Dad, people in Russia know what Halloween is because of American/European influence but they don’t celebrate it really…except our branch is having a halloween party (thanks to missionary influence) so that will be this saturday and I can’t wait! Thank you for sharing that experience in the temple! I have been thinking a lot a lot about family history and can’t wait to get more involved after my mission–I’ll need aunt mary’s help. Who did our family history on mom’s side? I printed out this fan/family tree thing and all the names are filled in–way to go!

But guess what? Vladimir got his visa and is coming to the US!! he had your information and will have a cell phone when he gets there…his plans are kinda flexible but as of right now he’s planning on being in Utah from November 6-11ish, San Francisco with the Carvers from the 13th to the 15thish and us from the 16th to the 22ndish, las vegas with the brasiers (i’m serving with elder brasier right now) from the 23rd to the 25thish and then salt lake again from the 26th to the 29thish. He’ll be traveling by bus. This means that he’ll be at our house for about a week and over Siena’s birthday maybe (depending on when he leaves san francisco) and over thanksgiving…which means kev and nicole will be home which makes me SO happy because they’ll get to meet him but I’m sorry to spring this on you because it’s more time than I thought and at a way busier time than I thought…we’ll have a fullllll house but he’s the best company to have and will just tag along for whatever you got going on. maybe you could round up some of our russian speaking friends to share the load/show him around/translate? Chris Kneipp, Jason Kimball, and the Jessees are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Let me know if it’s not going to work but seriously I can’t thank you enough for doing this!! I’ll be sending a littttle bit of stuff with him (he’s visiting the families of three missionaries here so I don’t want to overwhelm him with our junk) but for future references if Makenna Gallacher is still coming for New years and is willing to take some stuff, too–that would be great! I am more than happy to lighten the load as much as I can…so as far as sending things I am not in need! especially not of clothes. but things like tights and socks and garments are always needed and would be greatly appreciated! the thicker the better (for socks and tights and for garments just stick to carinessa) The only other things I can think of are taco seasoning mix–like the packets. they have no such things here but one of our favorite things to make is taco salad and we’re running low on the seasonings that other missionaries have received via packages.
Mama, thank you for being the most inspirational person I know and sharing your light and the gospel with all those around you and for being such a strong support system for those students who look up to you so much. That support group sounds incredible!! You truly are my hero, and I”m touched that the experiences I”m having are having an influence on people.
This week we had a tragedy in our branch. On of our members, Sergei Markin, died at the age of 36 from a brain aneurism. It was very unexpected and heartbreaking. He is the only member in his family, is unmarried and lived at home. His mom has been meeting with the missionaries since 2006 but just a few weeks ago when we had a lesson with her she basically told us she’s never going to come to church so we were heartbroken and just bore our testimonies, told her how much we love her and want the gospel to bless her life the way it has blessed ours, and told her we’re here for her and to serve her if she ever needs us. Well this last week, we got our chance to serve her. When we found out about Sergei, I didn’t know how to react. Death is something that never seems real until it sneaks up on you..I think we as humans have this sense of invincibility and sometimes that leads to complacency and a lack of urgency. But Sister Carver and I immediately dropped to our knees and prayed for his family. I thought about Nina (his mom), and her piercing blue eyes that I have seen filled with tears so many times. I thought about the anguish she must be facing and my heart broke. Even with the faith and knowledge that we have, no matter what the circumstance, death is always sad and I the perfect example of that is when Christ heard about Lazarus, he wept. He knew that He could raise Him from the dead and that he would. He knew that He would rise on the third day as well, symbolizing the fact that death is not the end! “These things I have spoken unto you, that in my ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Despite all this, Jesus wept.
I know that Sergei was “taken home to that God who gave [him] life” (Alma 40:11), but I definitely wept. Russian funerals are very interesting. You can only bring an odd number of flowers, they have open caskets in their homes and people come and say their goodbyes/kiss the person/etc. and then close family members carry the casket down to the entry of the apartment building. After the body is taken out of the apartment, the floors of the apartment must be “washed” with water, as well as the stairs leading down to the front of the apartment building. A bus comes with seats overlooking the casket so you drive looking down at the body to an Orthodox church where a priest sings, says prayers, etc. and the others hold candles. Then the body is taken to the cemetery and buried. Because Sergei’s family is Russian orthodox, they had this traditional funeral. Nina asked Sister Carver and I to mop the floors symbolic of the cleansing and we were honored to do so and grateful for the opportunity to serve their family.
This week we happened to have the opportunity to teach the Plan of Salvation more than once, and we did so with more meaning than before I think because of what happened. I’m so grateful for the peace we were able to feel and I am SO grateful for the plan of Salvation: We have a Father in Heaven who LOVES us, so much more than we understand. He knows our names. “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30).God is intelligence and He made a perfect plan for us. I love plans, plans are my favorite. And this is the best one–we are here to learn and to grow and to show our faith and our love for God and for our fellow man. God trusts us enough to give us the ability to choose and act for ourselves. He wants us to perfect ourselves so we can live with Him and feel the fulness of joy He feels–no unclean thing can dwell with God (1 Nephi 15:34), but we all sin! Better luck next time? Nope. Christ atoned for our sins so that we can repent, we can be forgiven, we can become spotless! If we try to keep the commandments and repent when we fall short, we can live with God and with our families for eternity–in a state of rest and paradisiacal glory. I know that this is true because I prayed about it and the Spirit of God has witnessed to me that it is true. And I am eternally grateful for the peace and clarity that this knowledge gives me–it doesn’t mean that my trials go away and it doesn’t mean that I don’t suffer or cry or struggle. But it means that the sting is taken away when I share the burden with Christ…when I trust Him enough to let Him heal me. I can work harder the next day, I can smile bigger and brighter and still have hope and joy and faith no matter what.
And my smile and my hope and joy and faith are multiplied exponentially because I get to share these things with these people who I love. The word “love” doesn’t even suffice. Thank you, family, for sharing me with these people! Haha I love you! most ardently.