Sunday, July 28, 2013

good week, elder barney went home, being of service

Dear Family and Friends,
My last week with Elder Barney has been a good one. We got some good things done before he headed home.
I gave the spiritual thought at family night on Monday from Mosiah 2:17 and basically asked who are other people in our lives and then expounded off of that (the answer i eventually wanted was neighbors). Next i asked who our neighbors are (people next door, work with, go to school with, play with, etc), how can we love our neighbors (lots of good answers and then the answer at the end is by serving), then how can we serve our neighbors (sharing the gospel was the answer to continue the discussion but it is good to let members come up with other good ideas they can use as well), why do we share the gospel if we love our neighbors (because if we love our neighbors and want to serve them then we will want to share the gospel with them), what is bad about the gospel (the members said nothing is bad about it so that leads into the last question) and what is holding us back from sharing the gospel (the members discuss some things that make it hard for them to share the gospel which can be referred back to general conference such as overcoming fear with faith). I was told my Russian is very good so far and Sister Aytaleeyeva (Russian Sister Missionary) has been asking for help to learn some English when i see her and so she has been asking for some language learning ideas. We had a good amount of people at family night again so i was proud(: Afterwards, we gave Cveta a blessing because she was having bad dreams.
After English practice on Tuesday, we had stuff to do which was good because there was no one to talk to after because we decided we aren't talking much with William and Makceem anymore since they aren't interested in the gospel. Artyom, the priest in the branch, is getting ready to go to a big youth conference in Russia and he was acting nervous so we gave him a blessing after English practice and he was really grateful for it. 
We had two kids stop us and ask us what we were doing in Russia when we were on our way home. They seemed interested in the gospel at the beginning. One of the kids asked a bunch of questions about the gospel and we answered him but nothing ended up happening when we asked to teach more.
During district meeting this week, we talked about lift and drag which is something from zone conference. We talked about how airplanes need more lift than drag to take off and the less drag and the more lift that they have, the better it takes off. As missionaries, we need to look for the things that are causing drag and become more obedient but then also find things that make us lift so that we can take off.
We went to Sister Pyskol's apartment after district meeting. She asked on Sunday if we could come over on another day because she wanted to say bye to Elder Barney. We went over and had a good conversation with her and i shared a few verses with her from 2 Nephi. She had us stop by and pick up a treat the next day because the power had been off most of the day and she had something she wanted to make for Elder Barney. 
We had a lesson with a man named Vladimir. He came and he was super nice and showed us some pictures of his family. We showed him some pictures, talked about the gospel, the family proclamation to the world, and gave him a Book of Mormon and asked him to read it. After that, we gave him a church tour and he left. He is a super nice man and he is now a new investigator but we really need to plant a seed of faith in him.
We went and had a surprise visit with Yevgenni as our last event of that night. He hadn't been answering the domaphone or his phone so i came up with the idea to call a neighbor to let us in. We got in eventually and knocked on his door. He didn't answer so we knocked one more time just to make sure he heard and eventually he came.
Yevgenni said that he has been in the hospital. He couldn't talk very well since they had shoved a camera inside him and it was hard for him to say much. He said that he wasn't sure if he could come to church.
We headed over to Baba's house on Friday. We picked some stuff for the Bryson's at her garden because they helped her so much with it and she wanted them to harvest their plants. We talked with Baba and the Brysons inside and had brownies and helped translate. Elder Barney and the Brysons left so it was a good visit to do beforehand. She was also very happy they all came and i feel it was a very good service. 
We went to go stop at some addresses of previous potential investigators and had a great time contacting on the way. I started a conversation with a man named Valyera and we had a mini lesson with him. He was very nice and wanted to know more but wouldn't really give us any contact information unfortunately. We talked to some other people and felt like this part of our area will be super fruitful so we are going to work with it more in the future. We talked with another man named Sasha. I stopped him and i didn't think it was really going to go anywhere but we kept talking. Elder Barney testified and the man kept talking with us while he was with his girlfriend and then asked how we could meet with us again. I gave him an invite to church and he seemed enthusiastic to come when he can. He avoided giving us his number then i showed him the English practice invite because he tried to speak a little English as we were going and i had taped some English invites inside of the Sunday invites. 
We were so blessed with good contacting that we were enthused to do better. We talked to so many people that we didn't have time to actually do any stops to the people we planned but we almost got some new investigators and didn't have any appointments set up.
Saturday was a small day to get Elder Barney ready to go home. I helped him pack, did some studying, a little cleaning, cooking, and some packing of my own. We made a few stops then Sister Ayteleeyeva called and asked for a blessing so we headed over to the church and gave her a blessing because she hadn't been able to sleep.
After church on Sunday, Elder Barney and i got in the car with Zhenya and he dropped me off at the other Elders' apartment where i said goodbye to Elder Barney. We ate dinner and then headed out to some appointments. We went to Edik who is the husband of Sister Perfiliva. We had a lesson about things he is worries about and he is a good man. I shared with him the big picture of the gospel and tried to get him to make a baptismal date but he wasn't comfortable yet so he didn't. We gave Elder Ostler a blessing because he wasn't feeling well and we went to bed early. That was my week! We did some good service, gave some blessings, we were blessed with good contacting, i will be getting a new companion on Wednesday, and we are ready for another week! Love you all, Elder Elwood

Picture attachments:
1. Giant spiders that they have all over outside. You are fine as long as you don't walk into their web. There is no problems with them coming inside and i rarely see any bugs in the apartments of anyone ever and they aren't big or anything.
2. One miserable cat after the rain. 
3. A random building i saw that was interesting

Monday, July 22, 2013

busy week preparing for baptism

Dear family and friends,
This week has been busy because we were preparing Lev for baptism. After groceries last Monday, we went straight over to Lev's house even though it was P-Day. We had a great lesson with Lev. He said he was going to China the next day (he didn't end up going) then he said it was only for a day because he could ride a bus to China in two hours. We asked him if he wass ready for baptism on Saturday and he said okay let's do it and shook Elder Barney's hand. 
We gave him the commandments to follow the prophet, keep the word of wisdom, and to obey and honor the law of the land. He easily accepted all of them and is ready to go. We really reinforced the whole lesson even though he didn't seem to have much doubt about being baptized. We wanted to make sure he was super solid for baptism. 
We went to family night that night and it was pretty successful. We had President Shadruhen show up with his family and Sister Perfiliva showed up and brought a nonmember friend. Her friend seemed nice throughout family night and the sisters are hoping to teach her.
We woke up at 5 on Tuesday and got ready to go for the day. We headed over to the other Elder's apartments and i laid on the bed. I wasn't able to fall asleep because i was so hot but then Elder Ostler was nice enough that he came and plugged the fan in so it was blowing on me and i fell right asleep. We had our studies together and then we headed out to go to Pasha's house. Pasha wasn't there so we decided to contact back to our next appointment. We saw an old man sitting on a bench so we both had the idea to contact him so we did. He was really nice but not interested in the gospel. While we were talking, eventually more and more old men kept coming out to sit with him because they are all friends and eventually there were about 6 old men interested in talking to the Americans and their broken Russian but maybe one of them was almost interested. 
We couldn't understand them very well but they enjoyed talking to us. We hope to see them again when one of us or our companions better understand what is going on. They were nice enough to help us call a taxi when we needed to go though. We met with Yevgenni next. We taught him the last part of the plan of salvation. It was super hard and we struggled but we let him know at the beginning that we would talk slow and used a couple how to begin teaching points. 
Yevgenni was super nice throughout the whole lesson. We taught him then told him that he said he would come to church either last week or this week so he could see Elder Barney before he leaves. I told him that Elder Barney really wants to see him at church and would be super happy. He said we could call and remind him and that he would come and try to make it for 2 hours. We then talked about baptism. I told him i had a question and he let me word it slowly and carefully. I told him how important baptism was and asked what he thought. 
He responded by saying that it is hard and that there might be a conflict with his family so i repeated it with emphasis again. I asked him what HE thought about baptism and he said that he feels like it is important and that what we say is true. I then asked him if his family felt good about it, we helped him, and he felt ready, if he would be baptized on August 24 then i re-emphasized/asked again twice later to make sure he had said that. We had a great lesson and i told him Elder Barney would help review everything later. I asked when we could meet next and he said Sunday and then we talked and set up an appointment for Sunday.
The next day, I woke up at 3 and woke up Elder Ostler because i bumped the clock off the nightstand. Elder Ostler woke up so i asked him the time and he fiddled with his clock and giggled and said, "oh it is 3, we still have 2 hours left to sleep." Later i figured out that he didn't remember fiddling with his alarm clock and he turned the alarm off.
Luckily, i kept waking up and eventually woke up to tell Elder Ostler that our bus was leaving in 3 minutes. He tried to get up and i said that there was no way we were going to make it. The buses leave on time, he still had to get ready and then another 15 minutes to walk there. I told him to get ready as fast as he could since i was pretty much ready in 5 minutes.  We finally got out to the bus station and i saw a bus so we quickly got on. I asked the driver if it was for sure going to Vladivostok and he said yes so i got us two tickets.
I didn't know exactly how to get to the mission office but i had a general idea to get us there and i was very confident. I found a bus stop but it was facing the wrong way so we walked a little while and finally found one when Elder Barney called to make sure that we were getting there. Eventually we made it to the branch in Vladivostok with 10 minutes to spare. It was a great zone conference and i took lots of notes.
After zone conference, Elder Barney went through some of his stuff, i picked out a winter jacket for later and then had a brief interview with the President.We missed the last buses to Ussurisk and so we headed to the train station. We missed the last train to Ussurisk so we went to the assistants' apartment and sent everyone else to other apartments as well.
We got ready the next day then headed to the train station. We all got tickets and boarded the train. On the train, Elder Crave went to contact some people. While he was talking to one man, the woman next to him seemed irritated but then she became super nice and they had a great relationship by the end. Another lady who just happened to be on the city bus with him the other night got up and yelled to the people not to listen but they did anyway. Apparently she did the same thing on the bus the other day too. I didn't just want to sit there while everyone else was sleeping so I got up and sat by him and he looked at me and i told him that i was his companion. I knew i couldn't say or understand much but i said a few things and was just there for support.
Elder Barney got up and sat by the lady who was yelling previously which got Elder Ostler to wake up a bit and they both talked to her to prevent her from saying anything further. We had a good conversation and invited them to things and i think Elder Crave got one of their numbers for a referral.
Eventually i saw a man on the train and there were only two other people on the train and the man was finally awake so i wanted to go talk to him. I went to the man and was talking to him in Russian but he wouldn't respond. Finally he said in a very sickly voice that he can't hear well. I gave him a pamphlet and slowly/loudly said i wanted to give him it and hoped he heard. He smiled and took it and just smiled the rest of the train ride. I felt good afterwards but it didn't feel like much.
We came back to the apartment and ate and got cleaned up. We headed over to Lev's house and gave him a lesson to finish up everything he needed to know for baptism. He received everything well when we talked about the rest of the commandments and committed. We talked to him about details of the baptism and prepared him for the interview. It was a great lesson.
Afterwards, we were headed over to another appointment. There was this lady that was very interested in us. She walked with us a while and we talked. It was interesting but i didn't understand a lot. Elder Barney later said that she was interested in interviewing us. We told her we couldn't but we guessed that she had her camera rolling and sitting in her bag facing us the whole time. We guessed this after talking with her. She gave me her number and said to call her if we found out if we could have our names published. 
On Friday we went to the branch to get Lev's interview done. Lev showed up a half hour late but all was good.. eventually. His wife hadn't signed the permission form yet. We all watched the restoration video and we did the interview anyway! He was ready to go except for his wife's permission.
Kostya showed up. He is a member from Vladivostok and is very solid. Kostya stayed with us throughout the day and it was good. We started planning and then we eventually went to dinner with Kostya at Country Pizza. After Country Pizza we went over to Lev's house with Kostya and we had a long discussion with his wife, Ereena, who finally signed his document so he could be baptized and she also decided to come. We went back to the church and planned some stuff for the baptism then we took Kostya to the Bryson's apartment and came back and planned for the big day.
We left early the next day and went to fill up the font. Elder Barney couldn't get the pump working so i started filling the font with buckets. We called the other elders and got the pump working while we used buckets to fill it up as well. We got everything ready and Lev was all ready to go.
We went through the program and Sister Alla read a poem as her prayer and it was strange. Then the baptism went well and we ended with the hymn Teach Me To Walk In The Light. We all had refreshments afterward. We are proud of Lev for being baptized. We were also very glad to have Kostya from Vladivostok at the baptism and he performed a special musical number on the piano which was How Great Thou Art.
On Sunday at church, Lev showed up and he received the Holy Ghost. Lev stayed through priesthood today and that was the first time he has ever done that while i have been here. I am so glad to have him come but he will be leaving for a few weeks on a short vacation. He is a great new branch member already so we are going to make sure we keep in contact while he is gone.  We headed out later and stopped at Sister Pyskol's house. We talked to her about paying tithing and she does but it was a good, small review. We gave her the sacrament and we headed out again.
It was raining all day and super hard so it was a wet day. We met up with Artyom and stopped at tons of places for investigators and branch retention but nobody answered. Artyom slipped and fell in a mud puddle but he was alright and got cleaned up at the church. It has been a busy week preparing for a baptism and being in Vladivostok so we got a lot of things done! Love you all! -Elder Elwood

Lev was baptized this last week.  I hope that all of you will join our family in praying for lev's wife that her heart will be softened and that she will join the Church and that they can be supportive of each other.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

new posts

HI, I am Jacob's mom and I have gotten behind.  I apologize.  Here are the last few letters and pictures from him and I hope you enjoy them as much as we are.  He would love to hear from any of you.

pictures of jacob and the area where he serves

These are pictures of Jacob in his new wool coat, the pizzeria that they go to and the owner is an investigator, a church, the ocean and a ferris wheel, the city

jacob's letter

On Monday Elder Barney and I went to the Chinese market. I found a nice lighter jacket but still really warm and got it for $68.75. It will probably work great as a winter jacket in Utah. Elder Barney has the same jacket but it is grey and he spent around $80 on his. I really like mine and am excited to wear it. I bartered with the lady and pretended to want another one and then brought the price down after she said she wouldn't go lower than $80. 
We went to family night and we had a lot of fun with the members. We played the hide the pen game and i have been lucky to find it in the room very fast every time. It was great to have different missionaries with us that haven't been to this area (Elder Crave and Sister Morgan) and it helped with the members.
A lady named Zeenaeeda needed help with her garden while the sisters were gone for a couple days on transfers so we went and helped her on Wednesday. Her garden just outside of the city. We rode a bus and then walked to her garden. We found out really fast that we were paying for her bus ride when she walked right off the bus without paying and the bus driver and us were both really confused. 
We went and dug out a bunch of weeds and planted potatoes for her. The area was very pretty to look at.
We headed back and cleaned up and our landlord was ready to meet soon. I had done a little cleaning during dinner to make the apartment look nice. The landlord came he collected our money and said that he wanted to bring someone into our apartment because he wants to sell it. The people had left so they didn't look that night but we might have to look for a new apartment soon or we will have a new landlord i am not sure. 
English was quite interesting on Thursday. We had a man show up with another man who has been coming every week for the last few weeks. The man came and he was older and he was very fun to have there.
The man's name was Valyera. He asked my name and i told him and then showed him. He told me that it must be Russian then he asked if i was Russian and i told him no but he said it sounded very Russian (we are speaking in English). He also couldn't comprehend why we were called elder in Russian. Throughout English he kept telling me how my name was really great and similar to his then he said, "How can you not be Russian? Why are your eyes so dark? You are Russian!" I told him i was just fine with that. There was some really funny things said throughout English. The man talked about how Russia will be the 51st state and i told him it would make a great new state. I also told him he was 28 every time he said he was old and he liked that as well. For some reason he was talking about money for a little while and kept handing me bills. We talked about food and it went silent for a minute and he said "I love BBQ!" and everyone busted up laughing. The whole time he kept leaning over and asking me things so it was funny. 
We invited the man back. He is a librarian and knows a lot about his history. He said we were very friendly and there were lots of hilarious things that he talked about. 
We went to Country Pizza after English because it is the 4th of July and Alex wanted us to come and we were hoping to get his number so we can get a new investigator. We got there and the restaurant was full. Alex was wearing a really funny costume that we got a picture with.
Our waitress spoke some English because Alex told her to talk to us. He came over and made sure she was speaking English as well. She spoke alright and she was really proud of it. At the end she tried to ask us if we liked it and said would you like the pizza house. It was really funny and it took us a minute to understand her. We gave her an English card and gave Alex a bunch for his friends when we walked out. 
Alex gave us some red, white, and blue balloons as we went out. There was a man trying to sing these English songs that are old and i have never heard of in the restaurant. Alex brought us two huge waters at the beginning and said, "two huge waters" then he smiled and said, "on the rocks." On the other days we had a lot of missionary things like planning, church, the usual things, etc. 
Well that's about all for this week. Hope you all had a great 4th of July! -Elder Elwood

Jacob's July 14th letter a week of miracles

Dear family and friends,
It has been a week of many miracles and successes! I have been staying very busy with Elder Barney and we have served very diligently. Here is my update from the last week:
On Monday we went and I got my second Russian haircut but this time I spoke to the lady in Russian. She asked me how I wanted it done and we were able to understand each other enough during the haircut that it turned out how I wanted. 
Tuesday was an interesting day and probably one of the best so far. We made pizza with my recipe for lunch. The pizza was not very good in my opinion because we decided not to use the yeast because there was a dead fly in it and it looked old. We made a non-yeast recipe and there were a few other minor changes that should make the pizza a lot better next time.
After lunch we went around to visit a lot of people and give lessons. We decided to really focus on first strengthening the members by getting people to church and activities. Sister Pyskol was the first person that could meet. We met with her and talked to her about helping her grand daughter, Natasha, get to church. We met mostly because she didn't answer on Sunday when we called for the sacrament and wanted to make sure she was doing alright. 
After that we went to the Nadyezda family. We talked to them about coming to church also. For each of our stops that day we tried to get a referral by using the lesson and offering to help and asking them whom they would know. We are going to call their family on Sunday and remind them to come to church because they are working on it but the reminder would be helpful for them.
After dinner we headed to English and that is when the day got even more interesting. We got there and were helping members with things and people started coming in early for English. We had Lawrence, who came on Thursday and was the really funny person that liked to talk a lot and William brought him. Then William also brought another friend with him. We had Mr. Eugene there as usual, who made comments about some things we said not being realistic and he doesn't think about stuff like that and pretty much couldn't comprehend anything unrealistic. 
We also had this person who was new for the first time and didn't know English as well as the others but wanted to be in the more advanced group anyway. He had just gotten out of the army and was glad to be there. We also had a few other people and it was very interesting. Before English practice, William said they brought a guitar and asked Elder Barney if he wanted them to bring it in and play for part of English practice. Elder Barney said that it would be great. Elder Barney was doing something on the computer while i was watching William and his friend bring in this huge amp and guitar. I asked Elder Barney if he knew what he had gotten himself into and he said, "why, what happened?". 
We started English and Lawrence pulled out a ton of Russian quotes (probably like 40) that he had tried to translate using google translate. He said he knew they weren't translated well and he wanted some help and we said we would talk to him afterwards. I told them that we would give them the last 10 minutes of English practice to play guitar and they were satisfied with that. 
We had an interesting conversation during English practice and talked about what they would do if they could go back in time and most people didn't want to but others wanted to change something about their past. When we first started English we had everyone introduce themselves and say something fun they did in the last week. William said that he went and played sports with the Mormons and it was awesome. He says he is atheist (he is 28 but looks 18) but he started coming to activities, inviting friends and he stayed for the spiritual thought after English. We have his number and he is currently a potential investigator.
At the end of English practice, Lawrence went and played on the guitar. He made Elder Barney sing Yesterday by the Beatles and it was very interesting to listen to. We had Lawrence singing the lyrics but he had been trying to imitate the singer so he suddenly sounded like he had less of an accent but you could hear him trying so hard at the same time and he still had a small accent. Then at some parts his accent would come back in heavy while Elder Barney was trying to read the lyrics and it sounded super funny together. It was funny how they asked Elder Barney if he had heard the song then made him sing it.
After English i gave the spiritual thought. I talked about why God allows bad things to happen then i ended by saying that God loves us and by talking about our purpose on Earth. This apparently got Lawrence thinking. After our thought, Elder Crave went and played a little on the guitar with some of the people after English and Sister Perfiliva was talking to Elder Barney and me about ideas from how we celebrate Pioneer Day because we might do a branch activity based on it. I gave her a few ideas and she liked them a lot so we will see what happens.
After that we went and talked with Lawrence because we promised him several times we would help him with English things and he kept saying he was interested in our religion. He says things that kind of seem uneasy at first and we think he is going to say something bad but then he says something that agrees with the church beliefs every time and surprises us. 
He said many things about how he had studied our religion a little bit and he sees that we have much conviction and that we have such a strong faith in our church and that he wants to know more. He said that there are so many religions but that ours seems like it has more truth than any other religion and kept saying different things like that. He asked if we could teach him about it and asked for our number and we asked for his. He said before he left that if we could help him with this then he would help us ten times back and was super serious about it. It was a very interesting conversation and we are going to let the other elders teach him.
We went and had a lesson with Artyom about home teaching and set up some appointments for the next day when we had an exchange. We surpassed some of our goals so it was an amazing day. After everything was done, I came back with Elder Crave and we planned. It was a good day and i missed a lot of details because it was so packed and busy.
The next day, Elder Crave and I had great studies and it was fun being with him for the day and doing things. We went out and were more successful than Elder Crave thought we would be and we were busy again. We went and had a lesson with Volva first. During our lesson with Volva we reviewed with him the first four commandments. We asked him questions and made sure he knew that we were reviewing. He said he didn't have any questions and he was just good with everything we said. It was a good lesson and i spoke a good amount of Russian.
After our lesson with Volva, we headed out to do our drop by lessons. We walked way far out to the edge of the city and finally we arrived at Sister Shor's house. She was there and we talked to her about her daughter who is on a mission then we shared an article out of the Liahona. Afterwards we went and got water for her and there were a bunch of little boys playing with the pump and anxious to help when we went to fill up our water. 
We headed over to another man's house who was an investigator. He didn't answer so we got someone to open the door so we could go into the apartments and leave a Liahona at his door with a note. We went to put it on his door and right as we turned around, he opened the door naked but poked his top half out and said just a minute. We talked with him and he is lonely but Elder Crave is hoping to get him to church eventually. 
Finally we took a bus back and went to Elder Crave's apartment. We had 20 minutes till Elder Barney was going to call so we could meet back up. We hadn't really had dinner except for a candy bar so i told him we could relax, eat or i could help him bust out some cleaning. He asked if i would help him clean and i said yes i would. I asked him what he wanted to clean and he said the study room because that is where he needed the spirit to study.
During the day with Elder Crave i was surprised because he was taking notes on me all day especially during companionship study because apparently he was learning so much. He just kept listening to my ideas and just thought i had good stuff i guess. We met back up with Elder Barney and went home for the night.
Thursday was a great day of miracles. We had district meeting and we went and talked about getting people to church. All of our companionships have been working really hard on getting people to church this week, Sister Brinton happened to call earlier in the week and say that we were working towards 400 people at church on Sunday as a mission so this was already a good week to do it since we were working extra hard already this week. Then we planned to talk about it at district meeting and work for the rest of the week with it and we have already had great successes and miracles during the week.
We went to Pasha's house after district meeting. We have been trying to meet with him, stop by, call, etc and haven't been able to meet with him. Finally we stopped by again since we happened to be closer to his house than Yevgenni and he was there. We went in and he had a nice computer sitting there so after we talked about his life, i asked if we could share an I Am A Mormon Message off of We had looked at them a couple weeks ago to see if we could share some more often. We used one today and it was good because he plays music a lot and is in a band. He thought it was cool because Brandon Flowers plays music and had a good life but decided he wanted something better so he went for it. We invited him to church and i asked if we could call him on Sunday and he said why not so that was a success that we could call him.
We had some kids that said hi in English as we left Pasha's house. We talked to them for a minute and they understood a little English and talked in Russian as well. There was probably about 8 of them and they were interested in English so i gave all of them an English practice card because they all wanted one. We hurried to get to the church and we stopped by the store nearby and grabbed some dinner. English was good that day and nothing unusual. We talked about a variety of things. 
When we first got there, William showed up and Sister Morgan showed up after. She asked him about how they greet and hand shakes. He was explaining that normally girls really only greet by talking but he said by the mouth. Sister Morgan said oh goodness and left.
I had to explain to William that it sounded like kissing and he kept saying it was about talking. I explained that it sounds like kissing and he said oh. After that i went and made sure Sister Morgan understood his struggle to say it so he wouldn't feel awkward. William said that he wants to be married to a religious girl so that she has good morals. I thought that was interesting since he doesn't believe in God right now so he says.
The people we went to visit after English had apparently moved so we got a taxi. Elder Barney didn't remember Yevgenni's address so we got dropped off by Lev's house. We stopped by Natasha's house and didn't go in but she said she has Sunday off so she will be coming to church. That was another miracle since no one can even talk to her and then she told us she was coming to church before we said anything.
Yevgenni wasn't home so we came back and planned. While we were planning, we got a phone call from Elder Clark and he had a referral for us. We had tons of backup plans suddenly when we didn't even think we could fill in one spot of time. We had miracles just while planning.
On Friday, we had our studies and in the middle we had to stop and go to the church. Sister Demchenka called and said that some of the city authorities wanted to stop by the church and find out about it. They showed up and looked around and Sister Demchenka gave them a tour. 
The lady was very interested by what we do and asked a lot of questions. When she left, we gave her a bunch of books and pamphlets she asked for and she was interested in getting to know more about Mormons.
We went to Yevgenni on Saturday and he just happened to be coming home from the doctor so that was a miracle to meet with him because we had been trying for weeks. We asked if we could meet shortly and he took us inside. We taught him the first part of the plan of salvation after showing him our families. I talked about Elder Barney leaving and said that we wanted him to come to church before he leaves. He said that he will try hard to come either this week or next week before he leaves which is a huge step for him. He always gets excited and brings his Book of Mormon in during both meetings i have been to.
We stopped in at Country Pizza later in the day and asked if Alexander (the man we always talk to) was in and the girl said yes I am Alexandra. We told her no and we wanted Alexander and she took us to another Alexandra and finally she said that he wasn't in. I was thinking about how many people with the name Alexander(ra) could there possibly be.
We got to the church on Sunday and got stuff done with not too many problems. We called a lot of people we had stopped to visit to give lessons and invite them to church because they said it would be helpful if we could call and remind them and then they would come. We worked super hard this week to get people to church. Sister Morgan wanted a blessing so we gave her one then Sister Aytelova also then wanted one so we gave both of them blessings. Sacrament meeting started and Lev showed up but this time he brought his wife. We asked her to come to church and she said she couldn't but yet she showed up. During sacrament meeting, Lev found a baptismal service program in his hymn book and kept looking at it and talking to his wife about it so i thought that was something good.
Sacrament meeting was smaller than i have seen it before but we were glad to have our two investigators show up and know all is well with them. We also knew that even though it was small, we tried our hardest all week and Lev's wife showed up so we still saw the little miracles. I showed Volva how to pass the sacrament today for his first time and did it slow and carefully so he could follow and he did a great job and is a great new member. After sacrament we went and set two members apart for their new callings and they seem excited to do the things they have been asked to do.
The sisters came up to us and told us that there was no sunday school teacher for one of the classes and that they didn't prepare anything and weren't ready to teach a lesson. I said we are missionaries and are always ready. Then i looked in Sister Roomyantseva's class and no one was in there yet. I suggested that we could combine classes today since there was no one in her class so Elder Barney asked and that's what we did.
We gave the lesson in priesthood and went over some of the priesthood duties to help the priesthood holders in the branch. After church we went and did some clerking stuff and held branch council. This was the first time we have had branch council since i have been here but Elder Barney had me sit outside the door so i am not sure how it went. I talked to Artyom while the meeting was going on and we had a good conversation about cooking and he helped me with some words.
When we got home i had Elder Barney make some chicken while i made homemade fries and made banana bread batter to bake it later. This time i used the Paula Dean recipe i asked my mom for. After dinner i kept trying to call people with Elder Barney so we could meet a few last goals for the week. No one could meet and so we headed to Sister Pyskol and gave her the sacrament and a small lesson. We didn't find anyone on the way back so we worked on the branch retention plan while the bread was baking. The bread was a lot better than the recipe i used last time and was sweeter so i liked it.
My Russian has been getting better. The last few days I have been able to understand things and say things really well and it is a good blessing I have been able to receive. Love you all! -Elder Elwood

June 30th letter from Elder Jacob

Dear family and friends,
It has been another great week here in Ussurisk, Russia. On Monday we were able to go to family night one more time at the Bryson's house. Sister Braithwaite and Elder Lyman bore their testimonies since Elder Lyman is going home to Texas and Sister Braithwaite is going to another city for her transfer. Sister Bryson made the treats for family night and made brownies and cinnamon rolls. She really put a lot of work into making treats that day before they go to Nakhodka.
We headed to Razdolnaya (in Russian the city name means far-flung or carefree) on Tuesday to teach Dima. Dima is the son of Brother Popkov whom we went to visit last week in high hopes of teaching his son. We went and Dima was there. We taught a great lesson and he committed to everything we asked and said he wanted to be baptized. He is a very nice kid and well mannered. 
On the way to Dima's house our bus broke down. We had to wait for 40 minutes for another bus in the middle of nowhere and it was rather funny. The things that happen are always random but never unexpected. Welcome to Russia!
We met with the Shatilovs on Wednesday night. I had prepared a lesson to get them ready for the broadcast which they will view on Sunday. I used Preach My Gospel and we read a few selected paragraphs together from the sections The Importance of Members and Go About Doing Good. I committed them to look for service to give every day and to prepare to do the things the broadcast tells them about and think about why we are having the special broadcast. They committed to it and we told them to pray for opportunities to serve and share the gospel and the Lord would give them. 
Friday was a long but interesting day because we went to Vladivostok for a leadership meeting for Elder Barney. We woke up early and went to the bus station. Once we arrived, i was temporarily with Elder Jukes. We went contacting and during the first few hours nothing happened. We had lunch then went way far on the other side of the city. We had people take handouts and a few talk to us but that was about it. It was hard to find men that would even want to talk to us (19 year old men) so we were rejected a lot and i enjoyed it.
We met Sister Morgan whom will be the newly assigned sister here in Ussurisk. She is very nice and we helped her take her things onto a city bus. I have never seen a bus more stuffed. At each stop no one would get off the bus and more people would get on every time till the very end of the city. I would say there was probably at least 60+ people on a small city bus. 
After we made it onto the bus to take us from Vladivostok to Ussurisk, their was bad construction traffic so it took us 3 hours instead of 2 to get back. We helped the sisters take their suitcases to their apartment and we had a very nice taxi driver who was very helpful to us and we gave him a couple handouts. We arrived home a lot later than planned so we quickly planned, ate and went right to bed to be on time.
Saturday was also a great day. We had our studies but then had to leave to go do some service for Sister Demchenka. She works for a day care and needed us to fix up some rooms. We (our district) took everything out of the rooms and painted the walls then we cleaned the floors and organized everything back inside. We had a blast painting as best and fast as we could.
Before we made it to the service project we were waiting for the other missionaries so we could show them where to go. A man was walking his dog to take it to the bathroom. Elder Barney said, "That dog is retarded". I looked and couldn't stop laughing so i had to turn my head. At first i thought the dog was drunk but i couldn't figure out what was wrong with it. The dog kept swaying/shaking like a little kid that doesn't know how to use his legs and then one of the dogs legs would randomly come off the ground so it was doing a weird shaking and hopping walk and running into all sorts of things. It tried to poop but the dog fell over so it had to walk at the same time. It is really hard to explain how funny it was. The owner was completely oblivious to his dog's problems and then another man came up to us and tried to sell us some stray dogs that were running nearby.
After service we called a taxi so that we could get to lunch. When the taxi arrived, the driver just happened to be Volva (The most recent baptism in the area). I forgot that he drove taxis as his job but he drove us to Country Pizza. There we were able to see Elder Lyman (now brother Lyman) and his mother because they are spending some time in Russia before he goes home. Volva was able to see Brother Lyman one last time too which is nice because he was the one to baptize him so it was all meant to happen today. 
Country Pizza was too full at the one we were at so they made a reservation for us at the other one. We got in taxis again and headed over to the other one. We were in luck again because the owner was sitting outside of the restaurant waiting for the reservation. The owner speaks English, German, and Russian so it wasn't hard to communicate with him. His name is Alex and we were able to talk with him for a while. 
Brother Lyman had his mother bring a texas license plate to put in the restaurant (since there are different license plates but a lot are missing and the restaurant is American based). He was very pleased with the gift and he sat with all of us to talk. We invited him to come to English practice and he was super excited to know there was somewhere to go practice. We are hoping he will come and i decided he would make a great member. He was very nice to put American flags in our pizza, show us a few things, sit and talk with us, and he even invited us back for the 4the of July. Wish you all a good week! -Elder Elwood 

June 24th letter from jacob

Hello Everyone
It has been yet another great week here in Ussurisk. We worked hard and had some great successes. We met with the Shatilov's (a family in the branch) and we taught the plan of salvation and asked several questions to try and get a referral. They didn't know of anyone so we invited them to make a new friend this week.
I gave some examples of what they could do and specifically to Artyom then i did a demonstration with him. In the end i suggested that he complimented, showed interest, and invited someone to an activity. 
We were able to help a lady in our ward this week too. Her name is sister Alla and she needed help painting. We went and painted a room and it is a lot different painting in Russia. We just put one coat of paint on the walls and painted around everything in the way. It was great and she was pleased so we were too.
Thursday was a really great day this last week. We had weekly planning spread out in big chunks of the day because we had a couple lessons. Planning went well as usual. We had a great lesson with Lev and helped him understand prayer better because last time he said he didn't understand it very well and we were starting to review commandments.
We went over to a family in the branch and taught a kid who just turned 8. We taught him a bunch of simple principles and started teaching him some things so he can be baptized soon. His family isn't super active but they are super  nice so hopefully their son will help them come to church. At the end of our lesson the mom asked where his brother was. He said in Russian, "He is sleeping." She then asked how since he has a crib and he wasn't in it. Then the 8 year old pointed and said, "like that." (also in Russian). We all looked on the side of the couch and his brother was lying on the hard floor sleeping in a really funny position. 
Artyom came to the church on Friday and we helped him with Duty to God. We had an idea and we tied Duty to God in with home teaching since there is a section for that. We thought it would be great if he could find someone else and go home teaching with them so we gave him a list and hopefully he will get started. It will be great because we have a lot of less actives, we will have people home teaching, it can help the missionaries find people and we could even go with him sometime.
After we were done helping Artyom, we had told him we wanted him to help at Baba's house. He came with us and we introduced him to Baba and he helped us cut a ton of wood. Baba liked him and we thought maybe he could come more to help her which would be good service opportunities for him. 
Sports night was great. There was a bunch of branch members but we also had all of the other missionaries this time. We were able to play a Frisbee game this time. We found a frog during sports night and that was fun. One of the girls in the branch brought her bunny which was fun too. I think it was good for her because she likes it but also because the branch members showed a lot of attention and this girl needs it right now. We went to the branch and gave Sister Aytelova a blessing again so that she could do the things she needs to.
Sunday was also another great day. We went and made sure everything was prepared before sacrament meeting. President and Sister Brinton came and everyone was in a great mood. During sacrament, everything ran smoothly.  Elder Lyman gave a talk because he is leaving to home soon. Before that Sister Braithwait also gave a talk because she is being transferred. I am not exactly sure what all of what they said was but they had powerful testimonies.
Sister Brinton spoke and expressed a lot of enthusiasm about how great the people of Ussurisk are and some other good things. She thanked the missionaries here and then talked about how the members are also missionaries. She finished and gave us a special performance on the piano and it was beautiful. She played If You Could Hie to Kolob.
President Brinton was last and he also was very enthusiastic. Many tears were shed around the sacrament room as he announced that Elder Bryson is the new branch president in Nakhodka so he probably won't be here much longer. There was a great feeling when he announced that we will have a new senior couple in August. The new couple is from St. Peterburgh so they are Russian. They are strong members and will really help here and it is what this area needs. They also speak English really well so it will be perfect. 
After church we were able to take the sacrament to Sister Pyskol. She has been gone and not answering the phone the last few weeks so we haven't had the chance to take her the sacrament. She is a very nice lady and we always try to offer help if we can. I listened to the broadcast which was on Monday for here and it was great. There was much said and i am not sure what is going to happen here yet but some new things will happen as the mission president directs. Love, Elder Elwood

This is jacob's letter from June 16th

Dear Everyone,
Monday was a very good day. I was able to write a lot of friends and family some long letters and hope everyone in America had a great Sunday on my Monday. 
After email i went and was able to get my first Russian haircut. Elder Barney helped explain that i wanted 8 mm on the sides and finger length on top. After cutting and washing and cutting again and a few other weird things, my haircut looked pretty good and even normal. I was glad that my first experience has been good.
I was able to get everything done very smoothly on P-Day Monday and it was a very good day. I tried to pay for something on Monday because they wouldn't accept a larger bill that Elder Barney had. They looked at the money strange and gave it back. I was confused and it turns out that i had found a bunch of money in the apartment that was not in use. They had changed the coins so i was carrying around unaccepted money. Elder Barney was wondering where i had all the coins and said to keep them.
We went and had family home evening with at the Bryson's house on Monday. Elder Bryson talked about the three things that every new member needs that is from President Hinckley. A friend, a calling, and nourishment. He talked about how we all are new converts in a way and how we need to make sure we are receiving all of those as well.
After that we played a game called 4 people on a couch. Everyone thought it was so fun that we just kept playing until it was time to go. I think it was really fun time and good bonding for the ward members and investigator Sergei.
Monday night through Tuesday night i had my first exchange and it was with Elder Lyman. We had a good exchange through Tuesday and did the same things i normally would for the most part. It was good to hear his perspectives and to go and teach a member family i don't get to talk to a ton because they are not in my area.
We talked about patriarchal blessings with Artyom after English on Tuesday. It went super well. He is a great man in the ward and always fulfills his duties even though he is the only young man or priest in the branch.
We had a very good lesson with Sergei on Thursday. He read 3 nephi chapters 11-19 and gave a lesson about Christ. It was very good and he did an excellent job. He put a lot of work into it. 
Thursday was a super great day. We had several people stop us on the street and just thought we were great people. It was really good and we had some great opportunities. 
We had a great baptism with Lev and the lesson went very well. We committed Lev to baptism and he progressing so well. I thanked God for all our opportunities that day. It was really great and i asked for more and so that we can use our opportunities better. 
During district meeting we talked about planning, finding, and teaching. There were some really great things we are working to apply and that will really help us. I am so thankful for the great things that have happened this last week and i can see progress being made here in Ussurisk.
I am so thankful for the things that i have prayed for and received from God. It wasn't right away but eventually, in his time, i received what was needed here. I am thankful for opportunities and they should be used not taken for granted.
Friday was a great day. We had a baptism for a man named Volva. Elder Lyman baptized him and the baptismal service was good. We had several investigators come and say it was good and President Bryson and Sister Bryson came. We are glad to have a new member in our branch and on Sunday Volva was able to receive the Holy Ghost during sacrament meeting.
This week has been yet another great week here in Russia and we are working to achieve higher and higher goals by helping others receive the gospel. I still hope things are going well wherever you are at. -Elder Elwood