Monday, August 29, 2011


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.


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.



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.


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


Monday, August 1, 2011


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.