Hello family! I actually read your email last week because I saw it right after I wrote my letter to President and was about to log out so no worries! The exchange students sound hilarious and that’s one thing I’ve always wanted to do when I grow up-have exchange students. You guys are living the dream and Kevin I’m so glad you got an outback–I LOVE those cars! Nicole–I wish I was there to show you how to grocery shop! Advice: make friends with someone who has a costco card. I can’t wait to hear all about your classes, etc. and Kevin, too!! School and such things are alien talk to me but I want to be in the loop!

Constantinova is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I must name my first child Constantinova no matter what–boy or girl–to honor this magical place. I’m 99% sure that next fall when my mission’s over I’m just going to move to Constantinova….I love it there! I belong there!! We had the best time frolicking around. Also, there is a word in Russian for the adjective “frolicsome” which I didn’t even know was a real word in English. It is now obviously my favorite word.
We had a great week here in Ryazan and things are progressing! We finished the transfer (crazy) and we said goodbye to Elder Hunt, (sad) and hello to Elder Brasier’s new greenie fresh from the MTC Elder Merrill…It’s nice to have someone else in the same boat as me and he’s a nice kid and a hard worker/already apart of our “family” here in Ryazan! Some fun things we do on a week to week basis is on Mondays we have FHE at the branch building for everyone without families. Tuesdays we go contacting for English Club, Wednesdays we volunteer at this brail library for blind people and the ladies who run it are blind and my best friends! they have kids and work and are kind and happy and I have SO much admiration for them. I love chatting while we work and hearing about their lives/perspective. They are hysterical and we have the best time–it’s such a wonderful opportunity to serve and they always ask about the Gospel which is awesome. On Thursdays we take a bus out to this teeny tiny village to meet with one of our investigators who is 20 and the girlfriend of one of the members (I won’t mention how old he is…yikes). But her name is Angela and she’s an orphan and loves the sense of family/belonging/identity the gospel brings! We cook with her and teach her the lessons and she’s doing well! She and Vetali’s relationship is….interesting so we might have some rough roads ahead but bring it on! I love her so much and really want her to realize that and to realize the sisterhood we share. On Fridays we have English club and on Saturdays we have sports night. Everywhere in between we are contacting our brains out, visiting less actives, strengthening members, etc. etc. etc. And I can’t get over how blessed I am–I love this work SO much. It’s SO FUN!!!! And so rewarding.
We had an interesting discussion with one of our investigators Alexander. He is half scottish half russian and his last name is Thompson–he always shows us his family crest which supposedly means “never forget.” He interprets it/couples it with “never forgive” and thinks it’s part of his nature. So we always have interesting talks about forgiveness. He’s been divorced twice and his only daughter has cut herself off from him completely–along with her husband and his only granddaughter. He said, “So you’re saying that when I’m betrayed, I’m supposed to turn the other cheek? Oh yeah–go ahead, betray me. lie to me, deceive me, stab me in the back. kill me? No. I will not be weak. I will not just ‘go with the flow. I can’t. I won’t'” I thought a minute before I answered–and I thought about times when I’ve struggled to forgive…times when I’ve been hurt. And I thought about the people I know who are such incredible examples of forgiveness. And I thought about Christ. Who was spat upon and mocked and crucified–I always cry when I read the account in the Bible and I just finished Luke. I told Alexander that forgiveness is one of the most difficult challenges we face on Earth. And God knows that. And honestly, there are times when we can’t. But I’m so grateful that we can turn that weight–that grudge, that hurt, that suffering over to the Savior. Because He already paid that price. We don’t have to do it alone- we can’t do it alone. Alexander said that to forgive and forget is to lose honor. I asked if he is mistaking honor for pride, and his countenance changed–he turned his head to the side and said, “you know, I think there is truth in what you have said.” I talked about how humility is the greatest honor, the greatest strength. It’s the greatest blessing in the world to be able to let the Spirit speak through me–I hope it touched Alexander’s heart.
One thing that we have been focusing with the members in our branch is to get them to ask the question “why?” The scriptures always say to be like children–humble, meek, submissive, etc. But I think another attribute of children that is important to maintain is asking the question why? It is the worst phase when toddlers figure out that question–I can’t count how many times I’ve been babysitting or hanging out with Siena and have been baffled as to how I’m supposed to answer that question–“I don’t know”….”Just because”…”It just is that way.” But I think it’s one thing to just do, to just obey (which of course it’s good to obey) but we also need to ask ourselves and really think about why we do the things we do: why do we read the scriptures? pray? bless the food? go to church? take to sacrament? go to seminary? fulfill our callings? visit teach?…is it just out of habit? is it “just because” or “just the way it is?” I have received so much light and revelation and strength when I’ve asked the question “why?” and really evaluated…WHY am I in Russia? That’s my favorite question. I am in Russia because the purpose of this life is to have joy. The greatest joy comes when we live the gospel and invite others to do the same. I could not be happier!
I love you all–have a great week!