i have SO much to share, i don’t even know where to start. forewarning–this will be a novel. a novel relative in length to the east of eden. but with a way happier ending.
i feel like i’m in a dream. and i feel guilty because i learned this week that i have very little faith. because i keep saying to myself, “this is too good to be true! this can’t really be true!” what a fool i am.  of course it’s true. remember when God is a God of miracles?
biggest miracles of my life.
i guess i will tell them in sequential order. on tuesday night we left for voronezh. usually we share a tiny room with two strangers (always women–don’t worry), but this train we had a room for two! and it was awesome. we were in voronezh all wednesday, and wednesday night sister simmons and i were in a park talking to people and getting our butts KICKED and i had sister carver’s and my phone and Nastya called…the one i’ve been telling you about. Review: we met her two months ago. she’s known the church for years and has a mormon friend who served a mission in salt lake and is now studying at byu. she met with missionaries a few years ago but felt that she didn’t get her answer so she kept searching. we come along and just ask if she’s willing to try again. she said, “sure why not.” but warned us not to “get our hopes up” and she didn’t want to disappoint us.
we decided to just re-teach her the lessons as if she had never heard them before. we didn’t ask her upfront what her concerns are and try to resolve them–we just retaught the basics. and she started to change. she opened up more and more to us. and she started putting in more effort, keeping all commitments, and making the initiative herself. i think she’s the first person i’ve taught who calls us all the time to set up meetings way in advance and to invite herself to activities and stuff. she’s incredible. i told you last week about our incredible heart to heart lesson and how she described the Spirit at the temple. She then left to her hometown and her mormon friend was in town and we were praying for her praying for her.
back to voronezh: she called me and said she was back in moscow and wanted to meet the next day. i said, “ohhh bummer. we’re going to be in lipetsk tomorrow. how about friday?” she said she had something she wanted to tell me and wanted to in person, “but maybe i should just tell you now?” as the words, “sure why not” came out of my mouth, my heart started beating and i thought..”wait…she couldn’t mean…” YES SHE COULD!!
“i want to be baptized. next saturday”
boom. i almost fell over. i screamed soooo loud and caused the biggest scene at this park. the birds flew out of the trees in terror. i started crying and honestly was speechless. i felt so bad because i wasn’t with sister carver. i wanted to just call her and tell her to hurry home and we could just cry and dance together in jubilation but instead i remembered the task at hand and thought, “no way! we still have an hour and there could be Nastyas in THIS park and we need to find them!!”
honestly, i was in shock. and i, being the worst liar ever, just handed sister carver the phone when we got back to their apt and said, “ummmm you need to call nastya” “why?” “i don’t know!!” and i just ran in the other room and hid. so childish.
i always dreamed about the day Nastya would find her answer, but i always kinda assumed it would be in the future. but then recently i started just recognizing her incredible growth and i got so excited and every night, without fail, i just went to sleep with the dream in my mind of her in white, being baptized, by kostya (the ward mission leader). it was my DREAM! and dreams come true. disney was right. disney was so right. also the scriptures. they really mean it when they say, “ask and ye shall receive.” nastya has been praying and studying and searching and knocking and he opened!
she’s so funny. we met the day we got back and she told us “the story.” after our plan of salvation lesson, she prayed and said, “Father, I think I”ve found my path” but she still had doubts, and she asked Him so show her three signs. hah! it’s like a movie! and i’m actually glad she hadn’t told us earlier because i probably would have said, “ummmm…it doesn’t really work like that…”
but it does for her. She said the first sign was when she was just walking around and the sky was grey and stormy and dark (it’s been raining a lottttttt) and she looked at the clouds and thought, “this is like me–i’m just in spiritual darkness,…so confused” but then she looked up again, and their was just a beam of light breaking through the clouds. and she thought, “maybe actually this is like me…and i’ve found my light” sign number 1.
the second sign is my favorite. so funny. she was on the metro on her way to the lesson with us last friday when we had our mega heart to heart and she looked at the metro seat next to her and someone, in russian, had graffitied, “лдс” which is “LDS” in russian letters. and she just started laughing and said, “sign number 2”
thank you inspired hooligans.
sign number 3 was after our heart to heart lesson as she was walking to the train station to go to her hometown. it started to pour rain and she hid under an overhang for shelter and looked up at this big old building that looked kind of like the Kiev temple. and she remembered her experiences there. and she just smiled and said, “sign number 3”
then she went to kazhan and talked with her mormon friend and it sealed the deal and her mormon friend leaves russia in a week and so she thought, “well i know for sure and i want to be baptized…i might as well do it while she’s here”.
honestly, i am on cloud 99999999999 and can’t even believe it. it’s like a movie. it’s like what every missionary dreams of. and it’s real.  and the week continues.
saturday was Lada’s baptism and it was perfect. we sang a musical number as a district and we sang, “Lord I would Follow Thee.” I have felt the Spirit very strongly very many different times in my life. but i’ve never felt anything like what i felt as we sang. i’ve never felt something so physically….consuming…i don’t even know how to explain it. I looked out and saw Lada, in white,  glowing and her mother, a non-member, beaming. I saw the investigator of other sisters in moscow, bawling. I saw an elder in a different district with his mouth open and his eyes wide as if he were seeing visions of angels. and i saw members of our ward who i love more than anything who help us so so much. and then i saw nastya! smiling! and i couldn’t even handle it. sister carver are so One. it’s so funny. everyone felt the Spirit, but we felt it in the same way haha and afterwards we both turned to each other and said, “were your knees trembling? did you almost fall down and collapse like Ammon did from joy when he saw the brothers of mosiah in Alma 27?” the only word I can think of to explain it is rhapsodous. i don’t even know it that’s a word. but it was just like a tumultuous storm raging inside me…but a Spiritual storm haha i don’t know how to explain. but anyways, the baptism was SO beautiful and right after, sister carver and i ran to the back of the font to greet her with a towel and help her get ready and in the bathroom we were just like giddy little girls and Lada said, “i’ve never cried from happiness before, but in that moment–the moment i came up out of the water, i just cried with joy!”
me too, lada! except for the part about it being unusual.
lada got the gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday. and after church Nastya had her baptismal interview. She will be baptized this Saturday, September 7th. and i am the happiest human on the face of the earth.
So we went to smolensk round 3 this weekend and it POURED rain allll day and was freeeeezing. but today is sunny and lovely so i still have hopes that summer isn’t over yet. we are headed to voronezh and lipetsk this week which are the farthest away and it always wipes us out but it can’t this week because saturday is Lada’s baptism!!!!! we are so beyond thrilled. she’s incredible.
it’s crazy that we’re doing round three of all of our splits. our training this transfer that we decided to give is about the Book of Mormon. We start off by asking them to close their eyes..(so close your eyes)…and think about this question:
What would your life be like without the Book of Mormon?
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just think about it. where would you be? who would you be?
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AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! it terrifies me. but why? it’s just a book, isn’t it?
it’s not just a book. it’s not just a good book. it’s not just an inspired book. It’s the word of God. it’s additional scripture. it’s another testament of Jesus Christ. I could go on and on simply just about what it is. But more important is what it means.
It means that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus Christ really is the Savior of the world and He really is my Savior. This means that there’s someone who understands me when no one else does…someone who has felt and experienced everything that i feel and experience. it means that i can be forgiven, I can change, I can overcome my weaknesses and faults. I can be clean. I can be healed. I can find peace. I can return to God. It means that i can find peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come. it means that NOTHING is impossible. It means i have an Advocat, a Mediator, a Shepherd. there is guidance and direction to my life. I have a perfect example. If i apply His teachings in my life, I will be happier than I ever thought was imaginable (and i am happier than i ever thought was imaginable). (once again, I could go on and on and on about what it means to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God).
 
but if the Book of Mormon is true, that means that Joseph Smith really was a prophet. this means that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He called prophets anciently and He calls prophets today. He has a perfect, glorified body of flesh and bones and He communicated with His children. there is modern revelation. this revelation helps us understand and apply ancient revelation and gives us clearer direction in our lives. this means the all revealed truth concerning the plan of salvation and restored commandments are true. there is a living prophet, today-Thomas S. Monson and he speaks and acts in behalf of the Lord. There is a living God who directs His church on the earth through a living prophet.
 
This means that the priesthood has been restored. which means that the covenants and ordinances that are necessary for salvation are bound on earth and in heaven. this means that families can be sealed by this power and they can be together forever. it means that there are priesthood blessings of comfort and healing. it means that the power of God is on the earth. because of this, we have patriarchal blessings, the sacrament, the temple, etc. etc. etc.
 
if the priesthood has been restored, then this truly is the Church of Jesus Christ in the latter days. there is organized opportunities to serve, learn, teach, and uplift one another. there is unity of faith. there are programs like Primary, Young Womens, Young Mens, Relief Society, and Elder’s quorums, seminary, institute, sunday school, etc. etc. we can support each other and strengthen each other. it is God’s kingdom on the Earth.
 
This is just a smallllll teeeeny tiny list of all of the blessings that proceed forth from the Book of Mormon. During language study, we all made lists in Russian: “Because of the Book of Mormon (fill in the blank) ” and we talked about how often on the streets we tell people that the Book of Mormon is ancient prophecies and revelations written by ancient prophets translated by a modern prophet etc. etc. a record of the peoples on the american continent and their relationship with God etc. etc. and if they read it and pray about it, they can know it’s true and it will bless their lives. But how often do we tell people that “because of the Book of Mormon, I know that the power of God is on the earth today and that priesthood power has sealed my family together forever and I would like to invite you to read this book as a family and we would love to teach you about how because of this book, there is peace in my home and my parents and siblings are truly my best friends in the whole world” etc. etc. there are so many specific blessings that can be traced back to the Book of Mormon. It’s probably worth reading it and finding out for yourself. Because of the Book of Mormon, I know I’m a daughter of God and I can talk to Him and He hears and answers my prayers. He cares. I know what He expects of me–I know my potential and how to attain it. Because of the Book of Mormon, I AM IN RUSSIA!!!! and I’m pretty sure I’m the happiest human in all the land.
 
this week we learned that the Lord realllllllllllllly knows best. I mean really. On wednesday night after english club we were talking to Nastya and she told us that the only thing she hasn’t received an answer about, the only thing that’s holding her back is the last part of the Plan of Salvation, about after this life and the kingdoms of God. she knows for sure that we lived with God before this life and she knows for sure that our purpose on Earth is to find God and to perfect ourselves so we can return to live with Him about. but all the rest, she’s not so sure. she had called us herself earlier this week to set up a lesson for friday night before she was leaving on a night train friday night and going to her home town for a few days. We felt the weight of this lesson and realized what a vital time this is for Nastya. When we went home wednesday night we started to realllly pray for her and thursday we studied really hard and discussed it and we just had no idea what to do–what to teach/what to plan. we decided that we needed to fast all of friday to prepare for it and we decided that we NEEDED a member present for all the help we could get. the two members that usually help us weren’t answering our calls/texts and we felt like it wasn’t good timing to introduce her to someone knew, because we needed her to really open up and we needed to just listen more than anything. so we just prayed that one of them would respond in time. then we remembered that we already had a lesson planned for friday afternoon with this babushka in our ward who lives far away and alone and has parkinsons disease and we try to visit her every week. we always try to serve her and want to cook and clean for her but she’s so sneaky and always tells us that she’ll let us, but when we show up her apt. is spotless and she has food on the table. we knew she would feed us, so we called the night before and told her we’d be fasting for nastya so she didn’t need to cook anything, but we would reallllly love to cook for her. so that was our plan–fast all friday and have faith that nadya or oksana would call us back. as far as lesson plans, we had none. we planned to just teach by the Spirit–which usually is a bad idea. you have to plan and THEN teach by the Spirit. but we felt like this is what we needed to do.
 
friday we showed up to babushka’s house and as we walked in she was like, “where are my glasses? i swear my memory is fading…” yep, it sure is. because the next thing she said was, “oh well….i worked all morning long to make this borsh for you!” with the biggest smile on her face! bleeeeeeeeeen (that technically means “pancake” but it also means “dangit!”) we looked at each other and without any words, we both knew that we could not deny that borsh. so we didn’t fast on friday and nadya and oksana never called us back but guess what? it was the most perfect beautiful lesson EVER. it was just a heart to heart and she shared things with us that she would never have shared if nadya and oksana were there-even though she’s friends with them. and we just testified with our whole souls. we talked about the difference between faith and understanding. I don’t understand the eternities. I don’t understand the Atonement. I don’t understand what the Celestial Kingdom will be like. I don’t understand how judgment will work. I for sure don’t understand resurrection. BUT I have received my answer about the Plan of Salvation…because I, too, for sure know that we lived with God before this life. I, too, know that our purpose is to prepare to return to Him. That’s what God wants and wanted all along. That’s the purpose of this plan. So He gave His only begotten Son to show us the way. He is the Way. And I believe that because of Him, I can live with Him and with my God and my family forever, in a state of paradise and peace, in a state of everlasting joy. I really believe that that’s possible. And then she whispered, “of course it’s possible.”
we talked a lot…about ordinances and covenants and about the Spirit. I shared the quote that Kevin sent me last week and his personal thoughts about it and i will never be able to explain what it felt like. at the end of the lesson, she said the prayer and told our Heavenly Father that she felt such an incredible Spirit, “and I think the Sisters did, too” (hah Sister Carver (barely) audibly squeeled with joy when she said that).
THEN the CLIMAX! as we were walking out, she was like, “hey–do you know why i wasn’t at church last week?” she had called earlier that week to tell us she couldn’t come, but we didn’t know why. she told us to guess….”the park? dance lessons? st. petersburg?” nope, nope. nope.
she was in kiev!!! on the temple grounds!!!! she showed us pictures she took of herself with the temple in the background. she was even wearing a white shirt. we almost died. and then we asked her what she thought about it/what she felt when she was there. and she was like, “i don’t think you’ll understand…but i’ll try. it was….light. and…something…new. like a new perspective…but not exactly—just something new. and there were these low-frequency vibrations just radiating from the temple….”
yes. we understood.
obviously sister carver and i sang “How Great Thou Art” on the escalator out of the metro because we couldn’t stand how happy and grateful we were. it was exactly what the Lord intended and exactly what Nastya needed. we were so happy, we wanted to call the mission president. or maybe even our parents hahah so we decided to bug the APs instead. they indulged us and listened to our 20 minute rambling about how happy and blessed we are.
HALLELUJAH!!!!!!!
love you love you
 i once again am reminded of when kevin was serving and he realized that there were just too many blessings and it didn’t add up–he knew they weren’t just a result for his prayers but for the prayers of all of the family and friends that were praying for him. that’s how i feel!
last monday we did a split with other sisters in moscow, but in a different ward because they had someone they’ve been teaching who’s INCREDIBLE and ready to be baptized, but they found out she lives in our area so she needs to be taught by the missionaries in our ward (us) and be baptized into our ward. it’s actually a HUGE huge huuuuuge problem/nightmare that comes with serving in moscow. people need to go to their own ward but often it takes a long time before you find out where someone lives and people move so often it’s hard to motivate yourself to go through all that effort of passing and transitioning with the thought in the back of your mind, “who knows, they could move into our boundaries next year…” but then you just remember that it’s not about you and we’re all on a team so you just do whatever’s best for the person being taught.
so this woman’s name is lada and i went to the lesson with the other sister and our companions stayed home because sister carver was still really sick. sister hunter and i (this other sister) taught her the plan of salvation and some of the commandments and the Spirit was SO strong and everything just clicked for Lada. She totally understood about the transition into the arbatsky ward, as well. And as I was getting to know her, I asked her if she was from Moscow and she said, “no, i’m from ryazan…” “FROM WHERE?!?” obviously i freaked out and told her i’m also from ryazan. it’s fate. and her mom and brother still live in Ryazan and are super supportive of her. Lada’s going to ryazan this weekend to pick up her mom so her mom can be at her baptism a week from saturday (August 31st!!!) and they’ll be going to church in Ryazan next week. we hurried and called the Ottleys to tell them the great news!! it makes me feel so close and connected to Ryazan when I think about our Lada being with those members–our Russian family.
later on last week sister carver and i taught her (and also the wife of our senior couple because lada speaks english so we did it half in english and half in russian) the Gospel of Jesus Christ. once again it was incredible and we asked her why she wants to be baptized and she said, “because I want to be in the fold of the Shepherd”..it was so beautiful.
and the senior couple is actually kinda new–they’ve been here for about a month and i’m obsessed with them!!! the millers. they’re from heber city and SO loving and curse sister miller for being such a wizard in the kitchen! she makes us lunch once a week for district meeting and we all end up in pain almost because we eat so much it’s soooooooo good. and sister miller’s testimony added so much to our lesson. shout out to all you empty nesters!!!! we younger missionaries would be useless without senior couples. we need you!
anyways, Lada came to church on sunday and everyone just fell in love with her. We asked her what time would be convenient for her for her baptism and she said, “convenient? it will be the happiest day of my life! i would be baptized at 5 AM to greet the new day if you wanted me to!” we decided the members might not feel the same way and we want them to come hah so it will be in the afternoon but we are just sooooo excited! i just can’t even believe it.
i’m so happy. so so happy. i hope you are too!
shout out to my maddie–you are my hero! i know the Lord is so so proud of you and is so grateful for the way you love and serve His children in Latvia. I wish i could be there to greet you upon your return but i’ve been thinking about you and praying for you!
so this week was grand! we have this girl nastya i’ve told you about before (i think) and it’s incredible to see the transformation before our eyes–“when the Spirit touches hearts, hearts are changed”. Nastya met with missionaries about 2 years ago and prayed about it all and felt like she didn’t get an answer so she just moved on and kept looking for “her path”…then we met her and asked if she’d be willing to give it another try and she agreed. we’ve been teaching her for the past few months and each lesson has been wonderful! but she’s definitely taking her time and she was kind of hard to read. but this last week was a turning point and she’s just opened up so much for to us and she came to church last Sunday, then she came to FHE on Monday for the young single adults. she asked if it was okay that she was there, because most of the people there were members and i said, “OF COURSE! we LOVE having you here!” and she said, “oh good, because i feel such a connection with all of the members of the church, but then there’s always that smalll part of me that questions myself and i think, ‘maybe i don’t belong’ and i just wasn’t sure if i was the only one feeling that connection…” i hugged her and assured her over and over that the feeling’s mutual haha 🙂 she had a wonderful time and just watching her talking and laughing and playing games and making friends with all of the members that our young singe adults was like watching my child open his presents on Christmas morning! i guess i don’t have children, but i imagine that that’s what it feels like. I was just beaming! and so was she. on wednesday night after english club, the elders announced that their friend they’ve been teaching would be getting baptized on saturday and invited everyone to come. Thursday night we wanted to call Nastya to invite her and see if she could come but we were busy calling other people setting up lessons for the next day and then we looked at the clock and it was too late. i’m SO glad we didn’t call her because on friday she called US!  i don’t know if that sounds weird…but having someone else take the initiative and herself call is just a MIRACLE tender mercy best thing ever and i almost peed my pants when nastya called and just said, “hey…i remember hearing something about a baptism….is it okay if i come?” YES NASTYA it is more than okay! “are you sure it’s not too personal..i don’t know him”…that’s okay! he wants to share this with everyone “okay because i just know that for me it will be personal”. jaw dropped to the floor but i kept my cool. key words: it will be. no ifs or maybes. IT WILL BE! and the rest of the story just confirms that it will be.
on sunday (yesterday) she came to church again and afterwards we had a lesson with double members present because everyone loves her and wants to be in on the lessons and loves missionary work and it’s the best! we finished the Plan of Salvation. We had taught parts one and two and we wanted to review and then teach about what happens after this life. we approached it in a totally different way than normal because we thought about Nastya and her needs and what she would personally need to hear in order to understand. We used a LOT of scriptures. and i mean a lot. and we went super into detail and tied in the need for ancient scripture and modern revelation and the need for prophets–so that we can understand these eternal truths and connect them and apply them in our lives..so that we can have answers to these questions of our soul. we also tied in temples, and the member present unexpectedly shared this beautiful, sacred experience from the temple and it was completely appropriate at this time and setting and the Spirit was SO strong and after her story we all just testified and shared our love for the Savior and for this Plan and for her, there was one part in the lesson, after we finished putting all of the puzzle pieces together (sister carver has this awesome wooden puzzle plan of salvation thing in russian), Nastya took the puzzle into her own hands and said, “okay let’s talk about this” and we reviewed and discussed and clarified and answered questions. at the end of the lesson, i reminded her that she had done that, and I asked if she could do that with the Lord: “okay, let’s talk about this.” she said she would and I know that the Spirit is just engulfing her right now and that she’s being prepared to take the next step.
She said she was surprised by her reaction to the baptism/how she felt afterwards. she said she didn’t feel joy or the desire to sing the hallelujahs…she felt a weight, almost…and she thought about the seriousness of it and the responsibility of it. at first i was also kind of surprised by that reaction–i wouldn’t say that it’s particularly common or that it was what i expected or hoped she’d feel…but then i thought about it and i had an epiphany! we explained that baptism is a very serious step-it’s a commitment. and commitment can be scary. but it’s not a commitment of perfection–it’s a commitment of desire and effort. And when you’re ready to make that kind of commitment, then you feel joy and you want to sing the hallelujahs!
Nadya, one of the members on the lesson with us, explained to Nastya that it’s like when you’ve tried a delicious treat, and you give it to someone who’s trying it for the first time. you sit and watch with excitement and anticipation because you KNOW how delicious it is and you just can’t wait till the person experiences it for the first time. but if you’ve never tried the delicious treat and you watch someone else try it for the first time and you watch other people who have tried it…and they’re so excited and you think to yourself, “i don’t get it, what’s the big deal with this cream puff? it must be serious business…” and it is. cream puffs are serious business. i don’t know if that makes sense but it did when Nadya explained it and it was awesome.
anyways, we are so excited for this coming up week and to keep doing what we’re doing because it is the best.
unfortunately my dear sister carver is sick sick sick!! in the lesson yesterday we were all crying, but she was extra emotional and it reminded me of when i was in high school and i used to stay home from school sick and i was home alone and i’d watch pocahontas by myself and cry hysterically. i always get emotional watching pocahontas, but when sick, my emotions go crazy and that’s what happened to sister carver yesterday and right now she’s sniffling and puffy eyed at the computer next to me. so sad. i made chicken alphabet noodle soup for her and have been pounding her with vitamin c so hopefully she will be better soon and hopefully i can come off conqueror with no sicknesses…so far i’ve been SO blessed with health on my mission.
so those prayers must be working–keep praying for me!! i love you!!!
and the waterfall picture was awesome–keep them coming!
p.s. here’s a quote for my precious photographer (this time i mean blake): “you young men, you are a royal priesthood. do you ever pause to think of the wonder of it?”
LITERALLY pause, blake, and think of the wonder of it…for 5 minutes at least. then keep reading: “you have had hands placed upon your heads to receive that same priesthood exercised by John who baptized Jesus of Nazareth. With worthiness in your lives, you may enjoy the comforting, protecting, guiding influence of miniestering angels. No individual of earthly royalty has a blessing as great. Live for it. Be worhty of it, is my plea to each of you” -Gordon B. Hinckley.
ditto to President Hinckley. Blake, I am so proud of you. I love you and pray for you everyday so that you will be brave and know who you are–know that you’re a son of God and He trusts you with His power! think of the wonder of it. He is so proud of you with every good decision and every good thought and every kind word. Keep being the angel that you are. It’s so worth it! I’m so proud to be your big sister.
I’m so glad you are back safe and sound! you forgot to send me pictures, though! it’s okay, i will send you some anyways.

i loved hearing about the changes of hearts and almost got teary eyed reading tyler’s sweet note in spanish. i’ll have you know that the gift of tongues is real because i don’t remember a single word in spanish and can’t even say, “hello, my name is..” anymore because my mind only functions in russian and english now…but i was able to read that without a problem and understood every word! woohoo!! i’ll have to practice speaking when i am home with dad and kevin so that i can join the troops with nicole and we can all keep secrets from mom! jess can just speak italian and parker can speak portuguese and it will all work out. haha just kidding mom, we love you.
we had a verrrry busy week. people are constantly filtering in and out of their vacations so this INCREDIBLE girl luba (i sent a picture last week) finally came back from her trip to vietnam only to say she was leaving for kazan in 48 hours! but we were so touched when she texted us and said, “but i can meet tomorrow!” we had planned on getting on a train around 5 pm to get to tver (a different city) around 9 for our split but sister carver and i talked about it and decided that we can’t give up a single opportunity to teach–this is salvation and it’s more important than sleep! ha! so we said “of course!” and pushed everything back. we had an incredible lesson in a member’s home and the Spirit was so strong as the member (our bff Nadya who just turned in her mission papers), recited the First Vision and testified of the Restoration. I will do anything to feel that Spirit again and again and I’m so grateful that I can add mine, that I know that Joseph Smith knelt in the grove that day and sincerely sought truth. So he turned to the source of all truth and prayed to God, with faith that he’d receive an answer. and he did. and that answer changed the world. I’ve been thinking about how incredible revelation is. it is God’s communication with His children. Ancient prophets recorded their revelation, then Joseph Smith, through revelation, translated that revelation. We can read this revelation and pray about it and receive our own revelation about it’s truthfulness. It’s a miracle.
Last night after church, we taught this girl named Masha (also a friend of Nadya’s….Nadya is the best). And Masha told us that she gets so distracted and starts believing the words of others and then it’s so confusing as she studies all different religions so she decided that she couldn’t join any of them, because she needed to stop listening to other people and just focus on her relationship with God–ask Him what to do and dictate her decisions accordingly. We were so impressed by her wisdom and her sincere desires. and she was raised Russian Orthodox, yet she said–“you know what? i decided that praying to icons is so distracting and so i decided to just turn to the Almighty God Himself” and she lifted her hands above her head and looked up…then she said, “and I told Him that I was stupid and foolish and that I was easily confused. I told Him that I needed Him to tell me, not through symbols or signs, but in words–in a way I could understand–so that I’d know what to do” we sat in awe as she continued, “and I’ve really come to learn how God communicates with me, personally. Sometimes I just get these thoughts–and it is very clear that it is from God”. this is how i felt about that: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I felt like she was teaching me, and not the other way around. I know that right now she not particularly looking for religion, because she was raised in a world where the true meaning of religion has been distorted. I am so grateful that our religion is a unified set of beliefs that have taught us how to create that personal relationship with God. I’m so grateful that we are taught that questions are good and that God knows and loves us personally and we are not “bothering” Him with mundane minutia when we, as His children, turn to Him for solace, comfort, counsel, answers, peace…or just for someone to listen. Nothing is impossible for Him. I don’t know how it works, but I know that it is true–that He can listen to all of our prayers and answer them all. And that when we are searching for answers, we don’t need to turn to man, we can turn to God. 
I’ve had to do a lot of this myself lately, really asking Him for the strength to trust Him. We were able to go to Ryazan last week and it was a dream being there. Just walking those streets. I can’t explain it. But randomly it was a paratrooper holiday and the morning of we got a text from our leaders saying it was dangerous and we needed to be off the streets by 6. we had a lesson planned with raya and her husband for 7:30! and that’s when she gets off work. My heart broke. We’re not allowed to visit her at work anymore, because her boss is anti. but we walked by, and she saw us and came running out (risking getting in big trouble with her boss). just seeing her and hugging her for a few moments meant so much to me! she told us she’s been having some doubts and right now is a really hard time for her. then we had to tell her we couldn’t meet with her that night—her eyes just killed me. the next day we found out that because three sisters are leaving this transfer and no one’s coming in, they’re shutting down ryazan for sisters for this transfer. I couldn’t sleep at all saturday night and I fasted so earnestly on sunday. i’m so worried and my heart is so broken, but i just have to trust that He knows better than I do. And we’re just praying for the Ottleys (the senior couple down there) and for the one set of elders that will be carrying the weight of an entire city on their shoulder. I know that the Lord works in mysterious ways and i just keep reminding myself of the words, “so long thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.”
because it’s a transfer week, sister carver and i don’t have any splits this week so we have mega plans for working our butts off in our own area and we’re really excited about it. and speaking of transfers, are mission’s being flipped upside down and there are SO many changes (at least with the sisters there are)…there are only three companionships that are staying the same, and guess who’s one of them?! sister carver and i!!! we can’t believe it!! we are soooo happy!!! this transfer coming up means that we will now have served half of our missions together hahahahah it’s so crazy. but it’s the biggest blessing. 
i love you family!! i hope you have a great week! 
 

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!
 

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first,
i wanted to say this last week but i forgot—DAD. i’ve been thinking about you a lot and as I pray i just feel so overwhelmed with gratitude and just truly thank the Lord for you and for your devotion. devotion to mom and devotion to us and then i realized that it all goes back to your devotion to God. thank you!! i love and miss you so much!!

and mom. i haven’t forgotten about you. this morning i read something in personal study and it made me just beam with pride because my mama is not just a teacher, she’s the best teacher in the world. and  teaches at school, at church, and at home–the most important school of all. so this is for you mama: “teaching is the noblest profession in the world. upon the proper education of youth depend the permanency and purity of the home, the safety and perpetuity of the nation. the parent gives a child an opportunity to live; the teacher enables the child to live well” -President David O. McKay.

my parents are the coolest. have SO much fun in costa rica and BLAKE take soooo many pictures, okay? i got a little teary eyed reading what dad said about how you taught in Deacon’s quorum about the sacrament and how special it is to you to be graced with honor to pass it. you truly are representing the Lord and everytime i show people pictures of you, i say, “vot, nastayashee angel” which means, “Look, a real life angel” that’s you blake. i love you.

kev–i’ve been praying for you and i hope you nailed all your finals and take care of tyler and andy on the trip hhahaha sister carver is the best and is now in on all inside jokes i have with all humans because we’ve spent so much time together and we are One and so she sometimes quotes tyler and says, “you’re grounded” hahaha and speaking of tylers and inside jokes—tyler, lauren, maddie, carley & co, sister carver and i always say, “happy 6 month anniversary my babe. oooooo i love you”…ESPECIALLY when it real life was our anniversary in russia. we said it all day. tis the best.
anyways, here is a scripture that i’ve been thinnking about recently: “cast all your cares unon the Lord, for He careth for you.” i can’t think of more beautiful words and a more beautiful truth. i don’t have access to my scriptures and forgot to write down the reference but i thiiiiink it’s philipians 4 sometime before the :i can do all things with Christ who strengtheneth me” verse. or something like that.

anyways, this week was grand. we went to smolensk round 2 and it was awesome and on saturday we got permission to switch our p-day kind of (so i’ll be hitting the streets after i write to you) because we have these people we’re starting to teach and they;re a couple and they’ve been together for 6 years and they remind me SO much of kieran and ange. they are seriously the russian kieran and ange and so obviously im obsessed with them and always want to be with them. They’re names are aksana and yuri and they work on mondays but they really wanted to show around town and adventure with us and they have a car which is realllllly unusual and so they picked us up and we went to all of these different parks and we bladed and picniced and strolled and it was SO fun! moscow parks are UNREAL and it was kinda rainy and we’re just surrounded by forests and it smells so good and is so green. it’s even more green and foresty than new hampshire!! i was in heaven.

then saturday night we were joined by our ksyoosha. she leaves for her mission tomorrow (she’s going to the spain mtc and then to the st petersburg mission) and she got set apart last night and she’s staying with us and we’re in a threesome kind of and it’s the best!! nicole, it’s given me a tiny taste of what it would be like to serve with a native. it’s so awesome doing EVERYTHING in russian–ccompanionship study, chatting before bed, everything. and she’s such an incredible example and we’ve felt the Spirit SO strongly just flooding us these last few days. We forgot she’d be with us sunday and already set us a lesson with a member present so it turned out to kind of just be a lesson with double members present because ksyoosha (now sister krooshkina) wasn’t set apart yet. We taught about the Atonement’s role in the Plan of Salvation and it was so incredible. I was just so touched as I studied and prepared and then taught and testified. I know that Jesus Christ is the reason that I am who I am and that I am where I am and I’m without end, eternally grateful. I can’t describe it for even a second. but nastya, the girl we taught, stayed for all three hours of church after our lesson. it was incredible, and the first speaker in sacrament meeting stood up and said, “today i would like to speak on the Plan of Salvation. And i want to specifically focus on the Atonement” hahah we just started laughing! the Lord is so aware of us!
After church we booked it to a lesson with the chinese family we’re teaching and sister krooshkina was with us AND the only chinese member in moscow, Mike. hahhahhahahah sooo much miscommunication happened. we thought we were going over to their apartment ffor dinner. mike was an hour late. it was pouring rain. and turns out they live in a tiny flat with tons of other families so there were too many of us and they planned on us just meeting at the park but it was raining so we stood in between the two sliding doors of a grocery store (like you walk through sliding doors and then there are grocery carts and then another set of sliding doors into the store) and mike and the mom just ratttttled off in chinese and would laugh and point at us hahha but in a friendly way? and then randomly they’d say something in english to us like, “ohhhh i really like eat beer” hahah so we were like, “ohh okay so they’re talking about the word of wisdom now” hahahha it was the funniest times. and me and sister carver and sister krooshkina just chatted in broken english with the father and played with the baby. they are the best. and want to learn more! they have zero religious background but are so open and kind and we love their family SOOO much. mike is from taiwan (shout out to caleb!) but is leaving for a vacation in sweden for a month and we’re doomed!!! maybe they can skype with chinese members or missionaries? i don’t know. we brought them a book of mormon in chinese but it was in traditional chinese so we need to get a simple chinese one. crazy stuff. chinese is hysterical to listen to.

anyways, i am happier than ever.

right now we are in the shmancy “computer lounge” because the post office is closed and this is the only one we can find but we are alone in this huge room with dimmed lights and big screen computers and french music and velvet arm chairs hahahhahahah it’s hysterical.

anyways, i love yoU!!!!! have a great week!