Monday, May 30, 2011


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


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

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!


Monday, May 2, 2011


WOW IT WAS GREAT TO HEAR FROM EVERYBODY. That's the stuff you really miss out here, being in a house full of family. Man it was so fun to see all the little emails from everyone! I'm sorry, I only had the chance to skim them over, but I'm really going to enjoy them when I get back to teh apartment with dem all printed out. That's the kind of atmosphere I think about when I think about home--more than anything, family dinner with lots of people over. I remember some of those crazy sundays when we had the Thompsons over and Aaron and Brad and Carrie and Grandpa, and we always had lots of good food. And sometimes Nature going on the tv. HA that's Dad. And mom would always complain about watching animals get eaten. Hahaha. Brad is so much like dad. When he sits down to write, he writes. I'm really excited to read that email and hear about Gracie's blessing. I can just imagine that the spirit was so strong there. It's always like that when you have family gathered for a priesthood blessing or a baptism. I remember my temple endowment, the thing that really got me was watching all my family--parents and extended family--file in wearing white clothes. That really got me. And now I think I appreciate things like that more than I did (although the food and games in the yard afterward were always good, too).

Mom, I wanted to thank you for your email last week. I spent some time getting a good email off to Mitch Moss last week, so my email was kind of a dud. I went back and read what you had said, though, and it really was an amazing letter. I could tell that you guys had an amazing Easter back at home. I really like that you and Dad always focused on the Savior during Easter. Dad read to us from the New Testament that one year and I remember that really affected me. I read over that account not long ago, and I always think back to that one Easter. This weekend is Mother's Day, which is crazy. It feels like I just called a couple months ago!! I'm excited to hear everyone again. All my brothers is gonna have them deep voices. Weeeirrd. I'll call on the home phone (of COURSE I remember our home number, what do you think this is) and I feel bad that we didn't get to coordinate earlier, but Sam if you read this before Sunday, I'm going to be calling at around 11 in the day (home time), so I don't know how that works out with your schedule but I hope I get to hear you speak in Spanish. Man this is gonna be crazy to hear everyone. I LURVE IT. This week we were at an Armenian family's house to teach a lesson. They have a 17 year old son and a 10 year old daughter. XXXXX, the daughter, just got baptized a couple months ago before I got transferred here. SHE IS HOPE but Armenian. It's so much fun meeting with them. She seriously reminds me so much of Hope. She loves Hannah Montana and everything. That family is awesome. This week, I also conducted my first baptismal interview on the mish. I was kinda nervous but it all went really smoothly. I interviewed a 17-year old kid who's getting baptized this Tuesday, XXXXXX. He's an investigator of the Zone Leaders in our area. He is converted. While we were having the interview, I thought about Patrick. XXXXX wrote down his birthday on the baptismal record, and I noticed that it was even just a couple days within Patrick's. I thought about how different life is for a lot of people here than it is back home. Here's a kid who his whole life hasn't even thought about religion and is surrounded by so much evil in the world he lives in, and with absolutely no persuasion from his parents decides to meet with the missionaries after meeting them on the street. The end of the story is this: he read 5 chapters of the Book of Mormon one night after meeting with the missionaries, and then prayed to ask God if it's a true book right before he went to bed. That night he had a dream that he was dressed up in a suit and had a black nametag, and he went up to a woman on the street and testified to her that the Book of Mormon was true. Is that a cool story or what? I really felt the Spirit while we were having the interview. It was a calm peaceful feeling. He's one of those converts with a ton of potential to bring people to Christ, especially if he decides to serve a mission in the short future.

In other news, I got a transfer call yesterday morning, and it turns out they're going to whitewash my area--as in, Elder Swainston is going home this Friday, and I'm also leaving our area. I got transferred to serve as a Zone Leader in Saratov. Here's the best part--MY NEW COMPANION IS ELDER BARTON. Remember how my trainer got transferred to serve as a Zone Leader 3 months ago? NOW WE GET TO SERVE TOGETHER AGAIN. Man I can't even say how excited I am. I'M EXCITED. We had so much fun together and saw so many little miracles. It's going to be a BLAST and I'm really looking forward to getting even more lost in the work. I also found out that Elder Bahr is going to be training a greenie down there, so we might be able to do exchanges with him, too. LIFE IS GOOD.

Well, that's about it. I'm sorry I didn't get to write a ton, again, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL YOUR EMAILS. I love hearing all the little stories about the fam. You guys are so awesome. I pray for you every day, and I'm so excited to hear from you all again. It's weird how it works, but being halfway across the world and working as hard as I can to help families live happily has helped me realize how awesome a family I's ardy got. Sam, thanks for your example. I was thinking about that the other day, during study time, and I realized how much of an influence your mission has had on me. I love hearing about your success as a missionary, and I can tell that you're somebody that the mission president and the Lord really trust. Mom THANK YOU AGAIN for all of your support and your spiritual insights. They really help me out sometimes. As for everyone else, we'll hear you in a week!!! LOOOOVVVEEE YOOOUUU


P.S. Mom my companion had a good idea: Think of some specific things that you and the family would want to ask me about during the phone call. I'll do the same for all of you. That way the phone time is SUPER EFFECTIVE.