November 14, 2011
"Sorry I don't speak very good Russian" "It wasn't you I was listening to"
Hey there family and friends!
Sean has a few questions that he wanted me to answer and then I'll be telling a story, so here we go!
Q. "What's the size of the branch you serve in? Are the members enthusiastic about you as missionaries? Does anybody help you inparticular? Is there a dinner calendar you pass around?"
A. Well, that first one is a difficult question to answer. On average, about [..] (sometimes more) come to church on sunday, making it one of the biggest attending branches. In reality, we have over [...] members, which makes the percentage hurt quite a bit. Lots of inactives, so we've been trying hard to work with them. The members love the missionaries and they do love both (I've been here since I came to Russia and Elder Johnson spent his first cycle in Russia in Zavodskoi too). We have a 24 year old member (who is also the ward mission leader) named [...] who always helps us on lessons (he served in St. Petersburg), and another one is a 38 year old member named [...] who was my first real friend in Russia. I kinda laughed when I saw the dinner calendar question. Nah, there's not a dinner calendar, but whenever we have a lesson at a members place you're almost sure to have some kind of food and some delicious tea!
Q. "Tell us about the kinds of foods you've had there! ... Are you tactful about turning down a food that didn't suit your stomach?"
A. I've had some deicious borsches while I've been here, though technically they were from a Ukranian recipe, so maybe it's not authenitc Russian food heh. The tea here is so dang delicious and I've had a lot of different flavors. My favorite was probably a mint tea I had a members one time. There was an unnamed egg creation made by a member that got me to love mushrooms and some variety of fish with potatoes underneath that was suprising delicious (I've never been the biggest fish fan, but it was way good!). The russians have also gottin me to like sour cream, and it really can belong anywhere from soups to desserts! I've been as tactful as I can. Good stuff nonetheless, and no stomache problems! woo!
Q. "Have you seen any Russian holidays yet?"
A. Kind of.There was a day when almost no one was out on the streets and we found out it was because of a Russian holiday. Many people either just stay home and/or drink, so they're more quiet days. I haven't really seen any formal/celebrated Russian holidays yet. Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January and Santa Claus wears blue and is thin. We're told to not go out on New Years and a couple of days after.
I'll answer the rest of the questions next week, but I wanted to tell a story before my time is up.
Yesterday was a very interesting day. We were having a lesson at a members house last night but because the family is all girls, as was our investigator except for the father, we couldn't enter the apartment when we first arrived (always need another guy, not just us and girls). The father, whose name is [..], was my first and closest Russian friend. He's always ready and helpful and has done so much for the branch and for the missionary work.
I was worried. Before we got in the house he asked us if we could give him a blessing, and we told him yes. He helped us on the lesson and smiled and laughed with the rest of us during it, which aparently he has never done before when he's been home in the past.
After the lesson, me, Elder Johnson and [...] went into a private room and prepared for the blessing. Because I've known him longer and because he's my friend, I did the sealing of the blessing. It was my first time doing a sealing and I was so scared that I'd mess up. As soon as I started though, the words flowed easier than any other time I've spoken Russian. Soon after I started he started crying. I don't remember what I said, all I know is that I did my best and the Spirit touched him during that blessing. Elder johnson mentioned afterwords that my Russian had never been better, that the grammar was perfect and that I spoke well.
After the blessing, I hugged [...] and asked him to forgive me for my Russian, and hugged me back and said that it wasn't me he was listening too, but the Spirit. He had faith that the blessing would help him because of the Priesthood and that regardless of my speaking ability I would be able to give him the blessing.
He told us more of the specifics of his problem, and we resolved a way to help him (he'll be going to the branch president, among other things), but that experience meant the world to me. This week had been rough in trying to find and teach people. A couple of our most prominent investigators fell off the face of the earth and it's been hard for me to still feel useful in the work. But last night I helped my best Russian friend regain his faith and hope that he can overcome [...]. And I did it because I was a servent of God and a representative of Jesus Chirst, not because of my Russian skills or anything like that. I had a part to play, and Heavenly Father let me be an instrument.
I am a slow learner, but I'm learning more and more that Heavenly Father really does have a purpose in everything and how it's done in missionary work. I didn't know why I was put in Zavodskoi last cycle, but I learned why. I really didn't know why I was still in Zavodskoi, especially after those investigators that I personally had found and taught last cycle had dropped off, but at least one reason I needed to still be here was to help my friend [...].
Heavenly Father really does know us individually and weaves things into place so that we can be where he needs us to be and when he needs us to be there. That's true not only on a mission, but in life as we strive to do what's right. I knew that before the mission, and I'm learning it moreso now.
I love you all so very much. Thank you for helping me and supporting me in the hard times and the good. It's so exciting and great to hear about everything back at home! Feel free to ask questions anytime, and I'll do my best to answer them like I did earlier this letter. Once again, I love you so very much. Talk to ya'll next week! :)
With love, as always