on a leg (it is unsuccessful has twisted a leg) have made a x-ray of a leg and have imposed plaster-nahrety and have brought back in arrival. at us today invitation Sunday. This special assembly is organized for Not members of Church. It is a lot of people today has come. Much and members of church and listeners. At us There was very spiritual involved assembly And I think, that it is a lot of people here are interested. So all well! I very much love you and miss certainly. But I am happy, though I have the leg is broken, I pray for you! With love, Alex!!! To you have sent some photos.

Monday, July 4, 2011



HAPPY 4TH OF JULY. AMERICAN DAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-AAAAAAAY.
That's from a song that Elder Hollingshead was singing this morning.

Today is one of those days where I feel sad that I am not allowed to write off little letters to friends. You're gonna have to pass along a congrats to Chelsee for me--she just emailed and said she's off to Kyiv Ukraine!!!!!!!!!!! We're gonna have so many connections. There were a ton of awesome friends from the MTC who went to that mission. And there's Elder Maksymov in our mission who is from that mission. And also I get to go there to the temple for visa trips. I'M STOKED FOR HER. So that's big news. WAY TO GOOOOOOOOOOO! Also, mail will not take as long. That's dang cool. I'm starting to realize how everything is changing! So much is going on without me, I feel like I'm off in my own little world. It's a really cool feeling, actually. We had a ton of miracles this week. I'll get to that later. I just love hearing that people home are doing good. I like to hear about the hard stuff, too, even if there's nothing I can do but pray about it. I think one of the things I've learned more than anything else throughout the course of my mission is the power and reality of prayer, whether it's prayers for our own welfare or the welfare of others. This week we had some cool experiences regarding that. Actually, my whole mission I've been having cool experiences regarding prayer. Now I'm getting all nostalgic! I'm so happy to hear about Patrick! He's going to be a rock-solid missionary. What an amazing kid! I pray a lot for the kids to realize the importance of a mission and get prepared for it. I feel like everyone is safe. I could have done a lot more to get ready for my mission, probably. It will bless those boys immensely if they take is seriously.

There was LOTS of news that I was really happy to hear about! I'm so excited that things are going well with the Bakers. Dad is such a faithful home-teacher. I feel like he's the perfect example of one who fulfills his calling because he doesn't just go there once a month because he's told to, he's actively working with them. I'll be praying for Vincent, even though by the time I heard about it, you had already had him over. I love the Bakers! I've met a few couples here in Russia that really remind me of them. They're the nicest people. I thought it was great to hear about dad falling asleep too hahaha. I love the little deets from mom. I also thought it was really cool to read about adoption. We're already in Chile and Russia, and who knows where else the other three kids will end up. It would be really interesting to have that kind of a connection right in our family. (Of course, I'm still for it even if it's a little American baby. AMERICAN DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-AAAAY)

It was really cool to read about Aunt Mecy and Grandpa Alex. I know you've been a huge help to them, and it probably means the world to Alex. I'll be putting up prayers for Aunt Mecy. Pass on my lurves to everyone up at the picnic! I'm really excited for things like that after the mission.

So, I've realized that my emails have gotten more and more boring the longer I've been out. I'm gonna have to work on that... But with my last five minutes I want to tell you about some stuff that's been going on. Our branch got combined with Elder Bahr's branch, so now we have a ridiculously huge branch of 70-ish people. And we have lots of big guns, including a member of the 70 and the district president. Rock solid branch. This Sunday was testimony meeting, and lots of members testified about the temple. I felt the spirit really strong while they all talked about their temple trips. I love these Russian members so much. They have so much faith. They travel for days to get to the temple. We had some investigators there at the meeting, and I'm sure they felt something, too. We met a new investigator two days ago. He has the worst life ever and he's got SUPER EXTREME FAITH. He has had drugs in his life and troubles with family and things, and he's been reading the Bible and praying for years. He told me yesterday that the morning before we ran into him, he prayed to know where to go and then ten minutes later we ran into him and his mom. TO BE CONTINUED...

LOOOOOOOVE

ALEX

Monday, June 27, 2011

YO MOYO

Wow, we gots some long emails to look through here!! Just the way I like 'em! So, it's good to hear from you, as always! I got the package, THANK YOU MOM. I loved the pictures!! That may have been the favorite part of the package, next to the tie and the CD. YOU'RE ALL GROWED UP. I'm starting to realize how different we all are. I've been out for a considerable time now, I'm just realizing... Anyways, thank you Patrick. He picked out that tie as a joke, but it's actually a pretty spicy tie. I'm wearing it this very moment. And as usual, I've eaten almost all the goodies, already. Everything except the popcorn and cake. That was a good package!! I laughed when I heard the Gondoliers song on the MOTAB CD. That CD has got some really cool stuff on it and I've already been listening to it a lot. I won't lie, I've taken a liking to the good ole Mormon Choir. That was a good choice. I wouldn't mind getting more stuff like that. Maybe you could send Heavensong for christmas or something. I'm a nerd. But that's okay. The moral of the story is THANK YOU MOM AND FAMILY. I APPROVE! Also, it was dang fun reading through Sam's memories of dad. That brought back a huge rush of memories. I remember how dad cried while he was reading Where the Red Fern Grows and mom made fun of him. I also remember dad holding up Patrick at the top of the stairs and saying SIMBAAAA and me and sam acted like elephants and zebras. Anyways, I could go on forever. I said it last week but I'll say it again, happy father's day!

This week was a little fun. I was with Elder Brewer from Monday until Thursday morning while we were waiting for our companions to come down from Samara on a train. There's been a crazy sickness going literally all throughout the mission, and I caught it on Monday night. We were out contacting all night, and then I started losing my voice, and then by Tuesday I was all congested. But we worked anyway, then there was this big rainstorm that Elder Brewer got caught in while working way up in his area with nowhere to run to, so we got soaking wet. So on Wednesday, I was out all day long. I'm over it by now, though. That was really the first time I've been really sick on my mission. I've never had to stay in and sleep for an entire day to recover. It's pretty miserable. Staying inside=spirit death. Sam will attest to that. Seems like she's been having a bit of that going on. I'm glad to hear that you're back in it, though, Samalama. On Thursday Morning, all the new missionaries showed up in Saratov on a train with Elder Hollingshead. Now I'm serving with a kid from Centerville. Pretty dang fun. I'm learning a ton, too. He got called to be a trainer his second cycle, then assistant to the president his third cycle, which means he was assistant to the president for pretty much his entire mission until now. It's also his last cycle. Which means I will be killing my second companion. Mission death is a strange thing. It's fun, though, he's not trunky at all. We had a really unsuccessful week up until thursday because I got sick, but once my new companion got here we tore it up and turned it into one of the more successful weeks I've had recently. I'm really stoked for this cycle. We've got some really good things going on here in Volzhski. And in our Zone. It looks like Elder Hollingshead and I are gonna be baptizing a family before he heads out on August 1st. We went over to a member's house and he and his wife are working to introduce us to their friends. They're family friends, kind of like when we were back in West Jordan and always did stuff with the Knowles. It's really amazing because they've got a family of 5 kids, which is unheard of for Russia. Seriously that's crazy. People with 2 kids are considered a full family, just because all the apartments here are tiny, and it's really hard to support a family on the kind wages here, usually. We went over and talked to them for a few minutes, and they seem really awesome. I'm stoked to work with them.

Man, this is lookin like a pretty lame email, but I can't think of much to say. I'm loving life. There's not much new here. It's kind of flying by super-fast, to be honest. One more week and we'll be on a train back up to Samara for Zone Leader Council with President. WHERE DID JUNE GO? I'm starting to realize that we're in the midst of summer. Feels like it's just getting started. Soon we're going to be getting ready to get back into winter and then I'll be where I was last year (feels like 2 months ago I was back with Elder Barton being trained). This is really a lame email, I'm so sorry. But I already have to wrap up. I'm sorry I didn't give a good email this time! Things are good. I love Russia, and I love testifying to random people on the street about our Savior every day. That's a privilege that we shouldn't even be considered worthy to have. That's what I love, and I know I'm not always going to be able to do that. I love you! I miss you a lot. You're emails and letters and prayers do me good! You're also in my prayers. LOOOOOVVVEEEE

Alex.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A MOM's best gift from russia!






A sister in Russia sent over 100 photos from Alex's camera this week! PAY DIRT for the family at home... just had to share some of our favorites!

Photos HOOORAY!



Hey everyone!

We kicked this week's bottom. It was a really amazing week. It's weird, I've noticed on my mission that I go through rough spots right when everyone else does, even though it's not connected at all. And the other way around, life is good for everyone at the same time, it seems like. I remember in February there was lots of hard stuff going on for me, and when I got letters from home it seemed like there was lots of hard stuff going on there, too. Not just for family, either. Kind of sort of same thing for last month (May). BUT, life is so good. I loved your email this week, it really reminded me of the good timez. It sounds like everybody is verr happay. Man, I love you so much! I have the best family on the earth. I got a whole bunch of letters this week, all from you. I eat that stuff up. Everybody is growing up and it's so weird. I LOVE that we have one boy in each priesthood quorum. That's pretty amazing, I think. Dad writes once a week and sends 'em, so when I get a bunch of mail about once a month, I've always got a little stock of letters with spiritual thoughts to go through. This week we had a Zone Conference and so all the mail from the office came down to Saratov. I haven't gotten a B-day package yet, but it might just barely be getting here and sitting in the office. I did get the book, by the by! Thanks mammy! Or dad, I don't know who's idea it was. I'll have to get some permission to read it because it's not part of the missionary library, but I'm sure they'll let me use it. That could really help me out, having all those examples and object lessons. Spot on, old chap. Spot on. Sam, I'm really sorry to hear about your companion! I hope things get working out. I'm realizing that I haven't really had a hard companion so far. There have been rough spots at times, but for the most part my companions have been great. And right now with Elder Barton, things are AWESOME. He's probably my favorite companion so far. Although it's hard to say, with Elder Bahr. And Kazakov. Man. I think you get hard companions because you're rock-solid. I really think your mission president trusts you. By the way I GOT YOUR LETTER. Thank you so much! I'm going to send you one today, I don't remember if I sent you one recently.

Man, what is new? I just feel real darn pumped up right now. Our Zone here in Saratov is exploding. We got a good amount of calls yesterday after church from missionaries all throughout the zone who were seeing a bunch of miracles. There was a lady who had a baptismal date who was meeting with the missionaries about a month ago but decided that nothing was going to help her so she stopped meeting with them. Then, yesterday, after a month with no contact, she showed up at church and said to the missionaries there that her life just got horrible once she stopped meeting, and that she realized that something big was missing. She took it as a big sign and told them that she wants to get baptized. There are a lot of other people who have fallen right into the missionaries' hands all throughout the zone, who are all very ready. Last Monday night, all our plans for the night fell through, and we just decided to find some people and have a prayer to know where to go. So we were contacting along a street by our house, and Elder Barton came up with the idea to stop by an auto shop. There's a man who works there that Elder Barton had talked to once or twice before I came to Saratov, and we decided it would be worth it to stop by and have a lesson with him. When we stopped by, he wasn't there, but there was a different guy there instead. He said that he had just started working there 2 days before, and that usually he never ever stayed in the shop as late as 7 o'clock. So that was a cool coincidence. We sat with him on the couch there and started talking to him in the shop. Once he found out we're Mormon, he got really interested because of a South Park episode he watched about Joseph Smith. So he ended up asking all the golden questions and got really interested and we taught him the entire first lesson. Thank you South Park? There was a calm feeling that came to the meeting when we talked about the first vision. I felt like I saw his face change when we started talking about that. He said that he doesn't believe in God because bad things happen to good people, but he softened up a lot after we talked to him about the Restoration. We went by a second time yesterday, about a week later, and he was excited to see us again. He wants us to come by whenever we want to chat because he says that he really likes talking with us. Our second lesson we talked a lot about Jesus Christ, about how everything that's unfair in life can be made right through the Atonement. We told him he could access that power through baptism, if he was willing to prepare for it. And he started asking, how do you get ready for baptism? And so we set a baptismal date with him for July 2nd, and now he's reading the Book of Mormon. It was amazing! At the end of the lesson he just kept telling us how much he loved talking to us because he feels really positive afterwards. That's a huge change! At first, he was saying that he would never really want to come to church, and that he doesn't believe in God, but after just two lessons, he's thinking about it and he even agreed to come to church next Sunday, and to get baptised in a few weeks! I feel like he was really led straight to us. Or us to him. The coincidences, man.

Anyways, sorry I spent so much time on that. That was a highlight. Another highlight was both zone leader council in Samara and zone conference. Conference was amazing! President talked about obedience in relation to the temple. He talked about some of the things that we covenanted to do when we were in the temple, and how they relate to missionary work. A mission is the perfect setting to prove to the Lord that you're willing to follow your temple covenants. When you are on a mission, you consecrate yourself for service to the Lord, and in doing so, you live by your temple covenants. Cool connection, right? Elder Barton and I were able to teach a break-out lesson after that, and a lot of missionaries said that it was really what they needed to hear. Which is cool because we had a few really cool WOW--REVELATION moments while we were preparing the lesson.

It's been a miraculous week! Life is sooooo gooooood. I love you so much, again. I'm thinking about how much my mission has already blessed me, and how much it has blessed us to come closer as a family. I'm with Sam, this is everything. You boys have no idea, seriously, what you're getting yourselves into. Don't you dare pass this up. Don't do it for Mom or Dad or the Bishop, do it for you, and for God. It will make you so happy, I can't even explain it. I love you! I pray for you all the time.

LOVE YOU
Alex.

Monday, June 6, 2011

JUNE

Hello family!! Well I have two things to say real quick. First of all, the assistants just called down and they want us to write home to our families that you'll probably be hearing really soon that there was an explosion in Izhevsk, one of the cities in our mission. But don't worry about anything because all of the missionaries and members are safe, including the 2 elders serving in that city. Just so you know. Also, mom is all worried about my veggie/fruit intake. Haha. I just want to let you know that I eat more fruits and veggies that most other missionaries in our mission, thanks to my last companion. We ate like we were in Chile or something. Vladimir Nikolaovich, my favorite church member in this branch, told me last night about the Europe E-Coli thing, so I heard about that, but I haven't noticed a difference at all. We haven't been grocery shopping this week yet, but all the produce stands on the streets look norm. I am looking forward to some vitamins, though... I lost my bottle when I got transferred from Samara. But I'll probably just hold on to the fish oil until it starts getting dark... The summer here is nuts. I woke up at 5:15 the other morning and it was already completely bright. And it doesn't get dark until 10 at night. But winter is complete opposite, the sun goes down at 3 in the afternoon sometimes. Anyways. One time Chris told me about fish-oil-pill burps. Num nums!

But how's life? How's my trunky wunky sister? It's so weird to me that you've already got school registration going on. You're in it for the last stretch. That blows my mind! People say that the first six months is just surviving (true), then the second six months is acquiring skills and really getting to be the kind of missionary you want to be (also true, so far), and then the last year is just flying (I assume true). Of course, one of the biggest things I've learned so far is that you never ever ever "get there." There's always a whole pile of stuff you just wish you were way better at. That was one of the misconceptions I had about a mission when I first came out. I always thought Oh won't everything be just great when I'm 6 months in and I've "got" the language and I'm just cruising? You've never cruising, though, or at least you shouldn't be. I think the day I'm a perfect missionary will be the day I've died and I'm waiting in front of the JUDGEMENT BAR. I even hope I'll be ready by then. Because if you want to be a perfect missionary you have to be a perfect person. Probably. (I couldn't resist typing JUDGEMENT BAR in all caps.) But enough rant. Sam you're not trunky! That was a joke. It seems like you're one of the sisters that your president really trusts. Because I'm just finding out that training is a big deal. Also, from what I read, you seem like you're really in the groove of things and ripping up your area! Keep on keeping on. You're gonna be awesome right up until the end! And then I'll call home for Christmas and you'll already be there.... weeeeeiiirrrddd. Maybe we'll get to skype again. Man. That'd be weird.

So things are going good. That email last week from home had a whole bunch of news that I'm trying to process. I think it's waaaay cool that Megan's going on a mission. And Kim! It will be dang cool to find out where they go! How's Tyson doing? Pass that boy a hello. Also, tell him that last night I was walking down the street and I saw 5 or 6 Russians get out of 2 different cars, and they were all wearing blue camoflauge and a couple of them had AK's. I didn't really think much of it until I realized that Tyson would think it was the coolest thing ever haha. I always see these old Soviet Union army trucks and think to myself man, there's a bunch of Russian dudes hiding in the back and they're going to jump out and fight with James Bond. You think I'd be over it by now, but it really is strange how much I'm reminded of James Bond by stuff on the street. I'm glad to hear things are going good, though. Do you have any plans for the summer? It was probably good timing for you to quit work right before everyone got out. The kids are old enough and now you can go lots of fun places for the summer. Don't get too carried away with extra stuff! Stick at home! I regret not doing that. If you haven't gone to Logan yet, pass on a hello to all the Hyrumites and Loganites (and Providincites and Hyde-Parkites??).

What happened this week? Sorry I've only got 2 minutes left to write, I spent a lot of time going over your emails. Last week was normal we had one set of exchanges with a trainer and his trainee. Other than that, we were in our own area, which was good. Most of our investigators have gotten "too busy" to meet. We're putting a new focus on working with inactives to really strengthen the branch. We want to make a difference while we're here, so that the branch is bigger than when we left it! And it's already time for me to get off the computer!! agggghhh!!! I love you all so much and pray for you all! Keep on keepin' on!!

LUUUURRRRRVVEE

alex

Monday, May 30, 2011

NUM NUM

MMMMMMMMM Well wasn't that just the juciest little mail session evur.

MAN, Mom, you're a master at the deets. I probably looked like a weirdo staring at the screen the way I did. I kind of had a freak-out moment when I heard about willie going to the temple. MAN THAT'S SO COOL. That family has seen miracles! What else, what else what else. Oh Megan AND Kim are serving missions!?!?!! That's dang cool you'll definitely have to let me know where they're heading off to. Last but not least I am going to be an uncle. I really hope that Levi and Allison name their son what I wrote them to name him. If it is a son. MAN THAT'S CRAZY TOO. AHH THIS EMAIL WAS A NEWS OVERLOAD. Oh, dang, Sam. You're hitting your year mark!!!! That is absolutely nuts!!!! I just realized that by this time you actually have hit your year mark. WHERE HAS MAY GONE. This month flew. That's okay. We're gettin into things here.

Alright. Got that out of my system. Dang. What else is going on? I just sent a letter off to dad for his birthday. I feel bad that I sent it late because it's going to get there super late now, but I hope it's still a good b-day letter. So. Sam, I am sorry I've been super unresponsive to your questions in previous emails. You asked me a couple times about a letter that you sent me. I haven't gotten it yet. Let's give it about another month. You never know with this foreign post thing. We should've gone owl-post. Actually, there was one day where I had a good long think about what it would be like if I got a messenger pidgeon when I got home. I think it was spurred by a talk I read where it talked about Pres. Monson's childhood and the pidgeons and stuff. I really think I could pull it off. I would just train it to go to Chris's. Then I wouldn't need a phone. Yep, that's probably going to have to be the best option. I'll probably hate cats, though.

But that's another subject entirely. How is everyone? Man it was good to hear so many of the little details. Hey, you'll have to pass on a hello to the missionaries there for me. I got a couple of notes that you had them write me a while ago, but I haven't ever really responded or anything. It's dang funny to be in the missionaries' shoes now, because we call members for help on lessons and then you get all bummed when they say they've got work or something. I'm sorry for all the heartache I caused for dear Elders Kay and Alexander (good thing they've got Patrick now). Shout out for Arizona! Have you heard from Elder Hale? He's probably finished up by now, hasn't he... Weird. DANG Sam hit her year-mark. That's nuts. You always feel like you're just getting started. But then you've got so much behind you at the same time. That part of the mission is unexpected. You don't jump into the field or get to a 6 month or a year mark and then just coast. You never "get there." It's a huge process. Although, sometimes there are huge milemarks, especially with the language. I remember watching my trainer call the door repair man and thinking that I would NEVER be there. But then, last cycle, I had a guy come repair our washing machine. And I done it all by myself in Russian. Stuff like that feels good. What am I ranting about?

Oh I just glanced at the mail and read the snippet about Richard Marshall. That's AWESOME. You have to go see him for me. He really just threw himself into it by moving into that program down in Texas. I'm sure that concert is going to be amazing. I'd LOVE to take piano from him again when I get back in a year. If he's still around. We had an activity on Saturday night at one of the branches. They were celebrating the 20 year mark of the church in Russia. That was something. What made me think of it was there was a talent show, and a 12 year old girl in the branch went up a blasted out teh Mozart like it was nothing. That was cool. Other than that, they had some slide shows of the first missionaries in Russia, the first baptisms, the first families at the temple, stuff like that. I think it really got to me. There was a really old film they showed and it had Elder Neuenschwander in it. Unfortunately, they didn't catch him speaking any Russian. He's got to be really great with the language if he's now a patriarch here. There's an area seventy in our zone, Elder Reshetnikov. They told his story, too, because he was one of the first. He said that him and his wife really rarely walked home from work together because of the way their schedules worked out. But one day, they were able to. It was that day that the missionaries approached them and set up a time to visit them at home. It's so simple, but it's a testimony that God is in the details. The funny part of the story is that Elder Reshetnikov says he has a "cautious" brother who was a little worried about Americans in white shirts and ties. What the missionaries didn't know while they were having their first meeting with this amazing family is that the brother had hidden a gun under the couch cushion, "just in case." Scary, but really funny in retrospect. Kind of like lots of things in Russia. Hyuk, Hyuk. Of course, nothing happened.

So there's my stories and rants. Thank you for reading and responding faithfully. Hearing from family is the gr8est. That's about all I've got. This week we've got a couple more splits going on, and tonight we're going to meet with a really cool guy who speaks English. He lives alone with his son and says he wants to learn more about Christ to stop drinking. He was really nice and genuine, and he approached us. Miracle! Missions are the coolest. Hey, I love you. Pass on my love the the brothers and sisters. I'm really really bad at getting personalized letters to each of them. I think about them a lot. Mostly about how different everyone's going to be in another year and a half. Kind of weird. Keep getting ready for a mission, boys! It's the best, you'll never regret it. And get your butts to the temple. Go see grandpa there. You have no idea how bad it kills me that we lived so close to a temple and I didn't go at least every day. That kills me now that I don't get it for 2 years. Hit that up! I LOOOOVVVEEEE YOOUUUU

Alex

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Man last week was crazy for writing. If I remember right. And also this week was crazy as far as missionary work goes. One of the most draining weeks of the mission. But I had the coolest miracle I've seen my whole mission right on Dad's birthday. It was at night for me so it was probably morning for you sometime.

But I'll write about that l8r. How's everything going? I love hearing from you all back home. I just got some handwritten mail from dad, and I really loved what he wrote. It was from the beginning/middle of April, I think. But there was a scripture from 1 Cor. there and it was really awesome for me to read, especially when it came from dad. Those little things really build me up during the hard days! Really, you're advice and your thoughts in your letters really do more for me than you think. I'm so sorry I've been horrible about responses as far as the physical mail goes. I want to get better at that because the written letters are dang fun to get. And of course read. Why didn't no one tell me that Patrick got his wisdom teeth out?? I remember those days... Man that was a really fun part of getting ready for a mission. Just be sure you've got lots of movies to watch, and you'll be fine. Maybe you can get a good chunk of one of them new seasons of House out of the way. By the way, I kind of forgot that I used to watch that show. I just remembered the other day about how Mini-me (Seth) picked up on that and was watching it even after I left. WOW that seems like forever ago, but it all went by so fast. I feel like time is flying, because I feel like my year mark is just right around the corner. I remember at the beginning of my mission seeing missionaries where I am right now and thinking how forever away that was for me, but boom now I'm here. It really flies. I've been getting really retrospective recently because half of our companionships in our zone have a brand new trainee. It's been way fun seeing where there at and remembering that. Those were the good ole days. I'm glad you mentioned pictures, mom, because that's one thing I'd LOVE from home! The skype thing got me thinking about that a little bit. The thing that got me most was how seth talks like he's been through puberty or something. HA! Post-pubescent Seth. Boy, that'll be the day. I can't BELIEVE that school is almost out there. When I was leaving they were just barely starting and now they're all finishing up!! And Patrick's going to be a SENIOR. WHERE HAVE THE DAYS GONE.

Okay, enough of that rant. I'm sorry, I just lurve all the little stuff. This internet hour is such a SUPER time for me to just get back in touch with the little family stuff and think/write about how everything's going there. See? There I go again. This is one big rant. Please excuse my rant. Sam, I know what talk you're talking about (we watched it at the end of March), and it's AMAZING. Elder Holland has always been a favorite (he's everyone's favorite), but that talk blew me away. It also kind of spurred me to get into reading the New Testament. Elder Barton is finishing out his mission this November, so we did some math and figured out that if we study 3 pages of the New Testament together during companion study every day, then we'll finish it before he leaves. And if by some evil means a transfer comes about, we'll just either continue with new companions or do it on our own. But it's been gr8. There's lots of little things that I didn't notice before, and just reading about Christ always brings the right spirit back into the work. The more I've gotten used to things, the easier it's been to just over-busy myself and get too caught up in the administrative part of the work. That's why I've gotten to love study, is because it reels me back in and helps me think about the why. Cool/minor thought: When Christ says to Peter and Andrew (at the very beginning of Matthew) "Follow thou Me," Matthew takes time to note that they got up and left straightway, and they even left their father. (No offense dad.) But it made me feel good about myself when I made that comparison to what I'm doing out here.

Hey family I just want to say that I love you. You are so great. This mission thing is going by pretty quick and with all these milemarks flying by it has really got me thinking about what's going on at home and how everyone's growing up. There are times in the field when you are really worn down and you don't want to do the work, but you get your bum on the street and you work anyway, but the whole time you're thinking about stuff you'd rather be doing. Those times happen a lot less often than they did at the beginning of my mission. Towards the beginning of my mission during times like that, I'd think about stuff like House, or longboarding, or video games, or getting fast food with friends or skiing. Now most of that stuff has gotten old and when I think about it, it doesn't have a huge lure like it did before. Now when I have those days when I think about home, all I think about is family! Weird, right? I feel like a mission is a cleansing experience in that way. As I've gone out here, all the distracting stuff has kind of been forgotten, and now whenever there's a spare moment to think about home, I just think about dinner with Grandpa, or going to the temple and eating breakfast with dad, or driving around on errands with mom and just chatting, or other things like that. That's the best! That's where it's at. I feel like I appreciate that now so much more than I did before. Too bad the Lord had to kick me out of America and ship me across the entire planet before I could come to realize that in full. Man, missions are so cool.

So I've got ten minutes left, and I've GOT to tell you the coolest story from my mission so far. Well, one of them. And surprise, it happened while I was once again on splits with Elder Hollinghead. You're going to have to go to that boy's homecoming in a few months. He'll have some awesome stories for you and it would probably be way fun to talk to a first-hand witness face to face. Anyhow. He and Elder Eyers were down in our area for three days to do splits with us. We've been working to get our mission sold on this 1-a-day new investigator thing, so when we had 2 hours of free time on friday night, me and Elder Hollingshead just hit the street as hard as we could, trying to find someone that would listen to us. At the beginning of the first hour, we set a goal to find one new investigator and give out 2 Book of Mormons. We had some good contacts, but by the end of the first hour, we still hadn't found anyone. So we stopped to pray and reset our goals for the second our. And while we were standing on this street corner getting ready to pray, this 21 year old kid walks over to us from across the street and starts talking to us. He was pretty quiet at first, and so we said what's up. And then he said I want to get baptized. We were FLOORED. We asked where that came from, and he said he just wanted to change his life and he doesn't like the Russian Orthodox church. So we said Right this way, sir, and gave him a tour of the branch building and had a rock solid lesson with him. Missions are so COOL. But here's where it turns into a nightmare. We typed his number into our phone but DIDN'T SAVE IT. I guess we were just too excited or something. So we haven't seen him all weekend and it's KILLING ME. But he knows where we meet and he's got our number so we're hoping he'll come to us soon. Also, he said he doesn't wander too far from home ever so we're guessing he lives pretty close to where we found him. So Elder Barton and I are going to use every minute of spare time when we don't have meetings knocking on every single door of every apartment in Saratov in order to find him, unless he comes back to us first. Pray for us!

So that's IT. I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH. Thank you for your prayers and your letters. A family's a b-e-a-utiful thing. I'll talk you next week! LOOOOOVVVEEEESSSSSZZZ
From,
Alex

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hello from Russia!

Hi everybody.

This week was really good, we didn't have any exchanges going on so we had a lot of time to really pound the work in our own area. Monday right after Mothers' Day was Victory Day here, that WWII holiday that everyone gets drunk and beats up foreigners for, so we laid low... we still went out and got all our P-day shopping done and stuff, but when our P-day time ended at 6, we got the whole zone gathered together in our branch building and had a little devotional where we watched the Jo Smit movie and had a testimony meeting. That was cool. But it was kind of sad that the all the 5 trainees hadn't come down yet. That night we went to the station and waited for our overnight train to Samara at 10 to midnight. That was fun because they were playing a bunch of Russian patriotic hymns really loud for victory day. 2sday was zone leader council, then that night we took a train back so we were in our area again on Wednesday, and we got to settle down into our area again. It was a pretty dang successful week, considering we had 2 days where we couldn't do work in our area. Our mission president has come up with a new "1-a-day" idea that we're going to spread around, where you work for 1 new investigator each day. (Don't laugh, sam, I know you get like 10 some days...) Elder Barton and I tried it out, and we saw some cool little miracles when the Lord led us straight to new people who were willing to listen. Neato! This is gonna be really good for our zone, though, this 1-a-day thing. This week our whole zone--10 companionships--only got 11 new investigators. We found five, and another companionship found four. So we're going to work on that.

Dang, I sound like a robot. I'm sorry. Life is kind of crazy. I feel like we're running around constantly trying to stay on top of everything that we have to get done, but at the same time I never feel 100% completely caught up. But I also am super duper dang happy. It's so much fun getting lost in it and just giving it your all. I'm really focusing on that. Mom, I don't know if you remember, but at the beginning of my mission you sent me a quote from Elder Christofferson's talk on covenants where he says that if you have exact obedience and if your covenants are paramount, then you can ask what you need from God with perfect faith. I tried that out one day this week. In the morning, I said "Ok. I'm going to go out of my way to look for ways that I can be more obedient, because I have no idea how we're going to find the people we need to find, and help the investigators we've already got." So I sold myself to that in the morning, and throughout the day we had some pretty crazy stuff. Last week, Elder Barton and Hancock gave out a Book of Mormon to a woman who said she wasn't interested but said that her son would be. So we set up a meeting with her son through her, and she said "he'll be out on the street corner waiting for you, I'm watching a baby so I can't come out." So we get there, and it turns out this kid is 13. So we can't teach him without a permission slip, but we started talking to him a little bit, and he's read the first 5 chapters of the Book of Mormon in the past couple days and he told us every single thing that happens up to that point in the Book of Mormon. All the stuff about Nephi. And it was amazing how well he knows the Bible, too. He says he's coming to church next week, too. So cool! Miracle.

So I'm glad to hear that things are going well at home. Mam, I done prayed for you about the work thing. I'm confident that that was the right choice, and I'm so grateful for a mom who's sensitive to things like that. I feel like there are too many people that would just blow stuff like that over. Including myself, maybe. I can't believe Bryant's already heading out! I swear I got news about that just a couple weeks ago. That's amazing about Stephanie's homecoming too, that's so cool that Dad could still understand that. I do not ever ever want to lose my language after the mish. That's on a list of after-mission fears. My year mark is coming up soon. Eeeh I don't want to think about it... I was a little bummed that I didn't get to see grandpa, but I was way glad to get his email from you. I love that man. I have that picture that Aunt Carrie took in my photo album. I miss days in the temple when grandpa would come down to the baptistry, and I remember how cool it was that he was able to be a part of my first washing and anointing. I'm always going to remember that. There were a lot of connections on that day... Grandpa was there, and it was 10 years to the day of Alex's passing as well. Which reminds me. Turns out that President has gotten everything organized so that on our next visa trip in 3 months we're GOING TO THE KYIV TEMPLEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. I have missed the temple almost as much as my family since I've been in Russia. Especially because we went once a week in the MTC. Also, I have HUGE news. On June 5th, there's going to be the first stake in Russia, in Moscow. YEAH. Saratov is next, it's one of the strong-points of the church, they're saying. MAN THAT IS SO COOL. History's going down here and I get to be a tiny little bitty part of it. MAN THAT IS SO COOL. again.

Wow, I'm sorry time's already up! Gah, I'll make a better email next week. I love you all!! It was amazing to see you last week, and I'm so glad you're all doing good. I love it out here! It's so worth it, boys. Do everything you can to get ready!

LUUUURRRRVVEE
alex