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 

Samara - Week Seven - "A Mighty Change of Heart"

September 8, 2014
All is well,
Oh my goodness did we see miracles this week. 

We decided that we would spend the evening trying to get more acquainted with our less active members. One family in particular has about 6 people in it, that is LARGE. No body has been able to get ahold of this family for YEARS, no body even has their number AND their domaphone doesn't work. Now here comes a list of miracles :) A man was walking out of the flat as soon as we walked up to it and let us in. Then as we are standing outside of this family's door we hear yelling coming from the other side, however, we decided to knock either way. A woman opened the door and the look on her face said, "what on earth do you want??" it took her a moment to realize who we were. She then got very upset and began to yell at us, telling us how she would never come back to church. We stood there silently and waited for her to get all her anger out. Suddenly her demeanor began to change, her shoulders slumped down and she began to cry... and then proceded to tell us about how she has a testimony that God answers her prayers. She began to list off all the blessings that she's had in her life because of the gospel. She told us that she loves the missionaries and that we are welcome to come visit her and her family another time. She then gave us her number :) This all happened as we stood there, literally silent. We did no convincing, no pleading or begging, in fact we probably only exchanged about 5 sentences. I have never seen such a transformation in a person in such a small period of time. I have never seen the Holy Ghost influence somebody so strongly. We did nothing, we only brought the spirit by being there, he did the rest. It was a huge testimony builder to me that the teacher is the spirit, in fact, the spirit can teach by himself if he wants. Our job is only to invite the spirit.

Another miracle we saw was with a member who hasn't consistantly come to church in 7 years. We have been trying to get ahold of her as well, calling or dropping by to have a lesson, but we hadn't heard anything from her. Yesterday she randomly showed up at church and declared to everyone, "I am back, I have returned for good." We asked her.... Why? How...? And she simply said, "the Holy Ghost." God is everywhere, he is working on people even when we cannot see it. 

A little update on a couple investigators. V. is going no where... we haven't met with her in forever. She's just busy. K.: Well we met with him about 10 days ago. I can't believe I didn't write home about this? Usually we aren't supposed to meet with people for more than 45 minutes. K. needs way more time than that.  So we set aside an entire evening to talk to him. What ended up happening is that we lovingly taught him that there is more to the Bible.. We also took turns reading verses in 2 Nephi 29, I made sure that he was the one who would read verse 3... pretty sneaky. ANYWAY, in short the lesson could not have gone better. He has asked that we not contact him for 2 weeks and during this time he will pray to know about the Book of Mormon. Which means that we'll be meeting with him this week. About that mom we met on the bus... we were supposed to meet with her 2 days ago, that didn't work out unfortunately. We have a good pool of investigators right now. About 5 or 6 that we constantly meet with, but that also includes a less active. 

We were just informed this morning that there are about to be some serious problems in this branch. There are only about 15 active members, about 5 or so of them are actually keeping the entire branch from collapsing. But let's just say that there is an enormous problem that we were just informed about with our branch president. Unforunately, we will most likely be getting a new branch president sometime soon. Satan is so nasty, he is so real. And he is working as hard as he can to tear this work apart. Pray for the tiny branch of Balakovo. 

I have noticed that I have made a HUGE mistake in this companionship, and that is that I am not CONSTANTLY looking for the good in my companion. For the past two days I have been diligently seeking to see good in her, and then I write down the good things I see, and WOW I am so surprised at all the things I didn't see before! I am developing a lengthy list :) she is so wonderful and one thing I think I have looked past is that her desire to be a good missionary is so evident. I think one thing that we could all work on down here on earth is realizing that we are all here for the same reason. Recall the plan of salvation! Every single one of us decided to come to earth. We all want to get back. Remember that the next time you want to argue with your parents, when you are frustrated with your school teacher, or when your friends hurt/betray you. Remember it when you look at every person you see. Some of us just forget it from time to time, and some of us don't remember it at all :) That's what I'm doing here in Russia, just restoring a couple memories!

Thanks for your love and prayers,
Sister Wilson

The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. He is a personage of spirit, without a body of flesh and bones. He is often referred to as the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, or the Comforter.

The Holy Ghost works in perfect unity with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, fulfilling several roles to help us live righteously and receive the blessings of the gospel.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Samara - Week Six - "Enduring Joyfully"

September 1, 2014
All is well,

On Friday we had a zone conference from 8-5:00, it was great :) Really I thought that zone conferences might be a drag they're so long, but now that I'd actually out here I am so grateful for them. They just get you so pumped up for missionary work. Here in Russia there are THOUSANDS of less actives. And hundreds of them in our city alone, there was a period of time when the missionaries in this branch would baptize 1 or 2 people a week. I think that we have only had 2 or 3 baptisms in this branch total this year. In short... we are going to be doing a lot of work with less actives.

The miracles started right after Zone Conference actually, on the bus. (we all breathed a sigh of relief when we saw how big the bus was, you get so exhausted and beat up from the small, crammed buses) An Elder and I were sitting on isle seats and so so very exhausted, so exhausted it seemed a chore to even talk! But there was a boy sitting behind us who was really eager to speak English with us, so we buckled down and opened our mouths. This boy ended up being really actually quite interested in what we believe. It was the first time I've taught the first lesson at 10:30 at night... on a bus... to a muslim... and basically having an Elder as my companion for teaching. Very interesting to say the least! However the best part was that when it was time for us to all get off the bus HE was the one who said, "can we meet to talk about this a little more tomorrow? and can I bring a friend?" Yeah that was a tender mercy to say the least. I think the people who are most prepared to receive the gospel are the ones who pretty much do the missionary's job for them, they do all the asking, they do the inviting themselves. 

Also another miracle this week: we had a lesson outside with a boy named S, he is
AMAZING, absolutely has a heart of gold! Sadly in the middle of our lesson it began to pour rain and we had to run to a bus stop and we immediately parted ways, not even being able to end with a prayer. As my companion and I got on the bus, I sat next to a beautiful young mother with a sleeping baby. I noticed that she kept slightly looking over to me but felt awkward turning her whole head, so I gently slid my Book of Mormon up to the front of my lap so she could see it :) She then turned her whole body to me and started to talk to me, she is "Russian Orthodox," but she said it as if she is not really in favor with her own church/religion. She happily said that she would like to meet with us again. As she walked away I told her that it wasn't a coincidence that we met, and she agreed :) 

Something else from this week... We have been working with a less active. At first she was a really grumpy and bossy grandma, now she's gotten a lot happier since we've been teaching her :) It is so awesome to see the transformation. She is still a little bossy though. I was saying the closing prayer and in the middle of the prayer she says, "Wilson!!!" I opened my eyes and she says, "stop furrowing your eyebrows, you're going to get wrinkles like me." only she said it so sternly and seriously... I nodded my head and said sorry, and kept praying. But I couldn't pray, I was trying SO hard not to laugh, which made my brow furrow even more. Then I hear weasing and I open my eyes to see our grandma laughing so hard she could hardly breathe hahahaha, it was great. People have a habit of interrupting prayers here.

This week I have figured out what makes a mission so hard. It's not people rejecting you, it's not your companion, it's not the language, it's your attitude! Keeping up with all of these responsibilities and Christlike attitributes for so long is so very challenging. That is what is going to be hard about a mission, enduring joyfully :) I am so young, I have so much to learn. But I am so excited that I have a perfect environment to grow and become who God wants me to be, with no body else except me and Jesus Christ. That's why we're so heavily separated from our family on a mission, so we can learn to rely on our heavenly family.

I am so grateful for all the many prayers I am receiving. I love being out here, it is a privilege to be called specifically to help people remember their identity as children of a merciful Father in heaven. 

Sister Brooklyn Wilson 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Samara - Week Five - "Be True"

August 25, 2014
All is well

It is finally starting to cool down here, I am definitely grateful for that. It feels like October today honestly. I can't wait for fall in Russia! I hear that everything just turns golden :)

During district meeting this week our district leader, Elder Wall, gave some really great advice in regard to investigators and their overwhelming questions. But what I really loved about what he said was that it related to me, too. He said that there is a difference between questions and doubts.
 Questions have to do with our understanding, but doubts have to do with our faith. There will always be questions, and we can't always answer them... We just have to move on when we can't answer some questions. But doubts on the otherhand... need to be solved. Why? Well, if faith leads to action, then doubt leads to...? The opposite. Doubts keep us from acting. I have been working on casting out doubts and fears this week, because I know that nothing good ever came from worrying.

Know when I expect miracles the most? When all of our plans fall through. Because then I know that Heavenly Father has a different plan for us. And we should expect miracles from it. Whether it be to find a new investigator, or to learn an important lesson about talking to all of God's children. One miracle we saw this week was when all of our plans for the afternoon fell through, and we ended up coming home with 2 numbers from men. Why is that a miracle? It's a rule that we're not allowed to talk to men or approach them first. Which means that both of these people spoke to us first! One of them asked if we were passing out literature. We showed him the Book of Mormon and he said, "Another testament of Jesus Christ?! I have to have this!" We called this man later on during the week to see if we could meet with him and he said that he's already read halfway through the Book of Mormon... yeah we definitely are hoping to meet with him soon haha :)

On Friday this week we have another zone conference with President Bennett. I know that we are going to get a throwdown by him most likely. But that's okay :) I love a little chastisement, it brings so much motivation. We still have 100 baptisms that we need to get to this year, we've had about 50 or so, but the thought of 100... wow. My faith is not yet perfect, and we could definitely use some prayers out here in Russia to reach that goal. But we believe in a God of miracles, so I plan to see that happening here. The most comforting knowledge to me is knowing that the work is ACCELERATING, and when things accelerate they gradually speed up. So we CAN see 100 more baptisms by the end of the year. 

Yesterday I had a very spiritual experience. I would say that my most spiritual experiences happen when I am in my normal surroundings and nothing really wonderful happens but I feel something that doesn't match up with my surroundings or circumstances. I just finished telling an 18 year old girl how much I loved her tinkerbell green dress... Sometimes after the people I am sitting next to on the bus get up and leave, disinterested in my nametag and a message about their Savior, I feel a wave of approval wash over me. Not my own approval, but from my Heavenly Father. It's such a simple and soft feeling, but it pierces my heart. When we are rejected with people we can have peace, because I know that IT (the Gospel) is true. I am not running around telling lies. I know that this message is true, and if I am rejected, I should still be confident! Not because I am confident in myself, but because I am confident in this message and I know what a wonderful gift it is. And if you don't think of the gospel as a gift, I would invite you to think again :) Through the grace and mercy and LOVE of your Heavenly Father, the gospel has somehow been brought into your life. The gospel has been presented before you, and the message is true. Whether you like it or not, it's right, it's pure, it is true. The gospel will always be true, make sure that you are being true to your God who gave you this gift. 

Hugs and love,
Sister Brooklyn Wilson 

Samara - Week Four - "Desperation and Determination"

All is well,

Yesterday we were FINALLY able to get a less active that we've been working with to church with us. When we got off the bus, the church was about 25 yards or so away from us, and it took us 30 minutes to get her into the church. I could see on her face that she wanted to give up so many times, but she kept going. Such amazing faith :) Goodness I am so grateful for a young body.... I never want to get old. Ask yourself for a moment... if it took you 30 minutes to walk into the church alone, would you still go to church every Sunday? Such a hassle but so worth it. She went home with a big smile on her face :)

Yesterday we had a district fast and specifically asked for the circumstances that we have no control over to be changed (if it be His will) especially in regard to getting members to church. After our fast yesterday we met with an investigator who told us that she would never come to church... within the first 5 minutes of our lesson with her, without us even bringing it up, she told us that she was coming to church with us next week, and she said it with a huge smile! V. is her name. Yesterday during our closing prayer with her Sister Haroldsen said something to the effect of, "Please bless V. with a greater desire to read the Book of Mormon." And V. just interrupts her during the prayer and says, "I already told you I don't have time! I will do it in the winter!" I was trying so hard not to laugh... that's not the first time she's interrupted a prayer but it's still so funny everytime. 

Some interesting things from this week... One man I sat next to on the bus this week told me that there is only a Russian God, I just flat out told him no, that is completely not true. But I said it nicely of course :) another time I got on the bus and my companion was a little ways away from me... well a man on my left noticed that I had a book of mormon on my lap and asked me about it, then another man joined him and started asking me why I was here in Russia when they have their own religion. Then the next thing I know I have 5 Russians yelling at me on that bus and I had no idea what they were saying to me. I was pretty desperate for my companion in that moment but she was stuck somewhere else on the bus. Sometimes frustrating things happen :) 

I feel like I don't say enough about my companion. Her name is Sister Haroldsen and she has a heart of gold. She is so caring for other people and is an AMAZING listener (one of my weaknesses, I tune people out without even realizing it!). Her favorite part about companionship inventory is talking about each other strengths, and she writes a list of them every single week:) she is really good at seeing the good in everyone. Every night before we go to sleep she always tells me that she loves me and then tells me her favorite things about me that day. I will definitely be doing that if I ever train anyone!  

I got to work with Sister Erekson this week (a Sister Training Leader here) and I have never had a happier day on my mission. Our goals: give out 5 Books of Mormon (3 after lunch, 2 after dinner) we also had a goal to talk to everyone, find a young woman on the street, and have a lesson on the street. After lunch our goal was to give out 3 Books of Mormon, then 4:30 came around and we still had 2 books to give out. We prayed right there for God to help us reach our goal and also expressed our gratitude for the success we'd already seen in the day. 15 minutes later we were down to one book, we prayed again with gratitude, but asked our Heavenly Father to give us one more person to give a book to. We were practically running from person to person to reach our goal, and with only a few minutes to spare we found that person. I had awe written all over my face after that because I know for a fact that we could not have given out 2 books in 30 minutes without his help. We also fulfilled all of the other goals we made that night. 

I want to write a little bit about determination and desperation, and why it is important in our lives, because usually we think about desperation as a bad thing :). But on a mission you have to be desperate. You have to even SHOW these people that you are desperate. We are desperate for these people to come unto Christ and be clean and to know his plan of happiness. Why be desperate? When we are desperate we have focus. When we are desperate, distractions leave, pride flees and humility replaces it. Our prayers change, TO WHOM we are praying changes... when we decide to be a true disciple of Christ we don't care about anyone else but what God thinks of us, (which actually helps us to think of everyone). Be desperate :). 

Tell somebody that God loves them this week. He does. But some people just forget it :) You'll be shocked with the answer you get with some people, because some of them don't know it. And what an opportunity that is to share with others the knowledge you have of a loving father in heaven.

Sister Brooklyn Wilson 

Samara - Week Three "I've doomed myself..."

August 11, 2014
All is well,

Although.... sometimes I feel that I have doomed myself for taking Russian in college. I know that definitely upped my chances for going to Russia. Sometimes I feel like I am getting it... and other times I feel so discouraged. The most frustrating part of this language is 1. not being able to UNDERSTAND people. and 2. not being able to express yourself freely. I can't believe that 100s of missionary, even 1000s of missionaries have and CAN do this. It is absolutely NECESSARY but also absolutely CRAZY. What is it like trying to talk to a Russian about religion....? The Orthodox church is part of their life, they grew up with it, their parents... their grandparents, their great great great great grandparents, it is a part of them. Preaching the gospel in Russia is comparable to Jehovah's Witnesses trying to preach the gospel in Utah, where everyone is Mormon. Haha it's so hard! We really have to look for "the elect" I never really thought about that until I got here. The elect are those who are truly LOOKING for a meaningful religion, who need change, who need help and realize it. All this people need help (seriously) but not many of them actually realize it. Know what's cool though? Our president has spoken to us about how important it is to talk to literally everyone, because it doesn't matter WHAT you say to the elect, if you open your mouth to them they will listen. Because they are ready. Where these people are? I have no idea! That's why it's so important to rely on the spirit in this work because only He knows where they are.

It's so interesting how things change from week to week. My mood took a weird turn a couple days this week and I feel that I regressed a little. In the moment of trials and weaknesses, they seem so unbearable to overcome, I feel at times so weighed down! There is something I need to remember: THEY ALWAYS PASS. They will always pass, I think that God just wants to see not IF we can endure our trials, but HOW we endure them. And know what else? Every time I pray to have more faith and more strength, I seem to get it, every time. It may not be MY TIMING, but it still comes!

I will explain just a little bit about our current investigators. We've been pretty busy with lessons actually. First of all... there is K., (yes that's a man's name in Russia). He is a genius of the Bible and is a Baptist. He also ... speaks 100 MPH. What's his goal in life? To perfect himself, WOW. This week we had quite the lesson with him. He wanted to know 3 things: Our relationship with Christ, What we think about the bible, and more about the plan of salvation. After he got that information he told us: Wonderful. I now understand that you have a strong belief in Christ, I understand that you do not believe the Bible is perfect (the bible is his baby so he didn't love that, we didn't even mean to bring it up!), and the Plan of Salvation... there are holes every where in it's theory. I wanted to shake him!!! Don't you get it people?! It's not about the information! OF COURSE IT SOUNDS CRAZY. If I weren't Mormon I would think it's crazy too! But it's not about where it makes sense or not, if there are "holes in its theory" It's the way that you FEEL, that will tell you if this is true. What other church tells you to ask GOD? We are asking these people to go straight to the source itself! So... Unfortunately just GIVING this information isn't very helpful.
 Did you know that teaching the gospel without the spirit is actually not the gospel? It's just information. Here's where we made our mistake with K. You can't just GIVE people information, you have to build in them a desire to find out for themselves. Not because just anyone tells them, but because it is from God. K will meet with us one more time tomorrow. We've been working on this lesson all week to make sure it goes perfectly. The spirit is going to have to be there, or we won't be able to teach at all:)

Praying for miracles every day? We're doing it! And here's one from this week :) Okay... so on Friday I was in theeee worst mood. Why? The natural man was taking me over with hunger! (literally) It's such a weakness of mine to become onry when I am hungry. We were about to get on the bus and I knew that I was going to have to open my mouth and talk to people, regardless of how I was feeling. These people are so interesting. I've heard it at least 30 times that they are like a watermelon, or like an orange... they have this hard shell on the outside, they literally look so scary to talk to! But as soon as you smile at them and ask how they are doing they light up and smile right back at you. I sat down and smiled at the woman beside me, and what do you know? She smiled back:) We started into a friendly conversation... at least as far as we could talk with my level of understanding. As she was about to get off the bus she reached into her bag and pulled out a few apples. I was so thrilled! She gave me the apples and I gave her a Plan of Salvation pamphlet.
Want to know more about what Brooklyn shared in return for an apple?
Oh what a little tender mercy! (although I feel it was quite an unfair trade... fruit of eternal life vs.... fruit). However, it was just a testimony to me that God knows us all so well. He knows what's good for us. Although we may not want to do things, he can see the benefits from obedience, but we are left in the dark until we act. I want to make a challenge to anyone who reads this to think to yourself: why not trust him? Trust him who knows everything. Trust him who loves you with a perfect love. Trust him who is always waiting for you, he wants YOU! No matter how lost you feel you are, he is ALWAYS with his lost sheep, you just need to turn around to see that he is there. He always will be there.

Give yourself to God, give up your will. After all, what can you make of yourself without him? You can make of yourself a man. Give yourself to Him and he will make of you a god.

Sister Wilson

Mosiah 3:19  For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

Samara - Week Two - "I love that I can make those kinds of promises. I love this work"

August 4th 2014
Sister Brooklyn Wilson and her trainer Sister Haroldson

All is well,

We had Zone conference this week, and  I just fell in love with all of these missionaries serving here! I loved seeing the looks on their faces as they were listening to President Bennett, our area seventy. All of the missionaries in this mission are just so dedicated to this work. I am working in the Saratov Zone and every area only needs a few more priesthood holders until we get a stake in Russia, we will see another stake here in Russia before the end of the year. President Bennett is a genius, and very in tune with the spirit, and I don't care if I got chastised at all because after Zone conference I feel like I hit the ground running! 

So this week on our way to Samara for Sister Haroldsen's visa trip, our mission driver, Roman, came and picked us up. Picture this... You are driving in a HUGE van at 80 miles an hour on a highway with potholes everywhere, but 3 hours. I felt like I was on a 100 year old roller coaster. They drive crazy here, but they also drive really safe? It's interesting. 

I got to work with the Sister Training Leaders in Samara this week while my companion was in Latvia for a visa trip. They are so sincere and choose their words so carefully when speaking to people on the street. 
My favorite miracle was at the very end of the day, with the last two people we were able to talk to. We said hello to a couple and they told us, "we're sorry we don't speak Russian!" Then all of our eyes popped wide open and we said, "We speak English!!" We were able to testify so powerfully to them about God, and that he is in fact REAL. I love testifying because I can feel the words transform into truth as they roll off my tongue, I can feel myself knowing that God is real as I speak. I promised the woman, who had been struggling to find God in her life, and has a desire but just can't believe... that if she would pray ONE LAST TIME, if she'd try just one last time, and asked the words, "God, do you love me?" She should get an answer. I love that I can make those kinds of promises. I love this work :)

A few notes I wrote from this week: I never want to drink because there are public bathrooms NO WHERE. Also there are these things here called marshrutkas.... oh my goodness. The tiniest buses ever with tones of people packed in them going 70 MPH on a bumpy road for 5 hours and you drank and entire water bottle before hand.... never had to pee more in my life.
This is a marshrutka, the type of city bus Brooklyn was 
referring to.  If you look closely (or click on it) 
you can see how tightly packed it is!

How can I describe church? Sometimes I can understand things, and then a lot of the time I have no idea what the subject even is for Sunday school. Relief society = Russian Grandmothers arguing for 20 minutes of the lesson. At least that's what it sounds like, but I have no idea if they're arguing or not because I can't understand what they say. But things get a little fired up sometimes that's for sure. And then at the end of the lesson every one is just best friends, it's awesome. Also we close church with a prayer with everyone at church, and we hold hands. Hahahaha I was standing next to Elder Wall, who has been here over a year and he just had no idea what to do. We didn't know if that was breaking a rule or not. 

Love Sister Wilson

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Samara - Week One

July 28, 2014
All is well.....
This map shows where Sister Wilson is currently serving
as well as the locations where both her brothers
served their missions. (Yekaterinburg and Dnepropetrovsk)

How do I even start this email?

On the plane ride over to Russia you may as well have said that we were already in a different country. So many people staring at us, and when you smile and them they look at you like you just killed someone, I think it almost offends people to smile at them actually. Also when we arrived in Moscow I had no idea what happened to our day... because we flew through time zones, so it was like one huge 40 hour day. Let me just say that jet lag is a nightmare. I feel like I am constantly walking on clouds. It's finally starting the wear off but by the end of the day I am absolutely pooped!

Elder Graf thought my companion would either be Sister Jensen or Sister Manly. Well, it's neither. I am actually serving with Sister Haroldson. She is a genius and speaks Russian SO well. She also gets along with all our investigators really well. (we have 6 investigators right now). My companion sings 5x louder than I do even when it's just me and her in the apartment....  she can't make her voice any softer because she trained it that way when she was in Jr. high and now it's permanently like that. At least she's a good singer. We are white washing in Balakovo right now which means that neither my companion and I know anything about our area pretty much. Also another thing, there are 3 zones in the mission. The Samara, Toliatti, and the Saratov zones.  I am in the Saratov zone. 

My mission President is the man, he is so spiritual and knows his scriptures VERY well, and his wife is an angel... literally. Sister Palmer and I slept at the President's house the first night and the next morning they made us amazing pancakes. Also President pulled me aside and talked to me ... he is honestly just SO cool ! He says if I see Elder Graf to treat him like any other missionary and give him a nice firm handshake when I see him. 

Okay let me tell you a little bit about this place:) We stick out like a daisy in a field of roses. People just stare at us everywhere we go, and when we sit down by them on the bus they often get up and move to another seat hahahaha. My favorite thing to do after they do that is to follow them to their new seat. There are cats EVERYWHERE, who said anything about dogs??! It's cats and my allergies have been HEINOUS. Especially in this city I would say that the population consists of cats and babooshkee. Any every single babooshka member/investigator that we have gives us a hug and then a kiss on the cheek, it's quite endearing hahaha. Every bus driver is shirtless. Russian BO is heinous... but hey it's all good, I could fit right in with them. Also sometimes when people are talking I think I am going to throw up (when have you ever gagged when someone is talking to you?) but their breath smells like old milk a lot of the time. It's not a sour smell though... I can't even describe it but they all have the same breath. I am sincerely trying to love these people when they're talking to me but sometimes I wish I had just barely applied good smelling lotion before I talk to them so that I could just smell my hands when they're talking somehow. Everyone is missing teeth... and almost anyone you talk to has gold teeth. There are weird stuffed animals EVERY WHERE, people use them for yard decoration. And in the middle of every square of apartments there are these make shift playground things? Also they use tires as decoration, and just spray paint them and then bury half of it in the ground. THE TOILET PAPER IS CONFETTI. I spent like 5 minutes looking for the toilet paper in the bathroom and my compaion was like, look for a role of confetti streamer looking stuff... look up Russian toilet paper on the internet, it's hysterical, but actually it's more comfortable to use than paper towels in my opinion at least. I can't describe the way that gas smells here... but it's different than American gasoline. It smells super super sweet almost? It's still July but it feels like October here, like it's almost fall. 

Rules: All water is actually ordered and someone brings it to our door, we're not allowed to drink anything from sinks. We are not allowed to talk to men on the streets unless we feel prompted to.

Knocking in Russia I swear that every other door that opens it is just a man standing there in his underwear, like... why? It's not okay to smile at people but it's totally normal to open the door in your underwear:) (Also I have only been knocking once but I hate it, it's the least effective way of contacting, I already know) We knocked one door this week and the man came back and reopened his door like 5 different times just yelling at us and calling us fanatics? I don't really know what that means. 

After contacting for like 3 hours I get really exhausted and could probably easily walk into a pole if I'm not careful. We get home at 9:20-9:30 and I find myself being too tired to even move my limbs to scratch my mosquito bites. Even though we live right by the Volga for some reason I only have a few. And I've only applied spray once. And then I looked at another Elder the other day whose arms were literally covered in them. 

The members... like everyone says, are AMAZING. They come with us on lessons as much as they can. My companion says that they think it is their duty to protect us, which their companionship actually does bring us a lot of protection. The mission leader's name is Zhenya, and he is amazing. He's like 27. And since I can't understand Russian yet, he speaks to me in English in the thickest Russian accent. I thought that he didn't like me very much until he started speaking to me in English, you see that's the problem with everything... I can't tell what people's personalities are like yet. If I could hear how they'd be saying everything in Russian then MAYBE I could build relationships better. But honestly with this language I feel like everything is like... not real? I feel like everyone are robots. This language is absoultely crazy. In the MTC I could understand and speak like a champ, whooooowheee have I been humbled! Whoever says that they get to Russia and say that they can understand even 20% of what anyone says is a liar! hahahaha I can MAYBE understand like 7%? The accent plus their word order plus the vocab? I won't be able to speak Russian for a good 2 months is my guess. I have never prayed harder for the gift of tongues in my life!

A few interesting things that have happened on the buses.... well yesterday I tried to make a friend on the bus, and I did:) her name was Olga, and then there was another woman on my other side. A man got on the bus and started yelling at me... and doing this thing with his hands, most Americans do it as a habit but in Russia it is something really bad. Ask Tanner and Parker what it means:):):):):) But both of the woman on my sides started getting after him and telling him to leave me alone. Apparently he was drunk.

"I am praying for one miracle in particular, and that is to put my trust in God, and align my will with his. I hate the thought that someone might have joined the church and may have received the gospel, but did not because I didn't have enough courage to approach them. I know that with faith I can have miracles, if anything it is the opening of my mouth that I'm struggling with. If I know I can do miracles with his help then why is it so hard for me to act when he asks me to? This work is just overall terrifying for me right now. But like it says in Alma 32:26-27... even if I experiment and have a DESIRE to believe then God will help me. Like when the man brought his child to Christ for him to heal him, Christ said... "do you believe?" The man said, "yea Lord, I believe." But even Christ knew his faith wasn't perfect and the man humbly corrected himself and said, "Help thou my unbelief." even THAT, the submission this man had was enough for Christ to heal his son. So if he can heal the sick and even raise the dead that he can certainly help me to open my mouth.

Alma 32: 26 - Now, as I said concerning faith—
that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. 
Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection,
any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.
27 - But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties,
even to an experiment upon my words,
and exercise a particle of faith,
yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe,
let this desire work in you,
even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

Okay so here's the thing. I cannot settle for less than perfect, and that is hard for me, because my conscience kicks me from behind when I do that. I am terrified of contacting! I will be honest . Every single person who walks by me on the street, every woman I see on the bus I want to talk to, I see all of these souls in front of my eyes... but I am so scared to talk to them because I have no idea on earth what they're saying back to me if my companion's not by my side. It is just hard to work up courage to transport contact (which we are always on buses SO much so I need to get over this ASAP).  I am trying to walk onto the bus with the thought that I am not the stranger walking into a room of people, but rather that I am walking into a room a room of strangers and it is my job to make them all feel important and to help them feel at ease. Ooooohhhh man, heaven help me open my mouth. I have the BIGGEST desire to talk to these people, I want to with all my heart.  I'll write next week and this problem will be gone, I'll be talking to everyone.

PS shorten this letter. It's way too long:) but I know you want the details. 

AHHHH I have no time! Sorry I didn't answer all the questions mom. But I love ya, and I'm safe. We always have members with us helping us. 

Somehow everyone needs to tell me how not to be terrified of talking to people, because my companion has been here over a year and is still so scared of contacting. But she is AWESOME too. Don't get me wrong:)

Love ya.
--Sister Wilson