I am so excited for your Costa Rican adventures! Make sure to take tons of pictures and send them my way! And Erin I’m so happy for you!! I’m so happy you went through the temple, what an incredible experience. This week was amazing and I’ll share a few highlights:

We’ve been teaching this man named Alexander (random fact: there are about 5 Russian male names and 5 Russian female names so it gets verrrry confusing. Alexander and Alexandra are the most common I’ve seen and the nickname for both is Sasha which gets confusing because it can be a girl or a boy). But Alexander is about 50? 60? and we have permission to teach him. He’s one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met and we’ve been teaching him a lot about prayer….I feel like the Lord has prepared him in every way possible–all of his questions and searching can be answered by the gospel–he’s so hungry for truth but struggles and constantly says, “I’m secular. I’m so secular–I’ve never thought about the possibility of God, etc…this is all so foreign to me” and he’s kind of obsessed with worldly knowledge and read some books about how Christianity is a political scheme invented by man and since the author of the book has a phd it must be true, etc. But he is also obsessed with psychological/philosophical theory and is always trying to read my mind haha and interpret my body language/my motives. He looks at us as if he’s seeing our whole souls but I’m grateful I have nothing to hide and that my intentions are genuine and sincere. Luckily he speaks English fluently (he’s a professor at the university here) so I’m able to keep up but it’s still challenging and my mind has never been pushed like this before–mentally/logically. But he told us he sees a light in us and loves hearing our message–we just need to get him to pray. He’s scared of prayer because he takes everything very seriously (which is good) but feels that prayer is a big commitment he needs to prepare for. But as the Bible Dictionary says, fear of prayer usually is a result of misunderstanding of our relationship with God: when we understand our relationship with God, we have a natural desire to communicate with Him. But we’ll see how this week goes! It’s interesting having to think in a completely different way than I’ve ever had to think before–but I feel God’s love for Alexander SO strongly and have such a clear image of his potential and the happiness in store for him if he accepts the gospel. Keep him in your prayers!
We also had a zone conference in Moscow which was incredible! I must admit I didn’t have extremely high expectations just because I was SO tired from waking up at 4 and being on a bus all morning, I thought, “great I’m going to be so tired and struggling to stay awake in training all day” boy was I wrong!! It was so uplifting and rejuvenating and inspiring, motivating, and every other positive thing. Our APs are the most incredible humans I’ve ever met and I admire them so much. One, C. Turner, shared a part of Alma 26 (maybe my favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon tied with 2 Nephi 4), but he changed the word “Lamanites” for “Russians” and shared how much it meant to him/got emotional and boy did I get emotional! I swear the Book of Mormon was written for me personally and that’s the miracle of the Book of Mormon–it was written for us! But in summary it says, “remember when we were home and we said we were going to Russia to teach the gospel and people laughed us to scorn? And they said, ‘do you really suppose you can teach them, the Russians? Who are stiff-necked [and won’t listen! you’re crazy] and they’ve been hardened because of what happened to their Fathers/ancestors. But we came out here because they’re our brethren, and we desire to bring them to Christ. And we’ve been patient in our afflictions and we’ve taught them in the streets and in their homes and we’ve been rejected and spit upon, but the Lord has been with us. And now, looking back, are the fruits of our labors few? NO!! They are many! And we have greater reason to rejoice than anybody–because we’ve seen the Russians and their ability to love, to love us and to love God. and to change. And we’ve seen how much God loves them–how mindful He is of them and how merciful He is. And we will thank and praise God forever because of this blessing, this opportunity”….
and that’s exactly how I feel. I can’t wrap my head around the love of God and His trust in me, in allowing me to come here–to teach my Russians! they’re my brethren, they’re my family!! And I have so many reasons to rejoice! I can’t possible explain what it feels like. But I’m surrounded but he most incredible people and am learning so much every day and am so grateful. The love of God is so real–and that’s what I spoke on in church on Sunday–love. in 1John it says God is love. And so if we understand that–we also understand that we are God’s children. So we are children of Love–love is inherently in us. We forget our capacity to love because we hold on to grudges, we get offended, we think about ourselves. One of my relief society presidents at BYU (who’s now serving in Oklahoma City Spanish speaking with Trevor!), shared this insight with us–that we are made up of love. and i’ve thought about this over and over.
I love you all so much!!!! here are some pictures from Ryazan: (and I forwarded you some our senior couple sent us)
1. my first Super Snickers. They’re famous in Russia and I always knew I was born to come here–I’ve been prepared my whole life because Snickers are my favorite candy bar. of course I got sent to the place where they have the best snickers in the world.
2. walking down the streets of Ryazan–note my companion’s awesome curly hair.
3. the definition of Russia (random huge apartment buildings everywhere)
4. note the beautiful flowers (also definition of Russia)
5. the best night of my life–dinner at our friend Sasha’s house….he and his father are the kindest, most humble and gracious people I know. They’re muslim and from Uzbekistan and wanted to make us ploaf (sp?) and it was SO good and we have so much respect for each other and our faiths, i love them so much.
5. moscow (random temple on my walk from the metro to the central building for zone conference)
6. mosaic in the metro
7. our front yard
8. our apartment building
**(Pictures uploaded out of order)