Monday, May 21, 2012
05-21-12 I'm gonna be 20? Hey there everyone! Yesterday was a fun day when I realized that in exactly one month it's going to be my birthday! Woah snap! Becoming 20 and reaching my half-way mark on my mission is kind of a crazy thing. But hey, I guess I have to become an old guy at some point, I'll just have to try and enjoy the last month of my youth! Just the usual work going on this week. We had exchanges this week and the District leader and Zone leaders came to Ulianovsk for a couple of days, which was pretty dang fun! We were able to do lots of good work and I learned the word for snail. It's interesting to see how older and younger missionaries work. When you first start out in the mission, the only things you're able to say are pretty directly related to the Gospel and so that, essentially, is what your conversations all focus on. As you get older in the mission you learn the language even better and have attained more teaching practice and skill, which broadens what you can talk about when with people. What was cool was to see how these two types of missionaries work together, one learning the language and focusing ont eaching Gospel principles while the other is understanding everything and helping to direct the conversation so the younger ones can do their magic. The coolest thing to hear is a new missionary's testimony of the Gospel and see how much it influences people, regardless of language skills. Always something to learn from everyone. I had some real legit Russian food last night. Mom, Dad, you're going to have to google a drink called Kvas. To my knowledge, it is, simply said, a bread drink. It tastes a lot like bread, and is actually pretty tasty after the first couple of gulps! There's a Russian dish that I can't remember what it's called where you take essentially as simple egg salad (more veggies that eggs though) along with a few dollops of sour cream and pour in some Kvas in there. Elder Lewis didn't like it too much, I think, but it tasted pretty dang good with bread! In addition we were served pork and what me and Elder Lewis are pretty sure was dog (though, we're not entirely sure, it just had kind of a lamb taste to it, though not quite lamb). Clean it all up with a tasty Russian pear/apple juice and you got yourself a pretty simple Russian meal! Yum! I'll have to find out how to make kvas so ya'll can taste it! I'm honestly having some hard times figuring out what I want for my birthday. Mexican food stuffs for sure (that rice a roni mexican rice is the best!) and a letter would be cool, maybe some update pictures of the fam! I don't know; I haven't though too much about this. I was telling Elder Lewis on our way over here "dang, I forgot to think of birthday stuff again!". Overall, I'd say don't worry too much. I really just love hearing from you most of all :) This is a short e-mail this time cause I've got to shoot off another quick e-mail, but thank you so dang much! It was sweet to hear about that eclipse. Don't think it'll happen over here on my side of the world, else I would have picked up on it from somewhere. Dang cool :) I love you lots! Be good now, alright! Eat yer veggies with some bread drink! With love -- Elder Peterson
Monday, May 14, 2012
May 14, 2012 Teaching and Flowers Hey there! Weird to think it's already monday again. This past week has been a rather odd one. On the 9th of May we stayed inside for Victory Day this past week and had some time to clean the house and do some well needed paperwork, but not gonna lie having that weird day in the middle muddled up the week a bit. I've been learning some cool stuff about teaching lately that I wanted to share. This morning I was reading about "learning faith", which made me think about the teaching appointments we've had this past week. I think it's still hard for me to think sometimes of faith being something learned. A lot of times it seems like faith just springs up, or builds from where it's from already, but rarely before my mission would I have though of faith being something learned. The past few weeks we've been working with an investigator who has been interested in the Church for awhile but never quite made the progress necessary for baptism. In looking over the teaching records for him it was hard to see what was holding him back. He'd been taught the lessons and it seemed as though the missionaries had been addressing his concerns as best as they could, but for whatever reason, he didn't budge. You always here about how we, as people, are not the real Gospel teachers, but rather the Spirit is. A lot of times I find myself thinking that if I phrase something perfectly the right way or use the best, most well formed thesis to convince people that something is right, then I will be able to change them. I think being here in Russia has taught me a lot about how, in all reality, I am not the one who changes others by my words, but rather it is from a different source. We've been meeting with this investigator for the past month or so and it's been amazing to see how he's changed. When we first met with him he was a bit blunt and rude at times, but clearly a nice guy. He had the same old concerns and we found out that he didn't really pray all that much. Me and Elder Lewis talked about it and we decided that, especially this past week, we would call him everyday, talk about work and everything, and then pray with him and the end, first starting with us giving a prayer and then him offering a prayer. At first he thought that he had nothing more to say that what we said in our prayer, but everyday as we've continued to pray with him he's opened up his heart more to Heavenly Father. He tells us now how good he feels after praying and he sees the blessings in his life as a result from his sincere prayers to God. As missionaries, it's hard to remember sometimes that you are yourself. Sure, you are a missionary, of course you are a representative of the Church, but God called you specifically, with you talents, skills and personality to do the work. I've grown so close to the members here and investigators and people in general as I always make that connection with them. We're friends! We all hug each other, cry when it's sad and laugh when it's good times. So often we try to get refferals from members and get the members in on lessons with investigators. Why is that? It's because we want to have friends for these wonderful people. Family and friendship are some of the strongest ties, and when the form of trust and love is formed, the way to understanding and accepting each other is opened wide, giving a chance for the Spirit to influence our lives. I dunno, maybe I didn't describe that all too good, but I really have noticed that this past week, seeing how much of a motivation love really is in all of our lives, in how it moves and shapes us. It's dang cool, and I'm glad that I can help people here in Russia feel God's love through my little actions of work and service. Cool stuff. It was pretty dang cool to talk to ya'll over Skype, by the way. When I looked at the e-mail last week I wasn't sure how/if it was going to work, but sure enough, worked out just fine! Me and Elder Lewis were pretty dang happy to sing that song to ya, Mom, and I'm glad you liked it! I knew it'd be a good choice when you mentioned it in an e-mail a couple of weeks ago (we had already picked it by then). Good times! :) Thank you so much Mom and Dad :) Times up, so I'm gonna jet. You all have a wonderful week, and I love you lots. Keep eating them veggies! With love -- Elder Peterson
Monday, May 7, 2012
May 7, 2012
So...who really won World War 2?
It's been a pretty dang cool week this past week, not gonna lie. We renewed our visas this week and, along with it, had the chance to go to the Kiev temple again! It was so dang pretty there. Last time we went it was late fall and all the trees were barren and nothing was growing. Of course it was still super pretty, but it all just got blown away this time by all the trees and flowers and beautiful grass. So dang cool! There are so many trees here in Russia and Kiev that bloom and create the msot beautiful looking white blossoms all over the trees. It's quite the site, and I'll figure out a way to send those pictures to you all. So dang awesome.
It was amazing walking into the temple and just feeling the peace that goes with it. In the temple, we all just wear white. No matter who you are, no matter how familiar or not you are with the temple, you all just wear white clothing. And it's awesome! Especially can be fun when you don't know who speaks Russian or not! The temple workers are from anywhere from a little town in Utah to Vladivostok in Russia or even from Kiev Ukraine itself, so it's quite the variety of people and language knowledge, but in a lot of ways that makes it even cooler in realizing that it doesn't matter where your from or what language(s) you speak, you're all the same in the temple. I never realized just how much smiling goes on in the the temple and the grounds around it. The smiles were a really welcome contrast to the grumpy early morning-ness of the airport workers.
That's awesome a member of the branch sent out that email! She's a champ. She's 30 something and, if I remember right, she's not in the picture, she was the one taking it. Gotta ask her for a picture of her. The lady there in the picture is an investigator and the guy in the picture is one of my favoirte people in all of Russia, and he's a member. That was taken after a Family Home Evening in the branch building. Good times! The lady who sent the email is an English teacher and she's way way cool. That was cool to hear that I'm nice and speak good Russian from her too! :D
Victory day is coming up here in Russia on Wednesday, and it's another one of those days when we're not to go out on the streets. I had an interesting conversation with a guy who just got out of prision who sincerely wondered who really won World War 2. As missionaries we try to avoid any sketchy political talks, so really the only answer I could give was "well...certainly not Germany!" and then quickly turn the converstion back to how much I love the bread here in Russia. The Russians are pretty dang happy about their victory in World War 2, so it's been cool to see all the kinds of greeting cards and stuff you can get for Victory Day (among my favorites being a beautiful bouquet of flowers with a shiny red communist sickle and hammer in the middle saying "Celebrate!").
Can I just mention how much I love being on my mission? It scares the bejibbers out of me that I'm nearly a year done with my mission, and I still often think about just how much better I can be, but I've been blessed lately to see just how much good has come from my mission. I thought Russia might make me into some hard tough unloving cookie, but I find just how much sensitive I've come to people. Yesterday I was talking to an old grandma on the bench who had really had a rough life and she starting crying. Though I couldn't fully understand what her problems were (she had lots and they were related to her husband dying in war and her family all moving away and pension problems), I felt her pain and I was surprised at how well I sympathized with this old grandma. We prayed with her, asked God to bless her life and to grant her the comfort and peace of Spirit she had searched for for so long. She cried and I got all teared up and did what I could to help her.
Often I think of my work as a missionary as going out on the streets, getting numbers, making meetings and helping people to baptism. This is all true, and very very important too. But it touched me and made me grateful to remember that part of my work can be sitting on a bench and talking to an sweet older lady and praying to our Heavenly Father for her. That same peace and love I felt in the temple was what she and I felt sitting on that bench, and it's wonderful to me to remember how great my job is here in the mission.
I love you all so much! I hope you have a wonderful week and have lots of good times! Thank you so much :)