Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.
-Isaiah 12 2-3

Monday, January 21, 2013


January 21, 2013
"Geez...I just didn't understand that play at all." "What? It was all in Russian and your Ukranian!"
Hey there everyone!

Woah, that's crazy awesome news that Mary [a cousin] is going to Ukraine! It's super pretty there (at least, the little chunk of Ukraine I've seen from going on visa trips and whatnot). Which mission is she going to? I'll have to write her some stuff in Russian when she's there in Ukraine.

Ya'll are always asking me about weird Russian foods or quirks, and I remembered a fun one when I looked at the package that Brando and Michal sent. One of the things they sent me was something called "Reindeer food" which I guess is also called "puppy chow" in America (I don't really know what that is, but that's what Elder Treter claims it to be). Regardless, they have pretty much the same things in Russia except instead of calling it "puppy chow" they call them "little pillows"! That's actually prety much my favorite quick breakfast here: a bowl of glazed flakes covered in chocolate and vannila flavored pillows with some rolled oats all mixed in. I can pretty much guarentee you that that is not what Russians, as a whole, really eat for breakfast (I think we as missionaries keep up the flake and pillow companies here in Russia), but it certainly is quite tasty. Anyways, the american pillows along with all the other goodies I got from you all have been well appreciated and devoured. Thanks again :)

This week has been a lot of paperwork and usual missionary stuff. When we got here we decided to hit the area books hard (the area books are where all the information about investigators, members of the church, less actives etc. is) and call about a billion people. Some real miracles have happened from that for sure. There are lots of times where the record says "don't call! They'll yell at you and make fun of your grandma!" (ok, maybe not that last part, but you get the drift) or various other things but you've still got the guts and the good feelings behind calling them. Yeah, sure, a good number of them still yell, or hang up the phone or are just kinda awkward, but there were lots of times where, with just a little more energy and friendliness than usual, you can help people's heart soften. Hopefully we'll see some more stuff arise from that.

Also, one of the things I've always wanted on my mission but never really been able to find is a friend who would help us do missionary work and teach us better Russian. We found that friend this week; a member who was baptized last May. He's a way cool guy. One of the interesting things about the mission is learning the language. It's not easy potatoes. Whatever that means. People already get right off the bat that you're foreigners, so you have to be good with people and at least be able to somewhat speak your mind to be able to have a normal chance at having good conversations with people. These are harder skills to develop when you're main chances of learning them are in short conversations on the street and knocking. But! If you have a friend who you can help teach English and who can help you with your Russian, then everyone wins! It really is a blessing when people are willing to help in all aspects of the work.

It's really cool to daily and weekly see how the Lord has provided for us good people to run into and talk to. It's a miracle really, considering all the weird rumors that go around about Mormons. Good, thinking people that really want to learn more about God exist everywhere, and it's always fun to find them in just walking on the street, pushing a car out of a snow drift or knocking down an apartment complex. A fun little story: Elder Treter and I (hah! Caught my grammar mistake that time!) got super lost while looking for a less active family and found ourselves essentially at some kind of ski resort. While looking for the address (and still thinking that it was the right direction to go) I found a guy just pushing his car down the hill. I wanted to help him out, but we were already late and so we kept looking (in vain) for the address. When we figured out that we weren't in the right place of the city, we started our trudge down the hill when we found this same guy still pushing his car at a pretty slow rate. Well, this time we could help out! We helped him push his car to the bottom fo the hill and along the way found out that he already knew who we were and that his sister used to be very active in the Church. He said he'd always noticed how happy we (members of the Church) were and missed the happiness that used to be in his sisters life. He's a busy guy, so he didn't accept a meeting or anything, but we gave him our info and he was pretty happy that we could help him out. Cool little miracles like that always make me feel good.

Alrighty, that's what we're got for this week! Oh almost forgot! We got to See "Much Ado about Nothing" in Russian this week for culture night! So cool! I understood most of it and it was fun to see how they translated it all. A lot of people (even natives) didn't really get the play though...they just need to read the play! It was way fun.

There we go, now we're done. I love you lots. Thanks! :)

With love,
Elder Peterson

Monday, January 14, 2013


Jan. 14,2013
"Elder Peterson! You're so much thinner! Don't they feed you in Orenburg?" "No, not really." "Ooooh....that's gonna change dearie!"
Hello everyone!

Man, let me tell you, it has been one really abnormal week of missionary work. First off, we spent most of our time left in Orenburg doing a super deep clean for Sisters Upshaw and Semyonova. We were able to get a couple of meetings in and get some fresh air, but really most of the time was spent doing area book work and making the apartment (as dingy as it kind of is) sparkle real nice. I had a pretty cool expereince though as we were at the train station. I've never really had any members or anyone come to say goodbye when I've gotten transfered (which makes sense since our trains usually leave at or around midnight everytime), but an investigator we'd been working a lot with wanted to come to the train station and see us off. We had a good talk, the three of us, and got to know each other a lot more (since most of the time we're with our ivnestigators we're there for elssons there's not always time to REALLY get to know each other). It was a great chance to just laugh and relax a bit before heaving suitcases filled with what seems like bricks onto the train. Even though she didn't get baptized before we left (and isn't too close to it even now, it seems), she told us before we left that the meeting we had and the communication between us had really helped her out these past few months and had helped her feel God's love. That was the coolest thing to hear! It's really was a heart warmer to know that the work we had done and all the prayers and efforts we'd put in to help her had really done what they were intended to do. So even though she's still on her path to God (aren't we all, anyways), we acted as good instruments to help her along. Cool stuff.

We would have gone straight to Saratov excpet for the fact that I needed to go on my very last visa trip to Kiev and back, so our train took us to Samara where, once again, I considered just how wonderful life would be without hauling around suitcases. I do have to give especially you, Mom and Dad, props for having me get bags that roll around on all 4 corners. That's been a life saver. And! The wheels have survived Russia, and achievment few missionaries can claim. So thank you :)

I had a super cool experience on the visa trip, by the way. As you may or may not know, we fly to Kiev and back in one day and take about 4 planes or so to do so. It's always a hassle, but one of the funnest things to do is to talk to the people that sit next to you on planes. Throughout my mission I've always had fun experiences on those planes, but none of which amounted to the coolness I had on this plane. I got on the plane going from Saratov to Moscow sat down next to a 40 year old woman (though, it was really weird, because she looked about 20 - come to find out she has a 14 year old son and that she's 40!). I like plane rides because you always have a good hour and a half or 2 hours just to talk and get to know the person. So, we got to know each other and it was about the coolest thing to see how the conversation worked out. I told her about how I'd studied Psychology before I came to Russia and how I was here as a volunteer for the Church teaching people about Christ. She's an accountant who lives in Ulyanovsk (yay!) going to pick up her son from a camp in Moscow and she has a particular knack or interest for learning Psychology so we had fun times talking about that.

The conversation really turned to God and faith though when she asked me how I liked Russia. Well, I told her what I tell everyone: I love Russia! It's got the best juice and there's nice people everywhere. She laughed a bit but told me that I couldn't really like Russia that much, it just meant that I'd never gone to Europe. I told her once again that I really do like Russia and began to explain more about what we do as missionaries. It was astonishing to see how she believed much of the same things we do and she really liked the idea of eternal families.

I told her something that I've been thinking a lot about but that I'd never really put into words before. I told her how logical faith in God really is; how in keeping the commandments and doing the things God asks we see, quite physically and really the love of God in our life and know for sure that He exists without having seen him. I've seen that in my life, and especially in the lives of those that accept the Gospel here in Russia. They act in faith on a little thing, and they receive blessing from God. She told me how that makes sense and how everytime in life when she had a problem in her family or with anything of a moral question she'd turn to the Bible for answers. She proceeded to, unknowingly, bear her testimony in saying "I know that God exists. I don't know how, I just do" and she explained the many times that God has anwered her prayers through thoughts and feelings and how He guides her. Of course, I gave her a Book of Mormon and explained it to her and the promise that's in Moroni about really knowing if it's true. It was incredible to make the promise to her that if she read and prayed about he Book of Mormon she'd come to know that it's true, the same way that she'd recognized the help of God in her life before. She wrote down my e-mail address (my civilian one) and said she'd e-mail. I'm not sure if she will or not, but keep your eyes out for that please :)

Not much time left (you got a big e-mail today!) but I had one last story for ya'll. In coming back here to Saratov I found out that our branch, the Volzhski branch meets in the the same building now as Zavodskoi. I got to see all of the members that I'd worked with for 6 months once again as I came to church this past Sunday. That was one of the happiest moments I think I've ever had on my mission; seeing so many of my old friends still doing well (and even better in lots of cases). I heard it more than once the members say "Oh Elder Peterson! We missed you so much! We all still talk about you!". I never thought I'd made any kind of impression like that on the members, but the experience just made me love them so much more and remember the wonderful things that really have happened in the course of my mission.

Alright, I've got to go now, but thanks so much :) Real quick, I got the Christmas packages! Thanks so much Mom and Dad and the Hershey Peterson clan! You really are the best and thanks for everything that you sent! I'm way psyched to hear that the reception will be in NM at the end of July! There's no way I'll miss that thing, so no worries there :) As for school, I don't think I'll be going to Summer session like I did before my mission, I'll need some time just to work and read Russian books before I get back into the school groove again, but I think entering in at Fall time will work out just great. I'd sure love to fix that fence, Dad, so go ahead and consider me hired I think. As for the whole grammar structure on "me and Elder So & So), in Russian you're forced to always say "we and Elder So and So), so I guess maybe that's just carried into my English in putting me before my companion since that's more or less how my brain translates it.

Alright, time to go for real now though. I love you lots! Have a great week!

With love
Elder Peterson 

Monday, January 7, 2013


January 7, 2013
"Peterson, you're a good need to get married! Look, I know this girl, real modest; doesn't drink or smoke. Tell you what, here's her address" "Nah...I'm good thanks. Happy New Year though!"
Merry Christmas everyone!

Bet you didn't even know that it was Christmas today! Gosh, get with the times! Today is Russia Christmas and the post office where we write home isn't open today, so I'm writing home from the senior missionary couple’s home for the last time.

And why is this the last time?

Well, let me tell you. It's a fun story too. So, you know maybe that we were on "lockdown" during New Years Eve and New Years day and so we had a lot of time to clean the apartment, rest up a bit and get caught up on our paperwork. So here I was, doing dishes and listening to Christmas music when a thought comes to my mind: "you're not gonna be here for long. I was a bit surprised, and I didn't really know what to make of it since I don't exactly have thoughts like that one everyday. I thought that maybe I was just tired, but it made me think what would happen if I left the area at the end of the cycle (in 3 weeks) what kind of things I'd need to get done and how I could help Elder Treter run the area once I was gone (if I were to leave). As it turns out, around that same bit of time, Elder Treter had been thinking a lot about Saratov. He said that he didn't want to ask the Lord for a transfer but that he really wanted to go to Saratov at some point in his mission. Come to find out that he had a feeling that he'd be going to Saratov soon. Kinda weird, right?

Fast forward to Friday night. I'm in bed actually writing in my journal (every day now since the 1st! Woo hoo!) and trying to rush since I only have a good 5 minutes until I need to go to bed when we got a call from the Zone Leaders with some interesting news: we received an emergency transfer! There were some problems going on for the sisters down in Oktyabrsky area in Saratov (neighbor area to Zavodskoy, my first and third area) and President asked us to switch places with them. So, this Wednesday will be me and Elder Treter's last day here in Orenburg because we're moving to Saratov! Incidentally almost exactly 1 year ago I go an emergency transfer with Elder Riko to pretty much the same area for pretty much the same reason. Funny how that works out. It's really sad to be leaving's been a really great being here, but I've had a dream for a long time to go back to Saratov. And, I found out that even though I won't be serving in the Zavodskoy branch like last time my branch will be meeting in the same building and we'll all see each other often because of how the schedule works out. Pretty cool that I get to see some of my best Russian friends again!

This week has really been a cool one too. President Sartori came down this weekend with Sister Sartori and visited the branch. We had our interview and it was one of the best of my mission. For a long time I've been really bummed a bit, I guess, that I haven't gotten to know President and Sister Satori more personally.There's not really any time or opportunity to do so so, just how it works out, but President started out our interview it a really cool way. He told me that it was sad that we hadn't had a chance to get to know each other more, but he wanted to let me know that he loves me and that the Lord loves me. He told me that my whole mission he's always trusted me; that no matter what situation or place he put me in, he could always trust me to do what's right and to do good things and be a good influence. Gosh, that was the coolest thing ever. He told me also that when I became a trainer he thought about it a lot and asked himself "why didn't I make him a trainer earlier?"

He also asked me a question: what's your favorite part of missionary work. I started out by telling him about an experience I had right before I went out on my mission. I'm not sure if you remember it or not mom, but when I was home and packing my stuff up or my mission you came into my room and sat down with me for a second. You told me something interesting: "Brian, I just want you to know something. Your success as a missionary isn't measured in how many baptisms you get." I remember being a bit surprised because I had never thought of that being a measure of success before. I told you that day "It's ok Mom. I just want to help people change." Those aren't exact quotes, I'm sure, but that was th whole jist of the coversation. I told President that and told him that ever since the beginning that's been my goal on my mission, but how surprised I've been that my mission has changed me more that it's changed any other person I've helped as a missionary. In looking back I've seen the growth I've made and the careful work the Lord has done with me as I've gone forth and tried my best. One of the biggest reasons I want to go back to Saratov is because I felt like Saratov helped me so much...and now I want to go back and see how much I can really help out Saratov!

I can't tell you how much President's comment and his question really helped me out and helped me view my mission in a different way. Moreso now then ever before I've seen how the Lord's worked with me and how he's shaped me and is still shaping me. Pretty cool.

I've only got a couple of minutes left, so I'll wrap this up. It's now for sure from President (so you can make this more generally known now) that I'll be returning for sure July 8th, and that's definitely the right thing. So no worries. Sorry I wasn't able to stuff more into this letter, I got a little soaked up by reading mom and Sean's letter. More next week :)

I love you a lot. Thanks for being the best! Until next week (from Saratov again!)

With love
Elder Peterson

PPS. We had a cool experience, so I'm copying and pasting that section of my letter to President to ya'll so I don't forget to tal about it:

 Little miracles have been happening all over the place in our work. Like I mentioned earlier we found 1 this week who also became new. Earlier this week we met with the new investigator's brother.  He laughed at us coming an sneered a bit. Pretty cold meeting. But then, when we dropped by the second time on this wek our investigator couldn't meet with us but asked that we meet with his brother, the same one that laughed at us earlier. Come to find out that he is legitimately interested in God and that he liked our message. We're good friends now and he's making progress in reading the Book of Mormon. It's a real miracle to see that change happen so quickly in another person.

Alright, that's it. You're the best :) Thanks!


December 31, 2012
"Honey, the Americans are at the door!" "What?" "Americans! What do we say?" "Tell them we're busy!" "Um...sorry, we've got uh...guests coming!"

Almost, at least. The biggest Russian holiday is rolling around the corner and, just like last year, we've been instructed to bunker in till the 2nd. Thankfully, we've got till 4PM today to buy foodstuffs, have a delicious lunch at the Chepurovs and slide in the new fallen snow before we're quartered inside for awhile. The post office is open today till 2, so I get to write home this year as opposed to last year (lucky us!). 

This past week has been a fun one, especially Tuesday night when our branch held the yearly Christmas activity/ talent show. It was so dang fun! That's probably been the best activity I've been at here in Russia and it had a great attendance too (48 people, 13 of which were little kids! Score!). I've got pictures and video to upload whenever I get the chance of the activity, so be looking forward to that sometime! For the first time too I got to see the long-time treasured Russian tradition of kids and Ded Moroz and Snegorochka (man, that looks so ugly in English! In Russian it's cool. Ded Moroz is Santa Clause and Snegorochka is his trusty helper elf). If you get the chance, look up the song on youtube or something, it's pretty fun.

The highlight of this week was most definitely Zone Conference. I actually haven't been intereviewed by President yet, which is ok because he's coming down to Orenburg this Saturday and Sunday and then we'll be able to have a good interview, so that's cool! It was a pretty emotion packed Zone Conference since we got to see the Christmas Devotional and a really cool talk givven by Elder Holland about Missionary Work (it's a lot like the talk which he gave at conference which, by the way, is still one of my favorite talks of all time). To add to that I found out that it'd be the last Zone Conference of a lot of my best friends in the mission, the majority of whom were that at the Zone Conference itself. It was really awesome hearing their testimonies and feeling the Spirit that shone so brightly and warmly in that room. Pretty awesome Zone Conference.

To answer your question, I haven't actually gotten the Christmas box yet, though I have a guess that it might be floating around somewhere in the mission. I'll work with the office to see if we can track it down :) Until then we've gotten lots of delicious candy and fun little gifts from members and the Sartori's to keep us occupied!

I have bought myself a new hat! It's all black and pretty cool looking and has super soft fur. I'll be shooting off pictures of those too when I get the shot. It's been funny. Like I had on Monday, I've still got a bit of a gnarly cough, so whenever I show off my new hat to the Russians and tell them how warm it is the majority of them give me a funny look and ask then why I'm sick. Little do they know that I bought the hat after my cold and thus the hat is held guiltless for any cold reaching my head before it's start of duty. Russians always have the most interesting ideas for how to get better. The majority of them avoid straight up medication, and prefer to go with the more herbal and natural medicines, such as placing a kind of mustard paper to your chest to relieve your coughing. Surprisingly enough, a lot of the "natural medication" works pretty well, though I'm still pretty greatful to a potential investigator who gave some really good medical advice and pills to rid this cold. Good stuff!

As for the work, one investigator has reset his baptismal date for the 19th of January, so we'll be working with him on making that. He's got a ton of knowledge on the Gospel and other religions and is loving reading the Book of Mormon. I hope he'll be able to make it to Church this next Sunday - he'd be able to translate for President Sartori really well. 

This'll have to do for this week. You're the best, and thanks for everything you do! Have a great new year and be sure to set reasonable new years goals (lots of Orenburg Russians have been saying that to us and each other lately). Have a great one! :)

With love
Elder Peterson


Dec. 24, 2012

С Рождеством!
Hey there everyone! :)

You know, everytime I write something out in Russian on the keyboard I think about the time that Brandon sent home his letter in half Portuguese (I'm sure I spelled that wrong). I think that's so dang cool that he achieved the level of learning the language that he didn't even notice he was typing in a different language, but I'm afraid I can't say that at least when it come to typing on the computer. Everytime I try to type something I have to stare at the keyboard and find where the Russian letters are! Ah well, when I study it farther I'll get the keyboard down :D


My gosh, pretty dang cool, right? Christmas number two on the mission. It's been a week full of miracles this week, and one that especially is super spiffy. There's an investigator who for a long time now has investigated the Church but never really made a whole lot of progress in becoming a member of the Church. She knows a ton, reads Doctrine and Covenants already, but still hasn't been baptized. It's been a bit of a struggle too because when we first came here and met with her the senior missionary couple have been against us meeting her. They had already met a good number of times with her with the other Elders before us and they counted her as being just someone who'd investigate the church forever but never join. 

For the longest time, however, me and Elder Treter have prayed about and for her to know what to do, whether to stop meeting with her or keep goign to see if she can make some progress. Everytime we've done so we've gotten the answer that we should keep working with her and that things would work out. To avoid any trouble or doubt we'd been meeting with her without the missionary couple to help her out. Starting just a couple of weeks ago, things got rolling with her. She started praying with a lot more focus to find an answer and slowly but surely things have been working out.

We had district meeting on Friday and we reported on her status and progress in accepting the Church and the couple, as usual, weren't super excited that we were meeting with her. Nevertheless, we todl about how we had trouble getting member help for her lessons and they invited us to meet at their place with her (a miracle, considering how against it they had been in the past).

Before the lesson we sat down with the missionary couple and they asked us what theme we had planned to talk about with her. We told them that we wanted to talk with her about the Holy Ghost and recognizing answers from him as answers from God. Sister C mentioned that that was her favorite theme and the both said that they wanted us to direct the lesson and that they'd be there just as extras, just help whenever we turn to them and ask them questions. We said alright, and prepared for the lesson. The lesson began and, to my surprise, the C’s were talking the whole time! Well, really the C’s and our investigator, but me and Elder Treter weren't saying much at all. At first I was a little dissappointed that we couldn't get a word in, but I felt like I needed to felt them have their fill and talk. Lo and behold, they testified strongly of the Spirit and told about experiences in their life when God's help and answers came to them. It really touched our investigator and got her thinking about things. She was sick, so she requested a blessing (yeah, she already knew about blessings, tells you a bit how longs she's been investigating) and asked that Elder C be the one to give it. A wonderful blessing was given and she told us afterwards that she felt something in her heart, just a feeling that was big, overwhelming, but calming. We bore testimony that that was the Spirit testifying and helping her.

Then came the miracle. Elder Treter is still, usually, a little bit quieter on lessons, but this time it wasn't that way. He bore one of the most powerful testimonies I've ever felt in my life of God, His love and the fact that miracles and guidance from Him are real and come to us in life. I don't think I've ever cried so much on my mission as I did on that lesson. We were all in tears and the Spirit bore witness to us all of the truthfulness of Elder Treter's testimony. Our investigator then asked if she could talk more often to us and the C’s and she was commited to once again pray to God about baptism, and we promised her that she'd get an answer.

I can't really seem to describe just how awesome that experience really was. Me and Elder Treter have worked so hard to try and help her while we've been here and on this week, before we had that meeting with her, we had a special prayer for her and set specific goals and sacrifices so that she could have some progress and be baptised and so quickly we already saw an answer from Heavenly Father on our prayers and efforts. We have some really high hopes for her.

At this time of year, I really do remember the wonderful blessings that God has given all of us. Daily He provides for us, cares for us and blesses us. He helps every single one who seeks Him to find Him and recognize where and how to feel His love. I know that this church really is the Church of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior; and I know that it's thanks to his love, teaching and sacrifice that we are all here and have the opportunity to learn, grow and return back to God in love and glory.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas...because I sure am! God bless you, and eat some Christmas cookies for me, alright? :)

I love you!
Elder Peterson