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 mormon.org. 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