Dearest family,

this week was quite the adventure, as usual. tuesday we had district meeting and then had a lesson with this girl also named raya (we call he raya the younger to avoid confusion). raya has a member friend who introduced her to us and then we had the first lesson and halfway through, raya told us she’s muslim. after that first lesson, she was “busy” a lot and we just kept praying for her and then a month later, out of the blue, she texted us saying she missed us and wanted to meet!!! MIRACLE! she is the sweeeetest–so beautiful and humble and bashful. so kind and sincere. we met with her and with her member friend (who’s preparing to go on a mission and is incredible) and we sang hymns together and talked about the doctrines we can learn from the lyrics. the spirit was very strong and we also talked about prayer a lot—more in depth than usual. and actually that’s been the theme of this week! 


our district meeting was one of the best ever and there was such a special spirit there and it was about prayer and our district leader, elder hermansen, read one of my favorite quotes in the world, and definitely my favorite quote from “Jesus the Christ”


“prayer is not compounded or words, words that may fail to express what one desires to say, words that so oten cloak inconsistencies, words that may have no deeper source that the physical organs of speech, words that may be spoken to impress mortal ears. the dumb may pray, and that too with the eloquence that prevails in heaven. prayer is made up of heart throbs and the righteous yearnings of the soul, of supplication based on the realization of need, or contrition and pure desire”


i could go on and on for days about how much i love that and how much that has impacted my life, but instead i’ll just invite you to really think about each word of that–each word that tells about the inadequacy of words and how prayer is a type of divine communication so much greater than words.


so at district meeting we discussed prayer and shared experiences and then we listened to beautiful instrumental music and took the time to really ponder and make a list of things we can do to improve our personal prayers and it has made a huge difference in my week. 


then the next day we were in lipetsk and they had their district and sister carver and i almost started laughing because it was also about prayer and verrry similar. Truly the Lord was trying to communicate a message to us and knows our needs. We were in lipetsk for two days instead of one because the sisters there have been bed ridden for three weeks and so we had to spend some more time there, doing all we could to help…everything from grocery shopping, cooking, contacting, going through their area book and calling everyone in it, teaching lessons with them, etc. etc. then we took a bus to voronezh and did a split with them! so much fun. 


we got back on saturday and on saturday night oksana (our bff who just got back from her mission in st. petersburg and always wants to help us) invited us over to make tacos and told us to bring investigators. so we did!! and our bffs aksana and yuri (the awesome couple that remind me of kieran and ange) came and we had the best time. we made delicious tacos and pancakes haha (russians love their pancakes….they’re more like crepes…) and sister carver and i brought a cake and decided that putting the cake IN the crepes and wrapping it up would be a good idea. and it was.


 i’ve been studying doctrine and covenants 76 recently and i’ve been particularly thinking about this sentence: “we meditated and the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened”…I’m trying to turn my personal prayers into pondering, meditative, sacred time when i reflect and listen–not just speak. anyways, i love you all and hope that you take the time to personally communicate with the Almighty God who also is your loving Heavenly Father…who is waiting to hear from you…. Who is waiting for you to turn to Him with your heart throbs and the yearnings of your soul so that He can comfort and counsel and heal you.
Also whilst studying prayer this week I was reminded of an experience I had a few years ago that helped me understand prayer better that I would like to share with you. When I participated in that double-blind study for Jean Brown that was researching pain killers for wisdom teeth removal. One person was given 1000mg, the other 500mg, and the other a placebo. They told me beforehand that after the surgery, we would have to wait an hour for the pain killers to kick in, but then if they were not enough, we could ask for “back-up” pain killers. Because it was a double-blind study, they told me that they would not offer me any kind of back-up pain killers because it may imply something, but that I  could ask for some myself. After the surgery, they came in every 30 minutes and asked about my pain level from 1-10 and I quickly realized that I had been given the placebo. Every time, I answered “10” and was baffled as they indifferently marked it on their charts and walked out of the room. I remembered that they told me that back up pain killers were available and I was so frustrated and confused as to why they weren’t giving me any when I was CLEARLY in need and they KNEW that I was suffering level 10 pain. After 4 or 5 hours, all of the sudden I remembered a simple phrase I had somehow forgotten: I had to ask for them myself. I anxiously waited another 30 minutes for the nurse to come back in and when she asked me for my pain level, I said, “TEN! can I have pain-killers?” and the nurse, relieved, said, “YES!” and it was obvious to me that she had been just as anxious as I was…that she was sick of seeing me suffering and it was probably really hard for her not to say anything. I had completely forgotten about this experience and never considered its significance but as we discussed prayer in district meeting, I was reminded of the Bible Dictionary definition for prayer which says there are blessings that the Lord is waiting to give us, but they are CONDITIONAL upon us asking. He will not interfere with our agency, and though he knows our needs, we must ask. A lightbulb went off and I shared this story with my district. The Lord has commanded us to pray and though He knows our needs, we have to ask for the blessings ourselves. Sometimes we lay in bed, so frustrated because we know that the Lord knows that our pain is at level 10—why isn’t He coming to our rescue? But we forget to get on our knees and ask Him to.


here are some pictures!! (because we found out that there are public libraries in russia! who knew? so we registered and we can upload pictures from here woohoo!)
1. my beautiful russia


2. 4th of july sunshine! (split in z-grad)
3. us with this girl Luba we’re teaching! she’s currently in vietnam on vacation but we hope she comes back soon!
4 smolensk!
5. fairy land park
6. in lipetsk…saying goodbye to elder harris who just went home
7. we went bowling right before this and neither of us broke 100 but we still had a grand old time and it was fun bonding with other missionaries
*sorry they are out of order!