My family!! I can’t believe I am finally in my Russia!!! And now the MTC feels like a blur and pre-mission? I have no idea….it’s very strange to think about such things but ohhhhhhh how i love it here!!!! one of the hardest things is trying to write russian words in “english” but I’m pretty sure you’ve been looking up the wrong city…..I think it’s spelled “Ryazan” but it is my new home and yes, a several hour bus ride south of Moscow. I have so much to tell you but will try to make it comprehensible….I’m sure no one else wants to hear my rambling so feel more than free to condense this as you please before you send it out! BUT I was made to be in Russia! It is SO beautiful!! there are forests and big trees everywhere which I wasn’t really expecting! Even in the middle of big cities–there are trees EVERYwhere and it’s so green and flowers grow like weeds! The buildings are HUGE and still from Soviet days so they are efficient with their space haha but there are colorful temples (Russian Orthodox temples) and theaters everywhere ahhh I can’t explain it. but I love my companion–C. Daniel. She’s from Fullerton! But lived in Hong Kong, Paris, and Saudi Arabia and is fluent in French, studied Fremore nch/History teaching at BYU and leaves in about 4 months. She’s a master at Russian and SO patient with me and also the queen of obedience with i LOVE. She is an answer to my prayers….Ryazan is a big city with tons of people and they are all the sweetest people in the world. News flash for everyone who told me Russians were mean: fallacy!!! They are SO kind and loving and HELPFUL–they love to serve and help out. They do, however, where “masks” and pretend to be mean and cold. It’s a trick! but I am continually awed at their willingness to listen to my terrible Russian and enthusiastic testimony haha maybe it’s because it’s entertaining to them. But we have a teeny tiny branch here but there is SO much to do. The members here really rely on the missionaries and so we want to help them be more self-sustainable and one thing I’ve learned that is true that Aaron Jessee told me is that they are very sensitive here and get offended easily (which is true of people in the US too…) but we are trying to help them love each other and forgive each other so they have more branch unity and charity….I’ve been praying so hard to know how to help people love each other. Obviously by example, but that’s the problem–everyone loves the missionaries and trusts them but thinks they’re the only ones who care about them and so they only come to church to see them….any ideas?? One thing that we’re going to try really hard with is Visiting and Home Teaching. It’s so important and could save this branch. What are some things that have worked in our ward to get people to do it? Other wards you’ve seen? Suggestions??

 

I’ve been so overwhelmed with love for everyone here! I smile so big to every person I see and I say hello–which everyone thinks is verrry strange but I know they secretly love it! ha! And sometimes, sometimes I get a hello back and sometimes, sometimes a smirk, maybe even a smile! Which is the best feeling in the world–but actually I like the looks of confusions almost just as much….But I seriously love the Russian people so much–all of them!! Even the babushkas (spelling?) who yell at me for not “crossing” myself (there is a picture attached–it was hysterical) but I wish I could just yell at the top of my lungs “I LOVE YOU!!!” to everyone I see! I never knew I could feel so much love. THEN I went to the branch yesterday! It almost choked me! I cried the whole sacrament meeting haha because I love these people!!! and I want to give them everything! And I want them to be converted! Many of them have testimonies but one thing I learned at the MTC is that a testimony is what you know and conversion is what you do with what you know. And I want them to receive the blessings from living what they know! But anyways, there’s one companionship of elders and then one companionship of senior missionaries and then C. Daniel and I. And the senior missionaries, the Ottleys, are taking over for senior missionaries leaving, the Storms, who spoke on Sunday and it was the sweetest thing! They love these people so much and have served them with all their hearts and their talks were SO perfect and talked about making a “human chain” to rescue inactive members, people who want to learn more, and each other–and about how they can’t have any missing links. But they spoke with such genuine sincerity and love for them–it was so touching and they’re such good examples to us all. and I’m so glad I have the Marina Hills Ward as this incredible example in my mind–as the goal! Our ward obviously has problems and weaknesses too, but we are a family. And that’s what we want for the branch here. And I know it’s possible because I’ve felt the power in unity of the Marina Hills Ward–we love each other and take care of each other and the moment you walk in the building you know you’re “home” and that’s what I want to give the people here. And I love them each so much! I just want to give them my love so they can have it for each other (does that make sense?) Like “Here Vladimir, here’s my love for galeena, you take that. And galeena here’s my love for Ramon, you take that…” etc. etc. et voila! Everyone loves each other! There are about 20-30 members of the branch who come on regular basis and there’s one boy in their primary, no young women and no young men. I went to “primary” with matthew, the little boy who is a rascal! but i love him! but all of the members are going through so much–it’s heartbreaking and humbling. And so has my companion, my goodness. She’s endured more tragedy in the 22 years of her life than anyone should ever have to go through….and she’s so strong. She connects really well with the people because they have similar experiences and C. Daniel is an example of someone who endured and who has hope and is bright and has faith despite adversity.

 

my first day in ryazan we were hitting the streets and it started DUMPING! rain like i’ve never seen before! more so than new hampshire! it was so epic! I love the rain and it was like a movie-I probably looked like such a crazy with the biggest smile on my face trudging through the puddles! I wish I had more pictures of Ryazan–we aren’t supposed to look like tourists and NO ONE takes pictures here so I only snuck one picture in Ryazan and it’s of the pink Russian orthodox temple here–it’s so beautiful! but I promise I will send more next week. oh and I sent a memory card with kev–hope he didn’t lose it–you can upload those if you want to see more pictures from the MTC.

 

but I love talking to people-I try to talk to EVERYONE but it’s so true, if you sit on the bus or the metro or wherever, and you wait…even a few seconds, you won’t ever talk. you can’t let fear get to your head and it;s so true that a mission wipes out your pride–I know my Russian is terrible and it’s scary opening your mouth, especially when you know you probably won’t understand 80% of what they say back…but the most motivating thought that consumes my mind every day is the name on my tag: Jesus Christ. I’m representing Him! And if He were on this bus or if He was walking down the street, He wouldn’t just keep His head down. Because He knows who He is and the power He has to change lives and He loves every single person–He loves them enough to share His knowledge–His message of peace and goodwill. And I know who I am and I know that the message I have is about Jesus Christ–and understanding this message has the power to change lives. And I love these people so much I can’t stand the thought of them not knowing and so I have to get over myself and be brave!!!! And there are times when  I;m not. When I look someone in the eyes and then I look down! Like an idiot! And it haunts me all day…”that lady in the red onesy!! I didn’t talk to her on the bus! what if she had been praying to find truth! what if she had been having a bad day! what if everything’s been going wrong in her life and she doesn’t know how to cope! what if she’s doubting her faith?” (oh and people love onesy outfits here. it’s hilarious. also men don’t like to wear shirts and if they do, their often mesh–like in 50 first dates–its hilarious–and they love chain necklaces–nicole you would love it. and the women love high heels—evvvveryone wears 5 inch heals. this + large amounts of alcohol=lots of people falling down)

 

But contacting makes me happier than anything. We contact everywhere we go but yesterday after church was the first time we had dedicated time to just contacting and it was the best!!! I talked to the most interesting people and there were people who wanted to listen, there were people who took Book of Mormons and several gave their phone numbers and I shared my testimony with everyone!! And I’m so grateful that I can look someone in the eyes and in all honesty say that I LOVE the Book of Mormon. That it has changed my life. That I can’t make it through the day without reading it. That I find answers to questions I didn’t even know I had every day. That I feel so much peace and understanding when I read it. That I know who I am and I feel a sense of purpose and potential because of the knowledge that I have. And that this knowledge means so much to me, that I wanted to come here, to my Russia, to share it with people. And people are baffled by this! Especially when they hear I’m from California haha everyone wants to go there and they can’t believe I’d leave to come here….to Ryazan! But I can tell them that I don’t feel scared and I don’t feel alone and that I LOVE it here! because I have the Spirit with me and I know I’m doing what God wants me to do.

 

I just realized how much I’ve been writing. oops–but just know that I am where I’m supposed to be. And mom–I love you! I miss you! I can’t wait to see the walls you painted haha you are so amazing and I always tell stories about you and everyone I serve with can’t wait to meet you. And I can just see you driving in your pimped out prius haha (Michael Mcarthur/Grandma Maw–funniest story). And I hope Kev is having the best time in Northern California–is he by Roseville at all? Tell him to tell the Jessees I love them and Aaron’s tacos are in the cookbook in our apt. and the Cranneys and the Sorensens say hi and they love him! And Jess–you are literally my role model! Zumba instructor!! I can’t wait for you to teach me. And for Siena to be in your videos you should make and sell. yep good idea. and Dad that kayaking in Catalina sounds incredible–and Blake I’m glad you got over the stomach flu! And NIcole I’ve been thinking about you so much–and praying for you. I wish I could be there for you, I love you! And everyone’s obsessed with your Europe pictures and I want in on your gypsy project. Parker–you take care of my girls and SIENA AND AVENLEA!!!!!!! I love you SO much!!!! and can’t wait for you to move in with me and live with me in Provo when I get back-we shall never be separated again.

Congratulations to Kieran and Ange my goodness I can’t think of anything better!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am beyond thrilled and will plan a “visa trip” to attend.

I wish! And welcome home Spencer Owens!!!! crazy crazy crazy

 

P.S. my address is:

Russia Moscow Mission

Glaupochtmant a/ai 257

101000 Russia Moscow

 

P.S.S. people asked about the weather–it’s perfect! but very humid. but i like humid! and i had years of practice being sweaty–thank you Irvine Dances! and one think I hadn’t really thought of was mosquitoes–it’s so flattering! they LOVE me! supposedly i taste deeeelicious! I’m competing with Blake Mexico trip 2008–imagine his legs—that’s about what I look like.

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