June 18, 2012
"How many summers, how many winters?!"
Hey there everybody!
Had a crazy experience this morning. My district leader, Elder Hill, and I were just talking this morning when he asked where I was from. I told him Los Alamos, New Mexico and he asked me "Oh, hey? So you live around the lab?" And it just blew my mind today to here the phrase "the lab" since I haven't heard anyone say for about a year or so! As it turns out, he's from Albuquerque and had visited Los Alamos before. Crazy, huh? Was a fun bit of deja vu.
Did ya'll happen to get a hold of the Williams? I dunno if it's plausable at all or not, but I have this little dream that ya'll could come to their mission homecoming and just sit and talk awhile about the mission. They lived in the town where I served for about 8 months, so talking to them about their experience will give you a good idea of what I went too. That'd be so dang cool if you, Mom and Dad, served a mission in Russia like the Williams too! Wouldn't that be crazy? I'd totally teach you some fun Russian phrases before you'd come out. Ah, good times! :)
Stuff is going pretty well here in Marks! Our main investigator is making a lot of very good progress. Scary experience happened this past week with her though because of how discouraged she feels. She has a pretty rough life; she can barely walk, has awful "kvartiarants" (I don't know what it's called in English, just people she's rented a couple of rooms to in her apartment) who are some pretty dang crude guys, and a 2 and a half year old kid who's a little rascal (she's a bit worried for him too, I think, since he doesn't even talk yet, just makes babbling noises). In the meeting we had with her the day after we sang songs and talked to her about the Plan of Salvation and the ways that God can help us overcome our troubles in life. It's so cool to see in the people the light that shines in their eyes and in their faces as they learn about the Gospel and feel the Spirit. We were also able to help her and her 2 year old get to Church and she absolutely loved it. She told me, after Relief Society, "Why aren't you advertising this Church? People were telling me that you are godless cultists but once you step into this place you just feel good." So, we explained more about our work as missionaries to her and what we do. The idea is circulating a bit around of creating some kind of activity and advertising it for people to come and check out. We're not quite sure in what way to go around it, but we'll think of something I bet. Sure would be nice to help people realize we're not scary.
I was talking to Elder Stoddard the other day of how cool it is to serve in a little branch where there's 15 people and we're the President's two councilers. Sure isn't the easiest thing to do in life, but it brings a lot of experience and perspective into the growth of the Church. I wonder a lot of times how they solved the problems that arose in the early Church, since I think it mirrors Marks a bit. There used to be over a hundred people who came, but it was in part beause the Curch was new and popular in town, and the baptisms probably weren't as monitored as well as they should have been. Overtime, people lost the craze and didn't want to keep being Mormon, so a lot left the Church over time. There were quite a number of excommunications (which I also wonder if they were done correctly since they were done mostly by missionaries), so I dunno. Seems like it all started and progressed a bit sloppily. So, we've got a strong little core of the Church, which may also be suffering a bit too. Not many pay tithing and two ladies who have already been to the temple don't stay, usually, for Relief Society but rather go to the Russian Orthodox Church to drink tea and lay candles in front of icons. Argh! But, we'll work something out to help out these members. I think as they help us they remember the promises they made at baptism and help in getting others to know of the Gospel they themselves do better.
Oh, I was just reminded. I asked a ton of people about Russia Day, and it's apparently they Independence Day...but everyone I asked didn't know from whom they were independent. Oh well. Not the biggest holiday here in Russia it seems!
We're going to have exchanges on Thursday and Friday, so it'll be a kind of birthday celebration. Good times! I just barely figured out how to make the most scrumptious home-made brownies, so I think I'll probably make a couple of really good batches of those on or around my birthday to eat and share with people here Woo!
Thanks for the support and the love from every one of you. It's always a little weird to think that you're all on the other side of the world, but how no matter what, in a nice way, you're always with me in your letters and prayers. Pretty cool, huh?
Anyways, that'll wrap it up for this week I think. Ya'll be good now! Eat your veggies and make a cake and eat it for me there back in the States!
With love, as always