Sunday, December 14, 2014

Samara - Week 16 - "You can't change your circumstances"

November 10, 2014
All is well :) 


....but I will be honest with you. I am getting a little bit tired. I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed, but it is okay, because that is helping me to rely on Christ. I am really learning what it means to rely on him when you have no more energy left both physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. Know who is really good at helping me to conquer fears and doubts though? My dear companion. It's so good that we have companions. We work really well together in the fact that I will get a prompting and then immediately tell her, then when it comes down to actually doing it I am tempted to back out (embarrassing) and she says, "No let's do it!!" and you know what? We have seen SO many miracles by actually following through with such promptings. It really helps me when I just open my mouth and blurt out my promptings too, because I can't take back my words, she heard the prompting, and if I won't follow through with it, she will make sure we do :) 


We are seeing MIRACLES. And I have noticed so many of the times that Satan tries to drag us down right before they are about to happen, just like he did with our dear Joseph Smith. The most important part is that we end up following through with it in the end, just like he did. For example this week we had a 4 hour block for contacting, visiting less actives all along the way (oh how I love contacting! No sarcasm!) we focused the entire day on following promptings of the spirit, picking up our pace to talk to a woman, focusing on families (particularly women with stollers), and giving out church invitations. I feel that Heavenly Father gave us a confirmation that we were following through with HIS plans when we arrived at a less active's home and sadly... she wasn't home. We noticed her neighbors were standing outside their door though and we decided to talk to them instead, we asked if they knew the member and they said, "you mean her?" pointing behind us. We turned around and there was the less active :) our pathes crossed at just the right moment. She let us in her house and we invited her to start reading the Book of Mormon again. Well she invited us over last night, and she has been reading from the Book of Mormon! (I have to admit that I doubted that she would read, we just give out many commitments to people and they never follow them, how can I continue to have faith in these people? Actually that's right, I need to rely on Christ. That answers that question.) The less active, A., said that she read a verse she really liked about repentance. She knows that she needs to repent and the sad thing is that she is too afraid to face God, she doesn't feel worthy to pray. The ironic thing about repentance though and feeling worthy to pray... is that in order to recieve forgiveness you MUST pray. However let's remember that OUR Heavenly Father always has his arms open to us. Just like the story of the prodigal's son. 


This week I also learned a valuable lesson... there was a day during the week, early in the morning where we were waiting to receive permission to hold our planning session on another day, and we literally had NO other time to have it during the week, but we were still getting no calls or texts back. And because we weren't getting the permission we would have to go work outside contacting until we got permission. But I already knew what would happen, we'd take 10 minutes getting on all our gear... we'd be outside for 5 minutes, and then we'd get the "okay." I was getting very impatient with our system out here... and suddenly I turned into a child :) I couldn't stop complaining! You know what happened? We got all dressed up, and right as we were about to head out the door we got the permission text. Just like I knew would happen. I was beat red... I don't know what was with my mood that morning but my patience was at a zero. 


My companion and I sat down to plan, and she said to me, "Sister Wilson, can I be honest with you?" I already knew what she was going to say... "You have been complaining a lot today." I told her that I realized that and I was sincerely sorry for my sour attitude. I didn't want such an attitude! But it was definitely there. Then she said something that really changed my point of view, it hit me very hard. She told me, "On a mission, you don't have control over anything." She was completely right. This is time of our life Heavenly Father is literally completely in charge of our time, of our circumstances... I have heard that many times "You can't change your circumstances, but you can change your attitude." But I never understood it until now. We literally can't control whether our plans fall through, whether or not people will read the book of mormon, whether or not we will get permission to plan.... every single little thing is in the control of God. Once we understand that, once we trust him, we can have perspective in literally EVERYTHING. And that's what happened to me in that moment. I realized I didn't trust God! I was angry with my circumstances, when really I could have just put a smile on my face, said, "man this is silly, but I will be obedient, and I will be cheerful about it." I know God gave me that experience to choose whether or not I would take that situation and have a good attitude and laugh about it, or get frustrated and act like a big baby. Unfortunately I chose the latter... but I surely learned something from it :) and I am now putting my complaints on the table of sacrifice! I have realized that it is actually easier in the end not to complain at all. Complaints never make anything better anyway.


Also for those of you who have been praying that we will find a family... We found a family a little while ago, and we felt so blessed to have met them, a mother and a daughter and they were both SO interested. However when we tried to call them nothing worked out... their numbers didn't work. Well last night Sister Martinez and I were coming home from a lesson (and already late!) and we decided to run after a girl pushing a stroller. We gave her an invitation to church and told her to call us if she had any questions, we were about to start running home but she said, "actually I do have questions." We both turned around and then to our surprise we saw that it was the daughter that we'd met in the past. She is only 16 years old, but has a baby. She told us her daughter is blind, and I think she's got some questions for God right now :) She also told us that her number changed, but she is still interested in meeting us. We will be meeting with her today around 2 or 3 :) What a blessing! Thanks for all the prayers! I'll keep you updated.


Remember that we have a God of miracles!
Love you all :)
--Sister Brooklyn Wilson 

Samara - Week 15 - "See the Salvation of the Lord"

November 3, 2014
All is well,

This week was a little bit crazy. We didn't get to work in our area very much. But we had zone conference and it was wonderful :) President Klebingat (he spoke in general conference and is a VERY powerful speaker) came and spoke to us.

Elder Jörg Klebingat

At the end of the conference it was open to questions. I had a burning question in my heart so I raised my hand as quickly as I could :) "During planning we have impressions that we will baptize a certain amount of people in a cycle, we feel that these answers come from the spirit. If we are exercising faith and repenting, then why do we still fall short of those goals? Does that mean it is God's will, or does it mean we didn't exercise enough faith? What does it mean?" There were a few answers given (this doesn't just apply to missionaries setting goals, this applies to all). 

One answer: your goal was so good, it was pure, you had good intents, and God knew this. He confirmed your "goal" whether you would accomplish it or not, because he knew what you would accomplish in yourself while in the process. Goals push us to do things. He knew that goal would push us to be a better person, we would perfect ourselves in the process! Honestly God doesn't care that much about the end goal, he cares about what you do in order to reach it. 

The second answer: agency of others. Maybe that goal was really supposed to be so, we had every intention of accomplishing it. I think that God had the intent to help us accomplish it too. In fact, God's work and his glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. However, do you think that God is going to reach that goal? Sadly, the answer is no. He loves us so much, he wants that gift for every single human being. Salvation is free, but by using our free agency incorrectly we deny ourselves of that precious gift. Sometimes we also fall short, not because of God, but because of the actions of men. But don't let that get you down! Remember that God will never abandon you :) 

My companion and I studied Alma 37 today and were heavily impressed by the following verses. These scriptures are talking about the Liahona:

40 And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.

 41 Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey;

"if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, IT WAS DONE... nevertheless... they were slothful, and FORGOT to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey." How sad! All that they did was forget to exercise faith, and the marvelous works ceased. You know who wants us to forget? Satan. He uses forgetfulness as a weapon against us. He wants us to forget the feeling we get after we serve someone. He wants us to forget the joy that comes from self mastery as we are obedient to God's commandments. He wants us to forget that we need to rely on the Lord's power, not our own. He wants us to forget who we are. However, there is another source of power that counteracts Satan's influence, and that is the Holy Ghost. One of his roles is to help us remember. He gently reminds us who we are, and who Satan is. We will always have more power than Satan, we have a body! Who does he think he is anyways. 

Sister Martinez and I are doing wonderfully :) We're two happy peas in a pod, and we are working hard. And you know what? When we aren't, we recognize it, we repent, correct it, and move on. Repent and move on :)

We had made a goal to have 140 baptisms this year. I believe that we have about 60 baptisms left in the year. I want to share a small part of President's letter: 

"Satan knows what is about to happen and so do we! We have already far surpassed 2013's baptisms with two months still left to go. But to reach our mission's 2014 baptismal goal, every companionship will need to baptize two people by the end of the year. Can it be done? ABSOLUTELY!! We believe in a mighty "God of miracles" (Mormon 9:19) who created us and also worlds without number, who moves mountains, raises the dead and parts seas--who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. A God who "comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:41). 

With two months and three days left until the end of the year, IT IS NOW "CRUNCH" TIME! It is time to give our very best, to work our hardest, to give everything we can! It is time to exercise even greater faith, to trust in God, and to cast out all doubts and fears. In a miraculous way, it is time for us, just as it was time for the Children of Israel standing before the Red Sea, to "fear not" and "see the salvation of the Lord" (Exodus 14:13). To those people, Moses said: "The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace" (Exodus 14:14)."

I love being here, I can't tell you how much I have seen myself grow. I am so uncomfortable all the time, I am being stretched. And it's good, because I am a natural man. And by being stretched, by going through some stress, I will be made perfect in the potter's hands. I trust my loving master. 

I love you all :) thanks for the support!
--Sister Brooklyn Wilson 

Samara - Week 14 - "Swallowed up in the Joy of Christ"

October 27, 2014
All is well,

Wow. I can't believe what can happen in one day on the mission. I feel like I gain an entire week's worth of experience in one day. 

We had our first snow in Russia. All I can say is that I really wish I would have worn a hat and mittens that day :) Everyone has been saying that there's never been such a cold October... and that it's going to be a very cold winter. However, I feel like people say that every year. 

This week while we were working with our amazing ward missionary leader, Zhenya, who is also one of my most beloved friends, he asked me, "Sister Wilson, have you seen Jurassic Park?" Of course I have... well Zhenya had a Jurassic Park dream, and said that everyone in his dream could stand still when the T-rex came marching around, everyone but me. I just couldn't stand still. I got a really good kick out of that :) 

ALSO, S. got baptized! It was an amazing day. Truly. The people at her baptism were Sister Martinez and I, the Elders, Zhenya, and another member. 7 people total. I actually think that the small crowd made it really special and personal for her. She was so nervous for the baptism, she's been worrying about it all week. Sister Martinez and I gave the talks. Mine was on the Holy Ghost, I read John 14:26, and as I was about to close I was prompted to read one more verse, verse 27: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. When I looked up at S. her eyes her filled with emotion and I know that it is because the Holy Ghost compelled me to read that scripture. He fulfilled his purpose as comforter, and Svetlana was filled with peace. And oh how happy she was after she was baptized! Just beaming. So clean :) A brand new beginning.

My companion and I have really been focusing on faith lately, and especially faith in Christ. At the beginning of this week every one of our possible plans fell through and we had a day of contacting. I don't know if it was the weather or what exactly it was... but people were being very onry with us that morning (actually they were being flat out rude to be honest). The day wasn't looking so bright. However, when we noticed that discouragement was beginning to sink in we decided to pray, and we prayed with faith in Christ, praying for and expecting to see a miracle. And not 3 minutes after that prayer we began to have success. We met 2 people who took Books of Mormon and want to meet with us again! Ol. and L. 

We had a return appointment with Ol. and had a small lesson about prayer, As we were about to leave her apartment she mentioned that her neighbor saw her Book of Mormon and he asked if Ol. knew where he could get one for himself. I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped, I thought that happened only happened in fairytales! (the funny thing is we met with another one of our investigators the next day and the exact same thing happened, she asked us for another Book of Mormon for her friend who is interested in reading it). And THEN the other day we called this woman, L., and she has already read 6 chapters from the Book of Mormon. Getting someone to read the Book of Mormon is not an easy thing, believe it or not. When people read the Book of Mormon on their own they are truly elect! People are becoming so interested in the gospel! 

This morning we read Alma 31:38
38 And the Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea, and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith.

Those 2 people that we met that day have been so promising, we've continuted to see miracles through them. And it is because we prayed in faith. When we pray in faith our afflictions can be swallowed up in the joy of Christ, and oh how sweet is that joy! We were truly afflicted that day, our hearts were depressed and we were about to turn back, but we decided to pray with faith in Christ, and that made all the difference. 

I have a problem that's really not that big of a problem. Every night when I lay down to go to sleep I have the biggest smile on my face, I feel SO HAPPY. I am filled with the spirit as I lay down to go to sleep, I am filled with exceedingly GREAT joy, (the problem is that those emotions cause me to lay awake for 30 minutes because they're so magnificent haha) But why?! What have I done to deserve this? I can't believe the experiences we are having. I can't beileve the success we are seeing, and let me just say that it is NOT because of us. There is no way we could see these miracles on our own. We forget so many things, we are late a lot of the time, but our desires and intentions are so pure. And you know what? God sees those desires that we have and he runs with them! 

I came to an epiphany the other night while I was praying. The words of a talk came into my head, and I was reminded that God wants a servant, not a "great missionary" someone who wants to become a great missionary most likely wants the glory for himself. Someone who wants to be a servant wants to do what God wants done on earth. If God can trust us he can do AMAZING things with us, we literally become instruments in his hands. I want to share part of one of my favorite talks, it is called "The fourth missionary" :) 

"Just give it up. Surrender your will to him. Unconditionally. Withholding nothing. Turn it all over to him; all your desires, wishes, dreams, and hopes. Be true and faithful in your head and in your heart, not just in your behavior. Trust in Him. Trust Him who knows all things. Trust Him who has all power. Trust Him whose love for you in perfect. Trust Him, who alone suffered, paid, and atoned for your sins, and for your weaknesses as well. Trust Him that He will make of your immeasurably more than what you will ever, ever, in all eternity make of yourself. He will create of you a masterpiece. You will creat of you only a smudge. You will create an ordinary man. He will create a God."

May we all strive to be a servant, rather than a great cook, a great mom, a great missionary, a great football player. Let us be a great servant. He can make of us so much more than we can make of ourselves. I know that. I know that with all my heart. He is the one who created us, he is the only one who can change us. Trust Him who loves you and knows you perfectly. 

Love,
Sister Brooklyn Wilson 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Welcome to my Home Sweet Home



Ever wonder what missionary apartments are like? 
Well, wonder no more! 
Sister Wilson has graciously invited us on a tour of her home.


Sitting Room

Bookcase

Kitchen




Bedroom and Bathroom










Work Station

There you have it .... A typical apartment in Samara Russia.
Sister Wilson's Humble, but Happy abode!



Samara - Week 13 - "When plans fall through"

October 20, 2014

All is well :)

Oh my goodness... you would not believe the miracles we had this week. I think I went to bed every single night this week with butterflies in my stomach, I was just so happy with each day, something miraculous has happened every day in this companionship. I love my companion so much, she is my best friend. So so sweet, and I trust her so much. I can't believe how much unity I have with my companion. We are pushing ourselves so hard and building each other up. We complement each other so well, things are going very well in this companionship to say the least. She is a tiny little Mexican girl, she has a very soft voice and seems super shy, but she loves to laugh. She just gives me so much courage, we are a perfect little happy companionship right now :)

Man, this was a crazy week. Our visa trip- it was SOOO good to see every one from the MTC, I was just so happy to see everyone and see how everyone is doing. I can't believe how much everyone has grown, it language, in maturity (haha) and it was also good to see Sister Palmer :) However, the actually visa trip got a little mixed up. One of the sister's visas didn't renew until the day AFTER our flight was set for. My companion ended up having to stay with her. Which means I got to spend a day working on the streets with Sister Palmer in Samara. We actually got permission and went to one of the senior couple's apartments and watched women's conference and priesthood, which was AMAZING. Not to mention their apartment is so nice... wow. I felt like I was at home, there's even a cute little fire place. They also fed us hot chocolate and ginger snaps. I wish we had a senior couple in Balakovo. 

Okay, now for the miralces. Or things that made me happy this week :)

One night this week all of our plans fell through, and isn't it so interesting how when our plans get scattered that's when I see God picking up all the scattered pieces and he puts HIS plan into action. One of the miracles was when Sister Martinez and I were on the bus. It was very crowded, my companion and I were sitting across the isle from each other and our member help was in between us in the "hall/isle" of the bus. I was very into my conversation with T, whose entire family got in a car crash a year ago, her husband and grand children were killed in the wreck. My heart was torn as I looked at the expression of grief on her face, I testified that God loves her and he doesn't want her to be sad, he wants her to turn to him and rely on him. Our member looked at me and told me that our bus stop was next. I wanted to get her number so we could explain the Plan of Salvation another day with her, but she couldn't write her number down fast enough! We got to the stop and I panicked a little bit, then the member told me that actually our stop was next. I breathed a sigh of relief and was able to write down her number. When we got off the bus I learned that my companion was also trying to write down the number of the person she was sitting next to, but still wasn't done writing it down as we pulled up to the bus stop. The member, standing between the two of us saw that we needed more time and had us ride one more bus stop so we could get their numbers. It was just so interesting to know that my companion was experiencing the same thing that I was sitting across from me. That was a miracle having the member there helping us watching us. 

Another night all of our plans once again fell through. Sister Martinez, the member, and I all prayed that we would still be able to see miracles that night. We decided to have a lesson with one of our long time investigators (she's been investigating a whole year now). We were a little bit hestitant on going by because we had no lesson planned for her, we knew we'd be relying on the spirit very heavily for that lesson. When we walked in, our investigator Sv had us sit down and she told us, "look at what I opened up to the other day." It was a scripture about baptism :) She said that she feels like she is getting closer and closer to baptism. Right then and there I testified that she is ready for baptism NOW, and then my companion invited her to be baptized on the 8th of November. I do believe that we had to push that question at least 5 more times, and then I had the thought to get on our knees with her right then, but some time passed while she was talking and it didn't feel right anymore to all pray together. However, I remembered that anything that says NOT to pray is from the devil. I raised my voice and said, "Sv, let's all pray about this together right here, on our knees." Reluctantly, she agreed, and we all got down on our knees before God. She offered such a sincere prayer, saying that she's been waiting and studying and praying for an answer, and that she knows he will give her one, and that she knows that he loves her. When we finished praying I asked Sv what she was feeling, and she said, "peace." My companion then testified that what she was feeling was from the Holy Ghost. Sv agreed to prepare for baptism on the 8th of November. However, when we were heading out the door she asked, "what if I want to be baptized later.... or even earlier?" we told her that we will pray about it with her together, and that her baptismal date can be adjusted if needed. 

The next day Sv came to church and announced to us that she wants to be baptized THIS Saturday. We were shocked! She said that she is getting this feeling like she can't wait until Nov. 8th. She keeps saying the thought keeps returning to her mind, "you are running out of time." She doesn't want to procrastinate anymore :) She doesn't know what that answer means exactly, whether it means that her life is literally going to be cut short, or if it's that she needs to get started on temple work for her family, or if it means that it's time for her to be baptized so she can start sharing the gospel with her family. For one reason or another she can't wait. This is a MIRACLE, we've been working with Sv for so long, and have put so much effort into teaching her and loving her. The time is now :) Russia is the new Brazil! It has been promised by general authories, the baptisms will be not doubling, not trippling, but will be increased by TEN. 

Get ready for some new miracles next week :) 

Love,
Sister Brooklyn Wilson 

Samara - Week 12 - "My Weekly Schedule"

October 13, 2014
All is well,

Here's what happened this last week-

Monday- We wake up, have studies, and then hustle to the internet cafe as fast as we can! Dima is the one who runs the internet cafe and he is so kind to us. He helps us when we want to send pictures home, and he always says, "the usual?" which is 2 hours :) we have unlimited time to write home, but really 2 hours is enough! After writing home we go get groceries. I always buy a HUGE bag of apples and they are gone by the end of the week. Sister Haroldsen taught me this recipe, mom you got to try it! You'll love it. You take a grater, and grate an apple, some cheese (any cheese really, actually maybe more mild) and then grate a clove or two of garlic, then about a tablespoon or two of mayo, mix it all together and then put it on some bread. It's so good! It's my favorite snack. Also there is this stuff here called me-you-slee, mhyuslee. It's cereal basically. We buy the healthy kind of it and then put plain activia milk in it. I'll eat that for breakfast or oatmeal. Also my new companion sister Martinez has some taco seasoning so we make taco soup too, oh man it's so yummy. We do lots of cooking on Mondays! Also I'll cook up some banana bread, I am famous in this branch for it ;) after groceries sometimes we'll go to the reenock. I actually bought a coat last week, but I don't think it will be thick enough for winter. It was only 500 rubles, and WARM, I wore it the other night when I could see my breath really easy and I was even hot in it! But if it was only 500 rubles it can't be that good of quality. We are going up to Samara tonight to have a visa trip, so I'll probably get one of the left behind winter jackets from one of the sisters there. 

Then on Monday nights we have FHE at Sister Cv.'s, she is my Russian mom :) I love her so so much. Her daughter is N. is such a sassy 18 year old girl, gotta love it. The elders get so annoyed with her hahaha. At FHE we start with a spiritual thought, then we play a game, then we eat WATERMELON, every time. For some reason Elder Wall just always brings watermelon, it's tradition now. Actually a man came to FHE last week that no body really knew, and afterward while everyone was eating and talking, I went and sat next to him and asked him about his religious beliefs and what not. He talked about how there are so many churches on earth, and how each church claims to be the true church, and he's just confused. I gave him a big smile, and jumped right into the restoration. We sent him on his merry way with a Book of Mormon. He called us today and asked if he could come to FHE again tonight and bring a friend with him who is also interested in this church of ours. I am so sad that we are leaving tonight for our visa trip... but Elder Wall will take care of him. I could trust that elder with my life, he feels like a brother, he's such an amazing missionary. And he's staying in our area!! (I actually wrote president begging him not to take him out of our area and president wrote back saying, "Well sister Wilson, looks like the Lord heard your prayers, Elder Wall is sticking in Balakovo.")
Speaking of which, I hear that Elder Graf is with his MTC companion and they are serving together as zone leaders. I was so happy for him when I found that out hahaha. He's probably having the time of his life. I am sure that I will serve in Toliatti sometime, and when I get put over there he'll probably get booted out and put as a zone leader some where else :) haha I'm not too worried about crossing paths with him. God's in charge of the work and he's going to be really smart about where we're both serving. If I stay in Balakovo my whole mission I'm sure I'd be happy. I love this city. 

Tuesday- We went and said goodbye to a lot of people because sister Haroldsen was getting transferred early. Lots of tears from her :) On Tuesday nights we have "film night" at the branch building. Usually there's only like 3 people who come, but this time it was SO successful, at least 11 people came! LOTS of less actives and LOTS of investigators. We watched mobsters and Mormons, I didn't understand basically the whole movie, but apparently it's really funny because everyone was laughing the whole time. Nothing better than being left out of the loop hahaha.

Wednesday- My dear trainer left me! Sister Haroldsen will now be with my MTC companion in Saratov. My new companion is sister Martinez. Oh man I love her. She is SO sweet and selfless and soft spoken. She has been out for 6 months. And has a really wonderful gift of being able to speak under the influence of the spirit. Whenever she opens her mouth you just know she is speaking from her heart. I can't wait to get to know her more, we really haven't had much time to just sit down and talk, but we have a long bus ride to Samara today, so I will get to know her a little more hopefully :) We have lots of the same desires and goals, so I know that we are going to see some AMAZING miracles here in Balakovo. That night she wanted to get to know the city a little better so we just went contacting and knocking.

Thursday- We have weekly planning from 11:00 to whenever we are done. As missionaries we like to call planning war counsel :) and it really is war. We have to take this time very seriously, because it is just as precious and sacred as any proselyting time on the streets. President Schwab actually brought up something funny at our last Zone conference, he said, "imagine being in a war counsel like in the days of the Nephites, and one of the generals walks into the counsel, starts taking off his armor, puts his feet up on the table, and pulls out a bag of chips. You would think, 'Dude, seriously? What are you doing...?'" It's the same thing with planning. Every night we come in at 9:00, we don't eat, we don't dress down and relax, we get straight into war counsel! Thursday nights we have English group, which is so much fun, depending on how many people come, which ranges from like... 4-15 people. Just depends! It's fun hearing everyone speak English in these beautiful, thick accents.

Friday- We have district meeting at about 12:30. It is only supposed to be and hour and a half, but somehow it ends up being longer than that every single time... We have Elder Wall and Serino as the elder in our area and I love them both :) they are like brothers to us! During district meeting we talk about our investigators and give each other advice. And we do role plays, which really is so insightful. Friday nights we usually have lessons with investigators, and if we can't find any investigators we meet with members, build them up and remind them how perfect the gospel is, and then ask for referrals. It has been going really well actually.

Saturday- we will contact or have lessons until 6:00, and then we have game night. I have actually found out that I am quite talented in the game of chess. Who knew? 

Sunday- church starts at 10:00. Relief society in Russia is a completely different thing that relief society in America... I'll tell ya that much. Just a bunch of older women reading and discussing the lesson directly from the book or from a liahona :) after church is our missionary meeting with the branch mission leader- Z. I love him. I want to take him to America, pay for him to take English lessons, and then have him teach gospel doctrine at BYU. He is so smart, so spiritual, so selfless. He is the most Christlike person I have ever met. The sisters in Balakovo have a member with them from 6-9:00 every single night thanks to Z. He's easily one of my best friends here in Russia. 

Also, conference was AMAZING. Oh I so needed just a spiritual feast :) I have a strong testimony of the power of general conference. I KNOW that prayers are answered at conference. I would be a completely different person without conference, actually. I went to a session of conference about a year and a half ago and one of the talks literally changed my life. I don't know where I would be, who my friends would be, or WHO I would be if I hadn't attended that session of conference. THAT is the power of the words of living prophets. It changed my life. If you haven't watched conference I challenge you to do so. The Holy Ghost speaks to us on such a personal level, I'll have to say that half of the notes that I took during conference were actually not related at all to what the speaker said! We get to hear a direct and straight forward message from a messenger of God, but we also get personal revelation, another message just for us and only for us :) God loves us and knows us perfectly. I am grateful for his son Jesus Christ, I am grateful for his example and the way that I feel when I try to live my life as Christ did. I just feel good, I feel happy :) (just a side note, kindness is so powerful! Never forget that! I'm always so surprised and happy and see what happens when I pass someone on the street and just say "Hello!" They look at us like we just gave them a bouquet of flowers, like it's the nicest thing they've ever heard. It is so rewarding just to say hello.)

Anyway, this is a long long letter. But there's a more detailed list of my week and how it goes :)

Til next week, love ya
--Sister Wilson 

And this from Brooklyn's new companion, Sister Martinez:

Yesterday after church was quite the adventure. We were riding home on a bus, it was a pretty crowded bus so I had to stand. I heard an older woman next to me talking very angrily. I honestly thought she was talking to someone behind me so I didn't pay any attention until she started yelling at me even more. She was very drunk. She grabbed my arm and started to shake me really hard, yeah... all I could do was try to get her grip off of me. I was literally in a shock, I couldn't believe this was happening to me! After getting her grip off of me I ran to the other side of the bus, but she followed me and began shaking me again. I honestly didn't want to hit her because she was drunk and didn't know what she was doing. So all I could do was get her grip off of me. My companion was trying to get her off, this was all during our ride home. The bus conductor was trying to calm the lady down, but she just kept on coming after me. We quickly got off the bus, unfortunately the drunk lady came out after us and she was charging after me. She wasn't hitting me, just shaking me. My companion Sister Wilson is quite the fighter :) She came between us and got her arm off of me... I am so grateful for my companion! I'm honestly fine, I didn't get hurt at all - just shaken up. We ran away ASAP.

(Brooklyn took a self defense class before she left, wonder if she remembered any of it....)

Samara - Week 11 - "Transfers"



October 6, 2014

All is well,

So my companion and I just got a call a few minutes ago from Sister Schwab, she had all the news for transfers a week early. I am staying in Balakovo, I will be serving with Sister Martinez (I've heard AMAZING things about her, Sis Busman trained her) and Sister Haroldsen will be serving with my old companion, Sister Palmer, in Saratov. She is going to love Sister Palmer :) I always told her that. I am glad not to be leaving this blessed area, but I'm scared to be the missionary left here beceause I still have such a nasty language barrier with this members!

We actually saw a couple miracles yesterday. First of all... we went to follow up with a member who had a referral for us. We met with her a week ago and had her write down 5 names of the people she loves most in her life, and to pray about 2 people on that list that she wants to share the gospel with. Well yesterday we met with her and she said that she hadn't received an answer yet and that she didn't think any of them were ready. She seemed to be a little bit bummed down about it, but as my companion and I spoke to her about how God can soften people's hearts as we pray for them, her own heart began to change! By the end of the lesson she told us, "How about on Friday I invite my cousin to my house and you two sisters come over to meet her in the evening?" She set up a lesson with us right before our eyes. God changes hearts and he gives people courage when it comes to doing his work. I have noticed it in myself and others as I share the good news :)

Also... there is an elder in this mission who is an EXACT COPY of Drew Hutchins. His name is Elder Serino, and they need to be friends when they get home.

We made a goal to hit 6 baptisms by the end of his cycle. We actually had a baptism this weekend with N :) She is handicapped with the understanding of an 8 year old, but that's enough to be baptized! Elder Wall baptized her and was so good with her... basically we went to a sauna for the baptism, and she was baptized in a pool. But the pool was SO DEEP, so Elder Wall had to hold her. Imagine an extremely awkward situation, and then put a really Christ-like person into the situation and suddenly it's not awkward anymore. Basically that's Elder Wall. He was so good with her. After she was baptized and dressed again she was talking with my companion and I and our branch president about how "not tasty" the water was, and that it is "not mean to be drinken." we were all trying so hard not to laugh. The best part though was the next day at church when she recieved the Holy Ghost, wow the spirit filled the building. Those blessings are so special. I am going to invite anyone who has the opportunity to go to a baptism to take it :) I love baptisms. So now we need 5 more baptisms because N was baptized, you don't need to fast for it or anything, but it means a lot to me so please just pray that we can get these 5 baptisms. We are expecting BIG miracles in this mission. Our mission president told us that Russia is the new Brazil, and that it's not going to be tomorrow or next year, but the time is NOW. And I believe him.

In closing I just wanted to share a scripture with you all :) It is 2 Ne 32:8, The spirit teacheth a man to pray, but an evil spirit teacheth a man NOT to pray. I paraphrased that for sure.
8: And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spiritteacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.
But I could not believe how PERFECT that lesson was, let me tell you why. We have an investigator who hasn't come to church in a long time, and won't speak to us on a spiritual subject anymore, and is tired of praying because he's not getting any "feedback" (however he only prayed for 3 days in a row), but he still comes to all activities. He came to the baptism and to church just to see what it's like to see a baptism and confirmation, but decided to stay for sunday school too... basically the Sunday school teacher was extremely inspired. Because he didn't even know that our investigator would be there. However it applied to me as well, because sometimes we are out on the streets and I think, "we are having no success right now... we should pray." and then the natural man in me says that I don't need to pray! I am too prideful to tell it to my companion. How awful is that? Guess who it's from, SATAN. That nasty devil. Our investigator asked the question, "well isn't it better not to pray at all than to have an insincere prayer?" and our Sunday school teacher said, "anything that teaches NOT to pray, is from the devil." Simple as that. 

When you feel like you gotta pray, 
get down on your knees and pray :) swallow your pride! 
(Can someone figure out how to say that in Russian for me? 
I've wanted to say it like 10 times at least)

Love you all :)
Sister Wilson 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Samara - Week Ten - "Baptists at Our BBQ"

September 29, 2014
All is SO well,

Okay looking back on my journal entries for the week... it was such a fun week. WOW. We are having "film night" on Tuesday nights, guess what we watched this week? Baptists at our BBQ!!! I was a star, wow it was so funny... we went back and rewinded the very beginning of it where we are walking across the street and where I'm screaming in the car like 6 times. In case  y'all didn't know, the Wilson family is famous ;) 
Watch this funny film to
see Brooklyn's acting debut

Sooo we should be having a baptism this weekend, so that's cool :) Her name is N., she's 50. The whole time during the interview I was afraid she was going to try to hold hands with Elder Wall. After he was done talking to her he told us that she has the understanding of about an 8 year old, but that's enough to be baptized. Hoorah :)

This week we also went to a music school and my companion got to play on this guys violin (a less active works at the music school so we're trying to reach her through music). This man, Vl. asked if he could listen to her play, she plays AMAZING. She is so talented on a violin. After she finished playing he asked her if she would do a concert for the whole school... it took everything in me not to burst out laughing. She is SO GOOD, there is no way that would ever be allowed, it was just so funny to me for some reason that that could even be a possibility. 

We had a lesson with our investigator S. this week and something really interesting happened while we taught her. Our lesson was on priesthood, but because she always has so many questions the subject got dragged into temple work. We were talking about where we go after we die and that we have to do temple work for the dead so that they can progress. Well all of the sudden in the middle of our lesson she goes, "OOOOHHH, That's what grandma was talking about!!!" Yeah, we were all really confused. But about 3 years ago she saw her grandma in a dream and was able to talk to her, she asked her where she was and if she had made it to heaven. Her grandma told her that she was in "the pre-kingdom" which comes before heaven. S. was confused by that dream for years, but now all the little pieces are coming together. Our member help on the lesson testified that S. needs to get baptized so that she was do her grandma's temple work. Members make missionary work so easy sometimes :) 

Here's a little part that I wrote to president this week: 
"Wow I am in love with this place. A mission is the best choice I've ever made. I love how many people I've met and how much I've learned about God and about myself. I just wanted to say that :) ALSO, you are the most amazing spiritual giant I've met. Your VOICE is always under the influence of the spirit and you say and do exactly what God would have you do. I know that because you had us study the scriptures in a van on the way home from zone conference and it was a very spiritual experience. I know for myself that I received some personal revelation, actually maybe you noticed that I asked some of my own personal questions during that drive. One of the questions I asked being, "can/will God take away our temptations or will he just take away the beauty of the temptation?" I think I pieced my answer together by putting bits of everyone's testimony together. What I learned was something like this: God can take the temptation away, but as soon as Satan sees that you are doing a lot of good by resisting that temptation he is going to work A LOT harder to get you to give in. Oh my goodness it is so true. Satan is a monster. Let me tell you why... 

Here's a miracle I saw yesterday. I have been slacking on talking to people on the bus, big time. It's somewhere between a laziness and a fear of talking to people. Yesterday I just got so sick of how I was feeling by not doing my job. I struck up a conversation with a woman sitting across from me (my companion and I have agreed that if I start a conversation that she'll try to keep it going) then Sister Haroldsen took over that conversation. So that gave me the courage to talk to the woman next to me, we got started into religion really quick, and here's a little bit about our conversation... she reads the bible, she doesn't really agree with many of the Russian Orthodox beliefs like having to confess your sins to the priest in front of everyone. Then she just started asking questions like, "why are there so many churches?" and I said, "yeah I know right?! There's one God, shouldn't there be one church?" and she was like, "YES I totally agree!" (wow I'm getting so excited writing about this?) and so sadly we had to get off the bus at the point. But I gave her a Restoration pamphlet and pretty much begged her to read it because it answers her questions. When I got off the bus I was just in shock. I KNOW that God sat that woman next to me, he set the perfect woman by me so that I would remember what happens when I open my mouth.
UGH SATAN IS SO SMART. All I have to do it open my mouth! I am a little bit frustrated and fed up with myself, I know that God is just laughing with me and giving me a little pat on the shoulder saying, "I told you it's not that hard, it's my work not yours, open your mouth and I'll take care of your language and the person's heart." Yeah. God is so wonderful, he's just so smart and I know he put that woman next to me for a reason, sometimes we just need little reminders :)"

Next time you are doubting something, just do it. I know it's scary! But here's something coming from a coward herself, when God gives you a good thought, GO FOR IT. We don't see his plan for us unless we act. 

Tonight my companion and I are going up to Saratov to the sister training leaders to do splits with them. I am so excited. I know they can help to get me on track a little, I just need an example, and then I can give it my all for the rest of this transfer. Actually I had an interview with President Schwab after zone training and he gave me some wonderful advice on things. 

Be good.
Love, Sister Wilson 

Samara - Week Nine - "How to Study the Scriptures"


September 22, 2014
All is well,

I love Balakovo so much. Because this branch is so small, we really get to know the members rather well. There's still a language wall but they seem to love me anyway. Can I just say that I have probably turned into the most awkward person ever since I've come to Russia? It's not that hard asking questions to get to know them, but understanding what they say back is the sad part and the awkward part, because they just go on and on, and I am sitting there like, I lost the topic of this conversation 5 minutes ago... The best is when we have conversations on the street and people will be talking to me and I will catch bits and pieces, but then they'll turn to my companion and say, "she has no idea what I'm saying huh?" I'm pretty sure the big dumb smile on my face gives it away when they're talking about how their son broke their leg or how they had an awful childhood. My branch mission leader speaks English and then there is a less active in my ward that I have met ONCE but speaks perfect english, it's really nice to have an english conversation sometimes and remember that I actually know how to carry on a normal sincere conversation :)
Some interesting things for the week, we went to a less active's house that we have been HOPING to work with. We approached their door and once again heard yelling.. like the last time we came. This member's name is T. and LOVES the missionaries, but hates the members because she was offended by them. We rang the door bell twice and then the arguing stopped. Out the door comes T's daughter who hasn't been to church in FOREVER, like 10 years, but somehow remembers SO much about church and still reads the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. In the middle of our conversation T stumbles out the door and started screaming something at us, she was seriously having a fit. I've never seen an adult act like such a child. Which doesn't make sense because she loves the missionaries. Just goes to show you what alcohol does to completely sane people. Really sad. 

We are praying for and expecting miracles every day. Sometimes I would say that the thoughts that are brought to us from God through the Holy Ghost are miracles in themselves. One thought that has had a rather profound impact on my work lately is thinking that every single member that I work with here in Russia, every mother I pass on the street, and every investigator I teach will be with me in the next life. I will talk to them face to face. I want that conversation to be a good one. I don't want any, "Hey!!! Why didn't you stop me when you walked past me on the street?" Or, "why didn't you help me to better understand God's plan for me?" I want to put my whole heart into this work in every way.
"If you're gonna do something, put your whole heart into it...!"
The other day as I sat in the house of a less active, I realized that I was a little less involved in the lesson than I should have been. I really don't understand much of what she says considering all her words are becoming slurred as she is growing older and she is quite onry a lot of the time. As my companion was talking to her, I looked up on her wall and noticed a picture of her in her youth, and I realized that THAT is the person that will approach me in the next life. When I meet her I want our conversation to go a little something like this, "We didn't always understand one another, but I always understood that you loved me." People can tell really easily if you do/don't care about them. If you go about teaching people or visiting people or calling people, why do it AT ALL if you are going to do it without real intent? If you're gonna do something, put your whole heart into it, otherwise it literally does nothing for your spirit and it does nothing for the spirit of the person you're teaching.
I don't know if I have ever mentioned this before or not, but during one of the zone conferences President Bennett, one of the general authorities over our mission, asked an apostle how he studies his scriptures. He asked either Elder Bednar or Eyring, I can't remember who exactly. But he says that he reads until he feels the spirit, and then he keeps reading just a little bit more. If you are ever wondering how long you need to study your scriptures, try that :) don't do it for 30 minutes or read 5 chapters, read until you feel the spirit. That is my challenge to you.

Be good!
Love, Sister Brooklyn Wilson 

Samara - Week Eight - "There are no coincidences!"

Will YOU accept our invitation?
September 15, 2014
All is well,

Know what is so interesting? The mysteries of the Lord. Many times people think of these "mysteries" as things that no body else knows, some special kind of secret. But I think mysteries of the Lord are just that, things that no body else knows, they are things WE never saw coming, but that were revealed to us because we acted in faith. My companion and I often prepare very carefully for lessons with our investigators or meetings with members. However, I have found that time and time again we don't even use the prepared material for them, we actually end up sharing it with someone completely different. For example my companion and I had prepared a lesson about the sacrament for a member who feels they are not worthy to take the sacrament, but our meeting fell through with them. Then, on Sunday we had an investigator walk out of sacrament meeting because she was terribly offended by something that someone said about the sacrament and that its not important for her because she hasn't been baptized. We ended up dropping by her apartment that night and explained the sacrament and we were able to iron out problems and give her peace of mind on the subject. I love that God can see the future and give us revelation :) We didn't know that this would happen, but he surely did!

Like I said before, the mysteries of the Lord are brought by faith, actually I am pretty sure that mysteries and miracles are borderline the same :) I am so impressed with how aware of us God is. One thing that has especially been bringing me to awe is the Lord's timing. The other day my companion and I were hoping to visit a potential investigator, "Ye.," no body has really been able to get a hold of her in a couple years by telephone, so we decided we would come to her home. First of all, we couldn't find where the correct entrance was, then we had to ask around to figure out which floor she was on. No body knew, so we got on the elevator and exited on about 4 different floors before we found hers. We knocked on her door and waited and waited, sadly... no body answered. We walked back to the elevator and a mother walked out of the elevator with a stroller, and behind her was a woman. The woman's hair looked like a volcano, lava red hair :) pretty much she looked like a diva. I decided that it would be worth a shot to ask her if she knew Ye.. She looked at us ... smiled and said, "that's me!" She ended up letting us into her house and we found out that she's actually not a potential investigator, she is a FORMER investigator. She met with the missionaries about 10 years ago and has been taught all the lessons, however, she remembers almost nothing. We will be dropping by her again soon. Why did I go through all the trouble explaining that? Because God's timing is PERFECT. If we had not dropped by 5 floors or gotten lost a couple times we never would have ran into her. We often go through times in our life wondering WHY is this happening to me?! But knowing that God is perfect, we can have peace, knowing that looking back someday we will be able to see the big picture.

Now I have an invitation to you all. The other day I was having a difficult time contacting... I could not shake my fear and (unfortunately) my laziness. So I came home and wrote this list :) 

Why not?
1. Christ died and rose from the grave. Because of his resurrection, because of his atonement you have NOTHING to be afraid of!

2. By talking to people your language is promised to improve

3. What do you lose by opening your mouth? Nothing. You lose energy? It's energy given  from God.

4. To bless your own family and those at home. Say, "I'll talk to this woman for my dad!"

5. To bless yourself with pace of mind. Go out knowing you WILL share the gospel, not hoping that you won't have it. 

6. The gospel is THE GOOD NEWS, you aren't sharing bad news with anyone :)

7. Because this mission needs baptisms. Do it for your friends, for the missionaries here, for your president, for the mission goal. Because you contribute to the mission goal.

8. Do it because you love God and you care about what he cares about.

9. Our desire to do (ironically) grows as we DO.

10. What is the worst that will happen? Someone may not be friendly or want to speak with you. Big whoop :)

11. You've seen too many miraculous things from OPENING your mouth to stop! Continue! more miracles will comes. Exercise faith in Christ, he rose from the dead! Do you not realize that he can do all? Miracles cease because of disbelief or doubt, which causes us to with hold our deeds of faith.

12. Talk to all you can so that you will get used to rejection, so you will become used to the fear.

13. Perfect love casteth out fear. You don't care what will happen, you love this person so much that you'll risk it all to save them!

14. Rejection hurts your ego. A damaged ego=humility. Humility=more susceptible to the help of God. 

15. The Message is true, the book is blue :)

16. The elect will be ready, all your need to do is open your mouth.

Okay now you all know the things I am struggling with, and I realize a lot of that doesn't pertain to you. But I know A LOT of it does. Please consider talking next to that girl next to you in your class who looks like a scary emo and would never want to talk about the gospel. NEVER assume somebody doesn't want the gospel because of how they look. Can we all just throw a little bit of fear out the window this week and sincerely share the good news with someone this week? Search for someone. It is likely that there is someone who needs to be searched for :)

I love being here. I have never been more stretched and uncomfortable in literally every single way possible in my life. But I love it :)

Be good everyone!
Love, Sister Wilson