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, March 25, 2013


March 25, 2013
"And after she said that, Elder Peterson, I just thought to myself 'well, I didn't expect that one!'. Can you teach them tonight?" "YOU BET WE CAN!!!!!" :)

Hey there everyone?

Man, I can't even describe how cool this past week was. Balakova is pretty much the coolest place ever.

Except for one thing! The weather here is about the craziest thing ever! On Tuesday it was super warm and a great majority of the snow piles melted which flooded the streets and made it so that you were either walking through rivers, mud or this slush. Then, of course, it all had to refreeze, snow more, rain more, and then heat up again to make it just that much worse to walk through. BUT! Slowly but surely it's all being evaporated and the mud is drying out so it's all good. There is a funny saying that me and Elder Warkentin came up with though. There is a word in Russian "kasha" (pronoucned like Kah-sha) that literally means porridge (pretty much). But, whenever someone is kinda crazy or has a really unreasonable idea, it is very common to say that "He's got kasha in his head!" In addition, it's pretty normal to call the slush on the streets kasha too. So, one gray morning I felt poetic and said "Kasha on the streets, kasha in the kitchen, kasha in the head, kasha is everywhere!" And not really till now did I realize that the poetic factor of it is all taken away because it's written in English and not Russian, but suffice it to say that it does rhyme and it does make the Russians giggle!

Cool stories time now! So, there's the less active we've been working with. The first time we met with him was really the first time on my mission that I'd really asked for contacts. A contact is a person that is referred to you to teach. It was kinda awkward, because I didn't know what to say, but nevertheless  I asked him on my first or second week of being here in Balakova for contacts and he started with his story that he was old (he's 77, pretty old for Russian guys!) and that all of the people he'd knew had left and how none of his family wanted to hear. And then he paused and said "well, there are my neighbors …!" Woah, it works! The second time we had a meeting with him we asked him again for contacts and he started the exact same way, then explained that his neighbors were out of town and then paused again and said "well, you know, there is this lady who lives on the floor right below me!" She'd gone through some hard times (her 3 husbands and daughter had all died) and she's a pretty lonely grandma. This time he was even more excited to share the gospel with her than he was with his neighbors and asked if we all could go down and give her a Book of Mormon! Cool, right? Well, this past meeting we watched Finding Faith in Christ (man, such a good movie) and then we asked one more time. Well, he did the same spiel, nearly word for word, and then...gave us another contact! And this time he himself thought of how he could talk to her about the Church (by inviting her over to watch the movie with him!) and then he thought "well hey! I can do that for 2 others too!" He's so excited to share the gospel and he even gave his first talk in a really long time at Church this past Sunday. It's been way cool to work with him and a good evidence of the scripture "seek and ye shall find".

But an even great miracle happened on Saturday. So you know that our investigator got baptised and was the last member of the family to get baptized. Well the family also have some neighbors, including a 14 year old who is baptized actually!( The only one in her family), that saw this whole experience go down at the baptism. Saturday morning, while the mother of the girl who was baptized was walking the dog, 2 friends walked up to her and started talking. One burst into tears and said "You've got to call the missionaries right now! I want to be baptised! Can you do that? Can you call them?" and said "look, I know I need to quit smoking, and I'm working on that now. But when I quite smoking fully, I want to join the Church. Can the missionaries help?" Well of course we can! That's what we do! Elder Warkentin and I just about bounced off the walls after having gotten that phone call and now we're gonna be meeting with them nearly everyday to help prepare them for baptism. The investigator changed her work schedule so she can come to Church every Sunday and her friend is preparing to come every Sunday when spring time finally hits (should be in the next week or two I hope!). It's so cool that the girl who got baptized was able to be such a good example for others!

Also, that reminds me! She also had a cool experience on Monday apparently. So she came to work and all her colleage/galpals (as she calls them) were gathered together in the lunch room to have a confrontation with her. They said “ we know you've joined a bloodthristy cult that sacrifices cats and steals apartments and we're here to stop you!" Yipes! But man, she was a champion and just answered all their questions and explained why she quit drinking coffee and what happens at Church and so forth. Apparently no one was really that convinced by the end, but she was such a champion for handeling alll of that so well. She's the coolest!

Real quick for you Mom. That's a bummer to hear, but I guess Rebekah hasn't goteen my most recent letter yet (I sent it I think about a month bad on that one!), but I'm sure her parents will get it to her somehow. If you get the chance, please remind her that she's one of my best friends and she is gonna be one the absolute best missionaries there in Brazil. It'll be good to write her some letters from home as opposed to her writing from home to me for a change! I miss her already, but she's doing what God wants most. God be with you till we meet again, my friend. :) I haven't gotten the package yet, but it's probably just sitting in the office in Samara, so no worries! Everything should be worked out with that other request for a friend here, they apaprently already sent a friend request to you/me, so that's good :)

I gotta go now, so I'll talk to you all later! Have a great week and thank you so much for your prayers and love! 

I love you!
Elder Peterson

Sunday, March 24, 2013


March 18, 2013
"What's this green stuff" "Green chile!" "Why's it green? Looks funny" "Elder Davidov, just eat the burritto. It'll be good for you!"
Hey there everyone! :)

Oh my gosh, these past 3 weeks we have accumulated about a billion and 6 miracles. I mean it. Want to hear the final cool miracle of the girl we baptized? Of course you do!

So, we'd tried really hard (us and our ward mission leader) to find a place for her to get baptized and decided on a place called Russian Banya (you need to look up the nuances of a banya, it's pretty hilarious the traditions behind it). Essentially, a banya is like a sauna. We all gathered there early early in the morning (we woke up at 5:30 -shudder-) It was a group of about 12 people: The family, all 6 missionaries, President D (heh, that looks funny in English, I want to hear how you pronounce that after my mission) and a friend. Pretty solid group. Anyways, everything was all set, great music, great talk on baptism and then it was finally time for the baptism. But oh no!

The pool was too deep!

And when I say the pool was too deep I mean if I got in the pool and tried to stand it'd be up to my chin deep. Not gonna fly for a baptism. So, what was there to do? The only thing we could think of was to place one of the benches in the pool itself to give the father and his daughter something to stand on...but the bench floats! It was about the coolest and most heart tugging thing to see our brother try with all his might to push and force the bench under the water. He surfed a good number of times as he, unsuccesfully, tried to get the bench to stay down.

And then, he got an idea! 

We figured out that the bench could be wedged at an angle between one edge of the pool (along with the dad forcing it down with his feet) and a rung of the ladder that led into it. It was pretty crazy and it looked kinda like trying to baptize someone on a teeter totter, but it worked. She got baptized. 

I know it's just a funny little story, but think about it for a second. Here is a father who has waited for more than 6 years to see his daughter finally accept the Gospel. She had a dream, a complete change of heart and in the course of 2 really short week we all taught her the Gospel and prepared her for the covenant. All these things, and no matter the obstacles (and there were lots) the family pushed on. Now, finally, at the Banya itself, here is Brother K more happy than I've ever seen him struggling to overcome the last barrier keeping his daughter from being baptized...a too-deep pool. But no matter what, as funny of a testimony as it may sound, I know that the Lord always provides a way, even if it seems difficult for us like a floating wooden bench.

Needless to say, it's been a rock solid week. For the first time of my mission I got to work with an elder I'd never worked with before, Elder Owen who, coincidentally, is also from New Mexico! He lived in Albuquerque his whole life, but his parents just moved to Maine, so no one will actually be on that finally plane ride for me to Albuquerque. Oh well! I'd been saving my New Mexican food for such an occasion, so we made some super tasty burritos and had the privelage of feeding a Ukrainian New Mexican food for the first time. Although at first he was a skeptic, he loved it by the end. 

Maybe a goofy question, but I remember when I drove to school in the mornings that White Rock has a Russian sister city. What city is that? Chances are it's no where in my mission, but that'd be pretty cool if it was! 

I had a couple of reuqests for you that I think you'll like. The Wings just went home and, unfocrtunately, my camera's batteries were dead for the baptism. BUT! The Wings have pictures and by the time you read this letter they may or may not already be home. Regardless, if you could send them an e-mail and say hi for me (maybe talk to them by skype! They'd be tickled pink) and request the baptism photos you can see the latest of Elder Peterson's mission! In addition, one of my really good friends here in Balakova wanted to become my friend on facebook. She should be found on facebook as [  ] from the city Balakova (or, in Russian letters [if you can't find her on Facebook just e-mail her my homepage and that should be good. She knows a bit of English (and has google translate or me even if it came ot it) so you can write her a bit in English if you'd like :) She has a video of me and Elder Rekow singing last year that she wanted to share with you all.

One last request too, sorry for the bunches! Like you already said, Mom, Rebekah is leaving on her mission next week (yipes! That's so cool but so dang soon too!) If you could tell her goodbye for me, ask if she got my letter and request her mailing address(es) for while she's in Brazil, that'd be really spiffy. My friend Jeanette Zaleski is also going soon, so if you could do the same for her, that'd be real nice :)

Well, that's a good little summary of the week. Things are going really great here! The Wings are gone, which is really sad, but other than that there are no other changes for the district, so we all get to be together at least for another 4 weeks (this cycle is an unusally short one). Thanks so much for you help, prayers and support. More than ever I've really been able to see how your prayers and faith, along with those of Balakova, have added up to a real miracle. I sure do love you lots! Be good now :)

With love
Elder Peterson

Friday, March 8, 2013


March 4, 2013
Alright, who's the one who's been praying for us this week?

Yep, it's a pretty solid winner. This past week has definitely been one of the absolute best of my mission. I've only got a little bit of time, so I'll scrunch what I can into my e-mail!

So, the district leader meeting went SOOOOO good! It was like a zone conference, but almost better I'd say because it was so focused on just us figuring out how to help the mission grow and progress by tackling problems and figuring out resolutions for them on the council. In addition, I found out some great news from Orenburg! Elder and Sister Chepurov and still doing way great there in Orenburg AND I found out that the guy we baptized now has the priesthood AND he's sunday school president! Wild, right? He misses us lots, which means I've got to get workin on his letter! Another friend and her family are also doing well, which was wonderful to hear. I sure do miss my Orenburg :)

But that's not even the best part. Sister Kiestler and Sister Crane have been seeing miracles left and right in their work. Their main investigator stayed for all 3 hours of Church yesterday and he wants to take part in the activity that's happening on Friday! Woah snap! He's been reading the Book of Mormon and reading about it and he drew out the events of 1 Nephi 13 on a chalkboard just to make sure he got it when he met with the sisters. If everything goes according to plan, he'll be baptized on April 13th!

Meanwhile, in our part of the city, an investigator has been making incredible progress with praying and reading his scriptures. We've now committed him to read the Book of Mormon everyday and to discuss with God in prayer about setting a baptismal date. I feel really really good about his progress.

So get this, right? For the past few weeks me and Elder Warkentin have been receiving tons of referrals from members, less actives and investigators. A couple of weeks ago we got a family referred to us, a family that lives with a great active grandma in our branch. The father of the family had been hesitant about coming to church or meeting the Americans, so he's been putting it off and finally just said that he didn't want to meet with us. Sunday, however, a sister brought the family’s two kids. anyways, the kids loved it, but they took from Elder Warkentin a rock that looked like a useless rock but is really a fossil with some memories attached to it. So, after Church, we dropped by their home to get the rock and, lo and behold, the parents were also there! We sat down and talked for a bit, and even though at first the father was pretty wary of us, kinda giving us the cold shoulder, by the very end he was saying "Come on by on Thursday! Oh, and hey, can we come to the activity on Friday?" Needless to say, we bonded with the family really well and we'll see what good stuff comes from that all next week.

But that's still not even the best part! Get this. So, one of the counselors in the branch presidency, came to us saying "Hey, my daughter wants to meet with you and learn the Gospel." Well, yes please! I was a little skeptical though. She and her parents and brother are members who have been through the temple. Of the whole time the Wings have been here they've really only seen her once or twice since she's avoided really having meeting with the missionaries. She's heard everything, her parents have talked to her about it before a million times and now, out of nowhere, she wants to meet with us and learn the Gospel. I was thinking "what can you teach someone who knows it all already?" Anyways, I didn't know what to think of the meeting, but we knew everything was gonna be ok, so we were gonna play this meeting by ear and by faith.

We walk into the apartment, and there we see the daughter. She has, by her side, the Book of Mormon and just about every brochure you can think of (including the food storage one!) and she looks like she's about ready to cry. She told us "I want to be baptized before the Wings go. I'm ready to learn now. I feel empty inside and I know this is my answer." She proceeded to tell us that a few days ago she had a dream wherein she saw her deceased husband in white, telling her that he was ok, that he was in the next life and that people were teaching him correct doctrine and principles and that she needed to do the same now. She felt the Spirit in the dream, and she took time in talking to her parents and in looking at her life. Her favorite things to do are to shop and hang out with her gal-pals, but in looking at her life she felt empty inside. She looked at her parents life and the life of her brother and saw just how much they'd changed (they have a REALLY cool conversion story, but that's for another day). So, she made the choice. She's quit drinking coffee, which was the only thing holding her back Word of Wisdom wise. She's ready to pay tithing and to come to Church every Sunday. It'll be a sacrifice for her work wise, but she's got a plan for it and she's ready to come and be active. She cried so many times during that meeting. I was so taken aback. Here we have about 12 years of prayers, fasting and miracles pent up and this week, and especially yesterday, God opened the floodgates of miracles for this family and for us. She will be baptized on March 16th, if everything goes the way we hope it does. It's a real miracle.

It's days like Sunday, and just weeks like this in general, that really remind you of how merciful and all knowing God is. There's no doubt about it, the Lord works in His own time for the salvation of His children and in His own ways. It's hard to express how exhilarating and humbling it is to be in the right spot to see all these miracles happen. And it's not us at all. The Lord could have put any missionaries here at this time, I think, and these miracles would have happened. But He let me and Elder Warkentin be here to see it and be His instruments in bringing it to full actualization. 

So, what's the advice for this week? Go on a mission! It's really good for you! You see miracles and have good times. I really hope you, Mom and Dad, go on a mission...even more so I hope you go to Russia! Speaking of all of that, the Wings want to be at my homecoming, but they want to know when my homecoming will be. Do we know when it'll be or how that works out? That'd be spiffy :)

Thanks a bunch for your e-mail Dad! I'm gonna have to ask you the same question I've been asking Sean (and this is really for anyone in the family who wants to answer), but what exactly do you think I'd be good at? I've been thinking about it a lot too, and I want to take classes at BYU-I to figure out what I want to do, but any ideas would be spiffy. Ideas would be wonderful :)

Anyways, time is up (called it!) so I'll end that here. You all have a great week! I love you lots!

Love you always :)
Elder Peterson