Monday, January 17, 2011

Miracle contacts and a Russian funeral


I'm hoping to write as much as Sam does for once. I'm so stinking jealous of your crazy typing skills. If I could type at 1000 words a minute maybe I could talk about all the stuff that goes on out here in the Motherland! Thanks so much for you emails, samsam. Haha I love how you end your letters like that it always makes me laugh. It always reminds me of that time we played volleyball with your college friends and that one guy said Stay in your circle! and you said Yupyup. Hahaha. Man, I'm glad to hear from everyone! Ready Proverbs 25:25 and you'll know what I'm saying. Sam's rockin it up in Chile and the family's getting back into things after the holidays, it sound like.

Oh, before I forget. Mom wanted me to do the top-ten most important list thing. One and two are tied because they're kind of the same concept, so I've got a top 3 out of ten. Here it goes. Are you ready for it??

1-Temple as in the fact that I grew up five minutes away from one, that I was able to go through the temple with my parents, that there's peace there, and the covenants I made there help me every day...
2-Worthiness in family meaning that it's important for me that all of my siblings grow up so that one day all 8 of us can be in the celestial room of the temple together. (Also, that all three of my brothers served full time missions).
3-Earthly and Heavenly Parents' approval meaning that it's important that I live in such a way so that I don't cause hurt for my parents like I have in the past. Along with that, someone once said to me that the Spirit is the Lord's approval stamp. Who doesn't want the Spirit?
4-Lasting conversion in myself and investigators
5-Church activity and testimonies among my friends at home
8-Health as in what happens when you RIP IT with the pushups every morning of your mission. Heh heh.
9-Speaking Russian without an American accent someday. I would love it if a Russian thought I was native once, based on my language skills. Probably never going to happen.
10-Not losing my mission language for the rest of my life. I want bilingual children who speak Russian from birth.

Well that's it. I hope that was interesting/what you were looking for. I don't think my list would have been anything like this before my mission. Kind of fun when I think about it.

So, mom, I haven't read your email for today yet. Last week I was just signing off and then I got an email from you! My time was up but I sent another sentence to know that I was on at the same time as you. Haha I thought that was so cool for some reason. It seems impossible because generally whenever I'm awake it's 4 in the morning or something back home. Thanks for sending me your insight about the 2nd coming (last week or 2 weeks ago?). That was super amazing and I had never even thought about it! Me and Elder Barton had a chat about this one time. He said, "If Christ created the Earth, then why did He make mosquitoes? He must have known that the only thing they were meant to do is cause pain and irritation, which He later would have to experience during the Atonement? What's the point of just creating something that would make the Atonement harder? Then, the realizeation came that I as a human being cause so much more pain than a stupid little mosquito. How many times have I hurt someone whether physically or emotionally or spiritually? When have I made the Atonement something harder for Christ to have done? God must have known that when he created me" It's an interesting thought.

So now that the huge "intro" of my email is done, I'll write about my mission life so that Mom can put up something in the ward papers.

THIS WEEK: The biggest news, first of all, is that one of our investigators, Aleksander, died. It was completely crazy. He was a 50 year old agnostic/atheist with perfect health who we used to speak English with. Let me tell you the story: Twice a week we've been trying super hard to make progress with three guys named Alex, Michael, and Dima who are all for the most part atheist--Alex's words: "I don't have feelings about God one way or another." They meet because we don't do English club any more and they still wanted to practice with us. We were thinking about dropping them, but we had an amazing lesson on the Restoration so we kept meeting. Michael went on vacation so we didn't have meetings for 2 weeks. Alex's wife, Inga, has a shop that sells USSR t-shirts and stuff, so we stop by there on p-days sometimes. She's always been super nice and knows us because Alex talked to her about us sometimes. We went into her shop last Monday and Alex came in and we chatted for a few minutes, and he seemed perfectly healthy. Since Michael wasn't back from vacation we didn't meet. Wednesday, 2 days later, a lady called the elders in another area in Togliatti and said "Alexander died!" and gave them a number and an address. They called us and gave us the number and when we called it, the number for Alex came up. It was nuts. We went over to the address to see if it was true, and Inga was there with a bunch of family. They were all crying and it was a really really sad scene. She said He woke up in the morning, made coffee, and then started feeling funny and then died fifteen minutes later. We bore short testimony and said there's life after death, and she said, "maybe you guys know, but I don't know about that. Just pray for him because I don't know how." That hit me hard. It gave me a glimpse of what life is like for people who don't have that knowledge.
We went to the "viewing" the next day, which was a small group of people in there apartment, and Aleksander in a casket with Russian Orthodox sheets and crosses all over him. They had a priest there, and he read prayers and did some chants and swung some incense around. It felt really empty. He kept saying how much Aleksander needed our prayers to get into eternity and all this crazy stuff. It felt really desperate. I compared it in my head to the knowledge that the Savior was resurrected and so we will all be resurrected, and see our loved ones. To make a long story shorter, we left without talking to too many people, we've run into a couple people on the street who saw us at the funeral who seem interested in our message, and it's been crazy.
I am out of time but I want to write about Sergei and Katya our GOLDEN investigators who are getting baptized on the 29th!! Remind me to write about them next week because their story is AMAZING.

I LOVE YOU ALL and I love my mission! It's the frontlines! I know the church is true, I know that God has a plan for us, and that Jesus Christ made it all possible. Keep up the good work Sam, you're amazing! Work for this, Caleb, Seth, and Patrick! It has changed my life! LOVE YOU BYE


P.S. I adopted Sam's typing skills (or I just didn't waste time trying to send pictures...)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hello fambly,

Family: How is ERRbody?? How's Samsam? I'm sorry I didn't do this last week, but HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!! I feel like a jerk for forgetting to write that :( I'll write you a nice handwritten letter today and you'll get to read some birthday greetings about 2 months after your actual birthday ha ha ha. I got some letters from home recently, and I loved the pictures from Caleb and Hopey. I love hearing from you guys! I hope everything is going well in school. Dad said in his last letter that you guys are doing pretty good in school and whatnot. I just realized a couple days ago randomly that Seth plays trumpet and it weirded me out. That's going to be crazy to see all those differences in a year and a half. You guys are probably getting back into school, now that the holidays are over.

No biznass which makes me feel good. Except I sent those pictures and didn't explain them AT ALL ha ha ha. I was wondering why you guys were so confused about the snake picture until I realized that I didn't even tell you about it. I went to a non-active's house to teach him a lesson and he's got a whole wall of cages with weird exotic pets. He's got geckos and tarantulas and a hairless cat and cocroaches and stuff. And a huge boa constrictor. So we taught him a good spiritual lesson about the Holy Ghost, and then Bro. Yuri started showing us his aminals and then he pulled the snake out, said something really fast in Russian and the plopped it on my shoulders. Then Elder Barton took pictures for me. It was super great, except the whole time I just kept imagining all the things that could've gone wrong, namely the snake flexing until my head popped off. That thing was super strong...

...and Mission life: Well things are crazy, which means it's a regular week. We've made some major changes in our area over the past few weeks. We kind of did a whitewash on our own. A whitewash is where the two missionaries in an area get pulled out and two other missionaries who are completely new to the area come in. Kind of a clean slate for that area. Well, this cycle ended (P.S. I'm already done with my first cycle in Russia hubba-WHAT?), and me and Elder Barton are still rockin' in Old City Togliatti. We took a look at all of our "progressing" investigators and we realized that we've been spending so much time pulling teeth with these guys to try and get them to keep commitments when we've got other potential investigators who could be ready by the end of this month for baptism. So we switched our focus to finding, and we've had so much success, meaning we've got a huge list of potential investigators that we didn't have before, all of whom are saying they want to meet. Once we showed the Lord that we're willing to do something hard (namely give up on 5 lessons a week that could help our reporting numbers), he started showing us miracles. One of these: We're sitting there planning at night, and a guy named Roman calls out of the blue and says he wants to meet. He said "you probably don't who I am, but I got your number, and I want to meet and talk with missionaries." And we give out cards all day long and NOBODY ever calls us. We always have to call them. It was bomb. Then, we stopped by a lady's house who we haven't put a ton of focus on as an investigator, previously. She lives far away, and we decided to start doing more to work with her. We found out she's super ready. She previously investigated the Jehovah's Witnesses (by the way, who knew there were Russian JWs? Crazy, right?), but she thinks they don't live the doctrines they teach. She knows the Bible extremely well and has been reading the Book of Mormon, and she said this: "I have found Jesus, but I don't think He's found me, and I think that's because I'm not baptised. I just want to make sure I'm getting into the right church." Could you ask for an investigator more ready? It was amazing. She has questions about us, though. So we're going to meet with her and help her get on the path.

And I've got about ten minutes left, so I'm gonna get some pictures up real quick.

Peace and love, you guys are awesome! The Church is true! This is the best experience of my life! Live for it! Caleb, Seth, and Patrick, you guys will be amazing missionaries. Just listen to Dad, do the little stuff. You have awesome parents and an awesome bishop. Don't let anything distract from getting ready for a mission. Sam, you're an amazing missionary, I love your example and your love for the work and the people you teach! Can't wait to hear about more of your miracles in the mission field in Chile. Love you guys!

BYE alexs.

P.S. Dad said in his letter that he wants to hear more about my companion. Well I forgot to write more about him, but he's the best trainer ever. Forces me to contact and listens to my opinion and we get along perfect and everything.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bring on the COLD!

Hey ERRbody!!

FAMBLY: I'm all worried that my poor little mother thinks I don't love her anymore because yesterday the library was closed for New Year's (which was 4 days ago or something) and I didn't get to write until today. But here it is! Also, this letter isn't going to be one of my longest ones because it took me forever to get all the mail saved so I can print it and read it. I got a ton of letters from everyone! 3 from sam, 2 from mom, 1 from Chelsee, 1 from CHRIS (finally :'D ), one from jameson, bryson, morgan yada yada yada. It was like CHRISTMAS. I got double the letters from fambly and I got letters from friends. Ahh.

Well SAM I skimmed mom's email before I skimmed yours, so I was sick for about 30 seconds until I figured out that the earthquake wasn't where you were. I was also really impressed with what mom wrote. She just said she wasn't worried and she knew everything was fine. That's crazy awesome that we have a family that relies so much on the Lord. I'm realizing day by day that my mission gives me subtle blessings like that that will be with me for the rest of my life. It's amazing! I love my mission! I love russia too. It's really windy and cold but I gots a huge coat. Man there's so much stinkin stuff to write about but I ain't got no time.

So BIZNASS. I can't think of a lot of stuff... Maybe one thing... I mentioned music... and it would be awesome awesome awesome if you could get on itunes and go to the chopin complete nocturnes cd and burn it for me and send it. Mission approved. We just found out that we can listen to other stuff than MOTAB, like classical and stuff. So that's cool. Also, I talked to a member named Alyona about a week ago, and she's leaving here to go to Utah for school in about a week or two. She's gonna live in park city and go to westminster and I said hey that's close to where my parents are. So she might stop by one day just to say hi or something. I just wanted to warn you in case a random Russian shows up to say hi...

STOREEz and then some pictures I'll upload. Well this week was pretty slow because we were locked up in our apartments from 3:30pm on, on New Year's Eve and New Year's. New Year's is crazy in Russia. So much drinking. It was dead on the streets. We were walking down the street on Sunday morning and this confused dude leaned out his window and asked what time it was. We said 8 and he asked IN THE MORNING?? which was interesting because the sun was up and it usually gets dark at around 3:15pm this time of year... We also saw an older guy outside our apartment just sitting on the ice. He wobbled a ton when he got up, and barely made it down the street without falling. I feel like I would've laughed at stuff like that, but it just made me super sad. Karin, an investigator, isn't progressing anymore. He's never showed a ton of interest, even though his wife and kids are members. He got really drunk for New Year's and his wife started packing her things and threatening divorce and it didn't go well. We don't really know what to do. Pray for them. I hate watching good good families get torn apart by that. It's sad to say but I'm getting a real glimpse of what we're really up against.

ON a lighter note... We started teaching a kid named Albert. His mom, Tatyana is a single mom and a super-inactive member who seems like an investigator when we teach her. But it's been cool because just teaching them 2 times a week has really brought them together. She's on some sort of pension, so she watches tv all day, and Albert is always always on his computer. It's kind of a miracle that he agreed to sit in on lessons with us. We said, "Hey we're here to meet with your mom, but we have a rule as missionaries that we can't meet without a male present" and he really grudgingly left his computer. And now that we've started teaching him, he's opened up a lot and he's happy when we come over. It's the BEST. He just started reading the Book of Mormon, and we're excited to work with him.

We also met up with a young guy and his wife and kid last week. His wife is sixteen, which is a little crazy (well, they're both really young), but they were super nice. They used to be taught by sisters before the area got split up, and we heard that they even had baptismal dates. We're going to them tonight to teach them, and it'll be awesome. They live with her grandpa, and her grandpa said that they've always had a good relationship with the missionaries. They were super stinkin nice to us when we stopped by. It's gonna be bomb teaching them.

Anyways, I really really wanted to send pictures of new years and this awesome cathedral I took pictures of, but I've only got one minute left, which is not enough time to upload pictures. Poo. I will for sure get you some pics next week though. Russia's amazing. Church is true. My little bros are li'l missionaries and it rocks. I love my parents and family and missionary sister, all of you. KEEP DOIN WHATCHA DOIN.



P.S. for FHE, I want you to do something. Just read the chapter headings of Judges 14, 15, and 16. Then talk about how if someone made a movie of that, I would totally go with caleb and seth and patrick to see it on opening night. I think you will all enjoy what you find there. BYE.