yesterday we celebrated easter so all week we’ve been teaching about it and the Spirit is always so strong–it just floods the room whenever we testify of the Atonement. There’s a mormon message (http://www.lds.org/media-library/video/mormon-messages/mormon-messages-2011?lang=eng&start=1&end=12#2011-03-007-his-sacred-name-an-easter-declaration) i’m obsessed with and we shared it several times with people. afterwards, we always asked the question, “why?” why do the words, “He is not here, for He is risen” have the ability to bring us comfort in our darkest hours? 

I know that Christ lives and this means everything to me. It means that death is not the end. it means that there is healing. it means that there is forgiveness and mercy. it means that we can change. it means that there is someone Who loves us enough to die for us. it means that we are never alone. it means that there is someone who knows EXACTLY how we feel, and thus He knows how to succor us, to comfort us. it means that we can find peace, no matter what’s happening. it means that we can be clean–we can be free. free from sin and from the effects of sin… free from guilt, 
I am eternally grateful for the eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 
This week was incredible. Last week we went to go find someone who was interested in the church and met with the missionaries in 1998! I really want to share this miracle with you but it’s really hard to explain in writing so I will tell you next week when we skype–remind me.
On Friday we met with our dear Natasha and we taught about tithing. we needed candy for the object lesson we wanted to do so we ran across the street like 10 minutes before our lesson was supposed to start and bought some and brought it back to the branch–the elders were there and the assistants to the president were here as well and so we wanted to share some of the candy with them and right and sister parry was about to eat one, one of the elders was like, “wait a minute…i think these are the chocolates that have alcohol in them…” i would argue that the alcohol was probably cooked out, but sister parry claims that one time she and her trainer ate some chocolates at an investigator’s house and that she got tipsy from them and afterwards looked at the wrapper and sure enough–some spirits. and we checked the wrappers that we had just bought and sure enough, he was right. so 
we decided that either way, we shouldn’t risk it and we shouldn’t give Natasha alcoholic candy hahah and serendipitously next week we’re going to teach her about the word of wisdom. We ran across the street and bought some different candy and then had an awesome lesson with her. this is how we taught tithing:
we gave her ten pieces of candy
me: “actually can we have one back?”
Natasha (a little confused): “of course!” (and hands us one back)
me: “oh my gosh, thank you! why did you give me one back? they’re your candies..”
Natasha: “well, kind of….but you gave them to me…”
me: “well we are so grateful that you made that sacrifice and that you were obedient when we asked, so we want to reward you!” 
and then we handed her this HUGE bag of candy!
we explained that everything we have is from God, and that all He asks is for 10% back–He asks because He wants to give us the opportunity to show our faith and to serve/participate in the building of His kingdom, and because He wants to give us the opportunity to be blessed beyond measure–more than we ever expected or imagined. We read in Malachi 3–tithing is an eternal law and is taught in the old testament, new testament, and in the Book of Mormon. And I love that Malachi 3 starts with (in my own words) God saying, “turn unto me and I will turn unto you” and the people are like, “how? in what way can we turn to you?” and He says, “tithing!” Sometimes we want to turn to God, we want to draw near unto Him, to feel closer–but we don’t know how. And tithing probably isn’t the answer we ever expect. But I also love how God says, “prove me now herewith”…He says, “try me! just try it! and let me prove to you that I will always keep my promises. I will take care of you. I will open the windows of heaven and you won’t even have room to receive them!” what a promise? and how do we respond to that promise? “nah.” or “when it’s convenient” or “definitely when I get that raise that I’ve been working for” or “when the house is paid off” or “if I have enough left over..” or “I don’t know…I really want those gucci shoes” what are we, crazy?! the Lord wants to open the windows of heaven!! Unfortunately in Russian, that phrase about opening the windows of heaven and pouring out blessings so that there won’t be enough room to receive it–doesn’t translate. it just says, “an abundance of blessings” or “an exceeding amount” lame. not the same.
but anyways, I’m so grateful for the honor to pay tithing. It’s strange on the mission because i’m making no money, I can’t pay tithing and it’s sad–i miss it. and i look forward to the day when I can start paying again. We explained to Natasha that the money  doesn’t go to any of our leaders–we’re all volunteers. the money goes to the church who then, under the direction of the Spirit, decides how to best use that money to bless the lives of others. Through church buildings and temples and missionary work and humanitarian work, etc. etc. etc. and we explained that it’s easy for Natasha right now to accept tithing–she’s 15, doesn’t have a job, and lives at home. But we told her to decide NOW so that when the time comes, it’s already decided. It’s like anything else. Decide NOW to never take even a sip of alcohol or even one cigarette or joint…to never lower your standards for anything or anyone. When the time comes, it’s already decided. 
On the way out of our lesson, Natasha, with a huge smile on her face, was like, “hey what time do I need to start my fast for Sunday?” AHHH i was so excited! she remembered from our lesson last week! she wanted to–she had a desire and understood and was willing to act. It was an answer to our prayers because sometimes it’s really hard to tell if she’s really understanding/applying and if she really has a desire but this was such a huge step. We are so grateful for the miracles we are seeing. I find out tomorrow about the miracels in ryazan that we’ve been praying and fasting for for Raya’s husband to quit smoking and prepare for baptism and for Raya to have the courage to take this big step of faith.
I can’t wait to talk to you next week! I am so happy right now!!!!!! ohhhh how i love my russia. I will tell you about the russian easter traditions because they’re super interesting.
love you!

 

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