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

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