Finally I have time to write my weekly letter! I really haven’t written in two weeks though because I haven’t had a chance where I was allowed to because we skipped P-Day. I am just going to try and fill you in on all of the details of everything that has been going on.
The MTC was great and Brother Rutter told us some stories and was with a lot before we left. He is very nice and gave some great advice. I was able to finally get to Sunday and get through that. There was one meeting after the other about leaving and we had tons of pictures to take.
The next day, we got up at 4 and said goodbye with a handshake to the other sisters going to Novosibirsk and hugs for the elders of course. Our ride over was crazy. We were taken to the train station and we talked to people a little bit on the train but most everyone is Mormon or avoids us like the plague. Then we got to the airport eventually. We boarded our plane and we were off to Los Angeles!
Los Angeles was great and I had a window seat on the way there. It is amazing how big the city is and you can tell on an airplane at night because of all of the lights. Once we got to Los Angeles we got on a bus to get to another part of the airport. This man kept staring at me and eventually I said, “How are you?” then he wouldn’t look at me anymore. The other elders and sisters saw and said it was really funny.
We made our phone calls in the Salt Lake City airport and it was nice to have a conversation with family on the phone. Your arm and ear gets sore from pressing the phone so hard to your ear to hear but it is a funny experience. We boarded the Korean Airline and we were in for a treat. They have weird security. Well, weird everything really but you would be pampered to live there.
On the plane, I had the opportunity to sit by a girl from China. I asked if she spoke English and she said she did and then Sister Baum and I were at full attention. I sat next to the girl and Sister Baum was assigned the seat to my left. We talked to Flora about the gospel, gave her a Book of Mormon, talked to her about her culture, what she is doing, taught her some lessons and asked to be friends. We now will be emailing her about the gospel and I just found out that in one of our areas here in Russia that we have a member who is from China so he speaks Chinese. Hopefully something comes out of this. She was really nice.
About the flight. The flight attendants from Korea dress a lot different and it is kind of strange but most people actually find it cool or interesting. We were served weird food and the pop cans were in Korean which was crazy. I loved the meal where it was all fruit and a crescent roll. They kept bringing juice by mean and offering it and I am pretty sure that is how I survived the trip. I had mostly pineapple and guava juice. They have a lot of these juices in Russia too. They had really cool screens that could play games, watch movies, anything really. We weren’t supposed to use them as missionaries and our flight was 13 hours.
Sister Baum and everyone else slept most of the time. After you are done talking with people around you then as a missionary you can read and study a little bit or sleep. I studied a little bit but couldn’t fall asleep. I was stuck in the middle of a cramped row staring at the back of a seat for the last 10 hours with a few minor breaks. I didn’t sleep for 3 days but it was an adventure.
Eventually we arrived in Korea and it was interesting. The culture is different but the most interesting thing was the bathrooms. They have tiny toilets, more normal size toilets, remote control toilets, places to put your kids, etc. In fact, Elder Fletcher was too afraid to use them and I had to talk him into it because where else would he go.
Sister Baum was able to talk to someone going to Vladivostok in the airport and share some gospel lessons. We were waiting to find some food and it wasn’t great but I tried white hot chocolate with caramel. When we got on our last plane to Vladivostok, I had the opportunity to share the gospel with a man from there. He started a water bottle company two years ago and just got back from vacation.
I talked to the man about his beliefs and eventually gave him a Book of Mormon. I am not really sure what became of all of that but I hope it has a small impact or seed to grow for the future. Once we made it to Vladivostok, we met Elder and Sister Brinton. We met our companions briefly and we were already getting pictures. I am pretty sure I wasn’t smiling in a single one because of the lack of food and sleep.
The Brinton’s were very nice and things were crazy trying to get everything done. We had small devotionals and meetings about training and they took care of us at their lovely home. It was nice to shower after a few days and shave since I shaved right before I left but was a caveman when I arrived. The next day it was time for us to all leave to our areas! I had to repack and leave half of my stuff at the mission office and take one suitcase. We rode by bus 2 hours away to get to ours.
My new area is called Ussuriysk in English. Good luck with that one. My first day was great and I didn’t always know what was going but it went well. In fact, I almost never knew what was going on. I like our small new apartment and it is nice for it to be warm, small and cozy.
I have figured out how to do a lot of hard things already and learning words. My favorite way to learn is to read signs and find words that sound almost exactly the same. I have been able to study and plan really effectively because I have a real purpose and lots of things to study for. My purpose for doing things seems so much more real when it is in the field and it feels good.
We have had some good language studies as well and we went over how to make a language plan through preach my gospel. We have a lot of good goals in store! We went and helped a buhbooshka named Baba Alyevteena and she loves to talk. We helped her in her garden and shave gave me a nickname the first day as Oleg because she couldn’t figure out my “hard” name. Apparently it is good that she gave me one though because she doesn’t do that often with a lot of people and so she probably likes me already.
It was very funny to see her and Elder Bryson (Husband of the senior couple) argue in English while she was arguing in Russian. Elder Bryson is funny and likes to make jokes. I met him in English classes when I first got here. We were teaching Russians how to speak and talked about fruit. Well they were in for a treat because that happened to be one of my favorite subjects and they found that out fast.
So far I have been able to give lots of spiritual thoughts in Russian and I love to plan out what we will be doing during the week. We have talked about all of our investigators and I have had lots of ideas about how to help all of them and am excited to get to know all of them. It is really nice to apply things that I have learned throughout my life to my mission. There are a lot of things that we learn and wonder when we will finally get to use them and now is the time.
I am really excited to work hard and want to work hard to the point that everyone hears our names because we work hard and are annoyed of hearing about us. I want Elder Barney to leave at the climax of his mission. The president set up a competition for this month to see which area can get the highest percentage improvement for sacrament attendance. I want to strive for this!
I have had the chance of extending the baptismal commitment; quote the first vision, etc. It didn’t necessarily go as well as it could of but it planted ideas in the heads of the investigators. We are really close with one of our investigators named Sergei and I asked to meet on Sunday with him and Elder Osteler since the other two elders went to meetings. We struggled but were able to have a good lesson. He will be baptized as soon as he feels God is there and I asked him if he had been praying and he said yes and after further questioning I found out that he thanks God but does not ask for answers. I challenged him to do this and have been praying for him since. I told Elder Barney about our experience and hopefully something happens soon.
I have been able to cook different things so far and it is so nice. I have cooked chicken and French toast and made things when we have almost nothing. Today I am going shopping with a list so I can cook lots of things for Elder Barney. Surprisingly there are a lot of nice things to cook with here in Russia. They also have a lot of dairy and fruit products so I won’t die for now.
God has blessed me so much already and I can definitely see all of the blessings. I have felt so inspired and strengthened to do everything I need to. I just need to have faith to keep going. I have tried contacting a few times and it hasn’t been successful yet. One man said he was not interested in Russian then in English “ya gansta” and we also had someone who drove by in a car and said “Yankees go home” but his English was so bad that we couldn’t stop laughing later.
Sunday was great. We had several meetings and I didn’t understand much but it was good for me to practice Russian. We had a few teaching appointments and worked hard. I spoke in Sacrament and was able to do more than my testimony which is what I was asked to do. I don’t have much more time to write but things are great. Thank you for all of the emails. Happy Birthday to Dad and Hyrum!
About my companion:
Who is your trainer? Elder Barney
Where is he from? Draper, Utah
What have you learned from his so far? He gives great input, flexible and very nice
What does it look like? Small and feels retro to me like stuck back in the times with a few newer things of our time.
How is the weather? Rainy and sunny. I love it
How is the food? The food is alright so far and it is good because I can cook
How are your investigators? They are great! I am excited to teach them the gospel.
Are you in a ward or a branch? Branch
Now that you are surrounded by natives, how do you find your Russian? Alright and able to say more than I think but not super well.. yet!
How is your apartment? Small but cozy! I like it. The bathtub/shower is hilarious but I will be cleaning today!
Thanks for everything! –Elder Elwood