Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Saratov Week 5 - "Shoulder to Shoulder with the Savior"

February 9, 2015
All is well,

I am realizing how much more I need to actively exercise faith in Christ. (you know what? You could study faith in Christ every day for yearsss and not even get it perfect, at least that's what I think) I can't believe how simple our baptismal covenants are, how easy they are to remember, yet how difficult it seems to be to actually FULFILL our covenants. However, I have noticed that remembering Christ ALWAYS makes things lighter. This morning I reread in Moroni 7 that before you can ever have faith or hope, you must be humble. I need to ask that Heavenly Father humbles me, because you can't plant a seed of faith in cement. Heavenly Father would rather use clay than old crusty playdough, and
that's what I want from my mission. I really want to be that soft clay, I want to be an instrument. 

Also this is my dear companion's last week in Russia. Sister Busman is doing wonderful. Thanks to her, I love slow cooked scrambled eggs (weeeird, right mom?) also I love Swedish chocolate (which is sweet sweet milk chocolate with little shards of salty black chocolate in it, and oh goodness the first 3 times I tried it I hated it, but now I have really fallen in love with the combination).

She is starting to merge into thoughts of home a little, which she feels bad for (oh sweet sister Busman) but OF COURSE that is normal right now. How can she not? I am so grateful for the things that she has taught me about obedience and about loyalty to God and to always do the right thing when no one is watching. Sister Busman is a missionary who has literally given HERSELF to the work, not just her time. She is the most consecrated and good intentioned missionary. She will be someone that doesn't look back on her mission with regrets in mind, because she just kept pushing. I can't even picture her as a normal person at home now. She has been shaped into a missionary. She came and did exactly what God needed her to do in Russia. (side note... I have lost my third pair of mittens. It's so easy to lose them on the bus) 

We have been struggling with keeping investigators lately... we have been finding and teaching AMAZING (seriously amazing) people, but they end up falling off the face of the earth. Literally. Their schedules get stuffed with work or their phone number changes. Even when we warn people during lessons when they feel the spirit to "REMEMBER HOW YOU FEEL RIGHT NOW" warning people that Satan will tell them to stop meeting with us or that this isn't important. They still manage to fall off the face of the earth. It's so frustrating, we're fighting against a power that is so scary and real.... so we've been working on finding a little bit.  

I am going to have to say that Russian people are about fifty times more pleasant in the summer than in the winter. I am beyond grateful that I am serving two summers rather than two winters :) This week has been a little more difficult than most... I feel that I am just now experiencing what people mean when they say that Russians are tough cookies. I will explain to you how a normal day of contacting in Russian winters goes. "Hi, my friend and I moved here to share a message that is very dear and precious to us, it has changed our lives and we want to share it with others." and here are just a few of the usual replies, "did you know that you are from a sect?" or "не надо" (no need) "I'm in a hurry." or sometimes if you are lucky you get the "GET AWAY FROM ME." When we tell people why we are here they often act like we just pooped on their car or something. 

Well. One day.... rejection after rejection after rejection (and a couple snide and sassy comments later) I had had enough. It's so hard to feel as though we are not wasting time and literally paying for it all at the same time. I just started to cry. It hurts so badly having something that you know is so pure, something that you know will bring them happiness, and having them slam it down without even knowing what it is. It's hard giving your all and putting your whole heart into a conversation just pleading with these people and testifying with all that you have about it, and being rejected. Oh it hurts, it really does. Then my companion said to me, that yes, it does hurt, but that it's the sacrifice that we are willing to make, so that they too can at least have the opportunity to accept it, or to reject it. That reminded me of the atoning sacrifice of Christ. That he paid the price, the price is paid, the gift is ours if we will only accept it. Being a missionary gives me so much gratitude for the atonement. Knowing that when we are rejected, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with the greatest missionary who ever lived. After that thought I brushed off my shoulders, gave my companion a hug, and continued down the slushy, snowy path to make sure that everyone could receive the opportunity to accept the sacrifice that Christ has made for them.

Missionary work is tough! It certainly makes you rely on the Savior. 
I really wouldn't rather be any where else. 
This is the most useful experience I've ever had in my life, it's so so bittersweet, 
but it's so worth it. 


Sister Brooklyn Wilson 

Sister Wilson's last couple of paragraph's made me think of a recent General Conference talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. Below are some of his thoughts and also a link to the entire talk entitled "The cost and Blessings of Discipleship"

With admiration and encouragement for everyone who will need to remain steadfast in these latter days, I say to all and especially the youth of the Church that if you haven’t already, you will one day find yourself called upon to defend your faith or perhaps even endure some personal abuse simply because you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Such moments will require both courage and courtesy on your part.
For example, a sister missionary recently wrote to me: “My companion and I saw a man sitting on a bench in the town square eating his lunch. As we drew near, he looked up and saw our missionary name tags. With a terrible look in his eye, he jumped up and raised his hand to hit me. I ducked just in time, only to have him spit his food all over me and start swearing the most horrible things at us. We walked away saying nothing. I tried to wipe the food off of my face, only to feel a clump of mashed potato hit me in the back of the head. Sometimes it is hard being a missionary because right then I wanted to go back, grab that little man, and say, ‘EXCUSE ME!’ But I didn’t.”
To this devoted missionary I say, dear child, you have in your own humble way stepped into a circle of very distinguished women and men who have, as the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob said, “view[ed Christ’s] death, and suffer[ed] his cross and [borne] the shame of the world.”1

Monday, February 23, 2015

Saratov - Week 4 - "Persecution in Saratov"

February 2, 2015

All is well....... And holy cow were the last two days absolute CHAOS.
About ten years ago the city of Saratov had enough members that it could have had 2 stakes, however the economy crashed right around that area and the majority of the members in Saratov moved to Moscow. It's crazy how hard the adversary works when he knows that something good is about to happen (for example in the Ukraine Donesk mission they were almost ready to build a stake there as well, and now there are no missionaries in Ukraine it is complete chaos). Well, Saratov has strengthened its numbers once more and the area president for the east side of europe, President Packer, has decided to come down to Saratov to see if we are in fact ready to build a stake. President Schwab informed us that this will be the most important conference in this mission for 10 years. So, for the past 2 and a half weeks all missionaries in the Saratov zone have been trying to get in contact with ALL members, ALL less actives, and ALL investigators and potentials to invite them to this special conference to show President Packer that we really are ready for a stake. Many different branches in different cities would be coming down to Saratov by bus just to come to the conference. We have printed out special invitations to give out and those that we haven't been able to get in contact with we have gone to their homes and put the fliers in their mailboxes. We have been praying so hard and looking forward to this day like Christmas. But oh how the devil doesn't like that....
It all started in zone conference this weekend when President Schwab informed us that others have heard about this conference and that there will actually be protestors. That was a little bit shocking to me just because the church is still so new in Russia, I didn't know that there could be enough people that know about the church in Russia to even start a protest.
On Saturday night, less than 24 hours before the conference, we were at the branch building for a baptism when we heard a rumor from one of the members that the buildilng that we have been planning to meet in for the conference has been shut down. That seemed very unlikely, so we asked the zone leaders if that was true, they told us no and that we would definitely still be having the conference in that building. However, after the baptism, we found the zone leaders pacing up and down the hallway both on their phones, and turns out that there is a squad of policemen in front of the conference buildling and that no body is going in there. Yes, the building WAS shut down. That means that all the invitations that we have given out, all the people that we have talked to in the past two weeks would all be going to the wrong address, instead of finding a Mormon conference they would find a mob and a squad of police but no conference. A "call down" was immediately sent out to all missionaries to cancel all plans for the evening and to call all members, less actvies, and investigators and inform them that the meeting was being relocated to our branch buildling. That put me in even more shock considering that our branch buildilng can only hold about 200 people MAYBE, and we were expecting over 300. So they decided that the Saratov district will instead meet in 3 separate buildings and we will just broadcast it from our branch buildling. We spent the entire night making calls and making sure that everybody knew of the changes. Satan knew about this conference and he really doesn't want it to happen! It's almost funny how much evidence he gives that he is real and how vitally important this conference is.
The next meeting 250 people met in our branch building, it was packed at the way to the back of the hall. But to top it all off, here's what happens next. Everyone is sitting down and we are getting ready to start the conference... and the power goes out. No lights, no microphone, and no interenet and power source to broadcast the conference. The government had completely shut the power off in our branch buildling. But does that stop us? No. We will raise our voice if we have no microphone, we will open the blinds if we have no light, and if we want to do a video broadcast, we will use skype to get this message to all Saratov branches. And that is just what we did. This work WILL go forth. Saratov WILL become a stake. And no one, especially the devil, can stop this work. The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.
There was a turnout of over 420 people total. And what was the conference about? It was about Christ. Christ's chosen servants will always testify about him. I know that truly that meeting WAS the most important meeting that this mission will see for many years. I know that the day is coming when Saratov will become a stake, and I know that that day is soon. When there are 3 stakes in a country the likeliness for a temple to be built goes up drastically. There is a stake in Moscow, a stake in St. Petersburg, and the last stake? Saratov.
I know without a doubt that this is God's work, and I know for a fact that as long as Christ sits at the head of this church, nothing his teachings from going forth. What an exciting time to be serving in Saratov.
Expect miracles in Russia :)
Sister Brooklyn Wilson

Friday, February 13, 2015

Saratov - Week 3 - "Russian bus rides"

January 26, 2015
All is well :)

I used to think that maybe it would be cool to get one of 
those pictures where the frost is all along your eye lashes because it's so cold outside and you know why? I really couldn't care less if that happened, I don't want it to get any colder! I am staying really warm every where but Russian winter really stings your face! However, the way that I start out probably every conversation on the bus is by saying, "Holy moly is it always so cold here in Russia?!" it always gets them... they hear my accent, laugh, and then it starts things all nice and naturally :) speaking about buses... I think that Russians could fit 300 people onto one bus if they wanted to. The other day was so crowded that I was just nice and snug and comfy with 1,000 other bodies around me, and I didn't even have to hold onto anything while we were riding :) then I looked over at my companion and she was so smushed that she couldn't move her arms from her sides at all, and the best part was that her hat had come down over her face so she couldn't seen anything either. 150 people on one bus, and ALL OF THEM are silent except my companion and me, we just couldn't help but laugh at how ridiculous it was. (no one talks on buses, ever, it is always a silent ride, and if you do talk sometimes people will turn around and ask you to be quiet, as if we are in a library) 

I have noticed that I feel the spirit much more in abundance when I study something about the Savior during my personal studies. Sometimes we just read the scriptures or conference talks, and it's wonderful, and we feel the spirit and peace, but studying specifically about Christ really has helped me to take more out of my studies. 
I have specifically learned a few valuable things about faith this week. In PMG on page 62 it says, "Having faith causes us to try as hard as we can to learn about and become more like our Savior. We want to learn what His commandments are and then obey them." 
What shocked me a little bit here is that it says, "we WANT to learn what his commandments are, and then obey them." As we develop faith in Christ we actually will want to know God's commandments, probably because we are excited to see the results as we exercise our faith in Christ. That really helped me this week knowing that the more faith I have in Christ, the more of a desire I will have to keep any rules and be obedient.

Well. I think the fact that my companion and I still happen to keeps smiles on our face even though it is -25 degrees outside is a miracle. But a real miracle happened yesterday. The elders have been teaching a young boy who has agreed to be baptized in a week. There was a baptism at the branch building yesterday and this boy's mother came to check things out, her name is F. F watched the baptism and we were shocked when she turned around and had tears running down her cheeks. She apologized and said she didn't really understand what she was crying for. I would have to say that getting investigators to baptisms is one of the most important things that will help investigators to desire to be baptized themselves. She was so touched by the spirit and we explained to her where the feeling came from. It's amazing the way that the spirit works on people, all we had to do was get her to the baptism and the spirit did the rest! We will be meeting with her tonight at a member's place. She is so ready to be baptized :) 

This is F and her son :) This is also probably why I have gained so much weight out here.... We went over to have a lesson at their place the other day and just wanted to tell her what baptism means for her son, and were horrified to see this display of food... oh man. Mom you bet I used my magnesium that night.  

Our mission is about to get reeeally young. 14 missionaries go home this cycle. And then 4 sisters go home next cycle. Trust me that's A LOT. We we only have about 16 sisters after that. 

I wish you all a warm winter in America :)

Love, Sister Wilson. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

"Saratov - Week 2"

January 19, 2015

All is well!

Saratov is wonderful. Oh my goodness and the members... there is one member named S. Man, I wish you could all meet him. He makes me laugh so hard, I literally don't think there is anything better in the world that laughter. It makes everything so much better. We went over to their house the other night and they kept us waaay too long just telling us amazing stories about how they joined the church, we finally just had to pretty much literally walk out the door as he was in the middle of one of his tangents. 

My companion is Sister Busman and she is a powerhorse. She never sits down to rest, I have to remind her that she should probably actually get some food into her stomach for lunch :) She's always making calls or doing something, and it is her last cycle, so I am having to sprint to keep up with her. She loves to sing Russian hymns as we walk down the streets together (I have no idea how she memorized any of them) and her and I run up and down 10 flights of stairs for exercise in the mornings, we've been so sore lately! But it feels sooo good to finally exercise. 

This area is super busy with less active and new convert work. We are constantly running from one place to another, I am really just wondering how we are going to have any time to find some investigators to teach. 

We have really trying to get a hold of two new converts who we just baptized last year and have pretty much ever since then disappeared. One is A, the other is N. A is about 20 years old, he has freckles and has a quiet confidence about him. N is about 60 I would say and has all gold teeth, all but one real tooth on the top row. But her smile really isn't scary looking, I love her smile :) I was privileged to be at A's baptism because we happened to be on splits with the sister training leaders that weekend. I saw so much light in this young man's eyes. I could really see so much potential in him. But Satan has been working hard on him, he got a job and is now studying and it's been a difficult transition for him. This week while struggling to get lessons with members, it seems that all has fallen through. So interesting how hard you try, God makes it so that no body will answer their phones to set up lessons because he really wants you to meet someone on the street. One night when all plans fell through we decided to go to a less active and then a member, well the less active lesson fell through, so we went over to the member's house a little earlier since we had nothing to do before that. Just as we were about to walk into her apartment I noticed a boy walking on the street, his back was toward us and I couldn't see his face, and suddenly my mouth blurted out, "A!!!" The boy turned, and sure enough it was A. He ran over to us and we were able to remind him of who he is, and what is most important and that without God he cannot reach his potential. He was so happy to see us, and I know that the spirit really touched him. I know that I did not just "happen" to be at A's baptism, I wouldn't have been able to recognize him and call out to him if I hadn't have been there. 

Then N, who was also just barely baptized... her family found out that she joined the church and turned on her. She decided to move, considering all the family problems and some problems with her apartment... and we lost all contact with her. Well the other night as we were running somewhere again, late again actually... we were giving out church invitations while still trying to hurry up... one of the invitations fell into the hands of who? N. God had placed her right on our path. It turns out that she returned to the city just to grab a few things that she had forgotten, and she agreed to meet with us at least one last time this week considering that Sister Busman is leaving Russia for good in just a few weeks. We had been praying so fervently for both of these new members and Heavenly Father is taking care of them, he put not just one, but both of them on our pathes this week. If that's not a miracle, then I don't know what is.

Also... the other night on the bus I was sitting by a girl about my age, and I asked her if she has ever wondered if God really exists. She said she didn't know if he did or didn't. And I said, "you can find out! Do you want to find out?" I explained that she can know that he is there through prayer... she just looked at me a little shocked, and then looked down at the book sitting on my lap. She asked what the book was, and I put the Book of Mormon in her hands. She was just thumbing through the pages and really admiring it. Then her mother looked over and grabbed the book and put it back in my hands. I insisted that it was a gift for her daughter but the mom insisted that I take it back. Both me and the girl looked at each other with sad eyes and she turned to her mom and said, "maybe I could just read a little bit of it...?" Her mom responded with a strict no. So sad :( But I know that this girl will never forget the Book of Mormon, next time she sees it she will be ready :) 

I am doing well as an individual, I actually had a rather eye opening experience last night. My mood the entire day had been really sour, and I had been trying to suppress it the best that I could with prayer. As we were hurrying to a meeting with somebody I pulled out my phone and just began to make calls to members to simply thank them for the service that they render. It was wonderful, we thanked them for their care and concern and help and told them that we love them. It was wonderful to hear how shocked they were that we actually weren't calling for help :) It just made me feel so good, being grateful, and you know what? Doing something that small and simple changed my whole mood! Really the whole night I had the spirit with me and I just felt like a butterfly. I will have to say that I definitely benefited from the "service" than they did :)

I feel a little frantic writing this letter, we really don't have much time today so I feel like I'm all over the place. I hope everything makes sense :) 

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Sister Brooklyn Wilson 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Samara Week 24 - "Saratov, the black hole"

January 12, 2015
All is well :)

Saratov has been treating me well! I am just so glad to get a fresh breath of air. However, I would have to say that 90% of the time when I ask people, do you like living here? They say, "No! It's so dirty!" I haven't really noticed yet. All that I've seen for the past few months is snow. The other day it was freeeezing outside, I thought that maybe it was -9 or something, but turns out that it was -17. Wow! I've never experienced that in my life, also my hands have never been more cold in my life. Basically cold weather isn't as cold as everyone makes it out to be. Your body stays warm pretty well, but legs and hands and noses freeze :) 

Sister Busman and Sister Wilson

My new companion is Sister Busman and it has been such a wonderful time with her. She is from Sweden and I think she would be wonderful friends with Annika Jaccard :) I have always thought that she is the most obedient missionary in the mission and that it would be kind of hard serving with her because she is so strict, but she has helped me to realize how obedient I actually I am too :) She is so loving and will do ANYTHING to make you comfortable and happy. We work together well and are both equally pulling that yoke. Our apartment is brand new and really quite nice :) a lot nicer than my last apartment, and a WHOLE LOT nicer that the Riviera, holy cow. I still can't believe I went to college. That feels like a dream. 

On Wednesday and Thursday we had our visa trip. That was a rough experience. I did a lot of self reflecting while on and definitely after the visa trip. Some problems came up that really made me realize that my mission, THIS time is literally between God and me, and NO ONE else. I realized that I still have some problems that I didn't even notice still existed! I was a little bit disgusted to me honest, and it seemed that a lot of the missionaries forgot that they were missionaries while they were on that visa trip. It made me feel like I was back in high school. I just felt awful looking at Sister Busman and seeing that inner conflict she was having wondering whether or not she should speak up and tell some of the missionaries to stop goofing off. She is such a shining example, I'm so grateful for her as my companion, I could trust that little Swedish girl with anything. 

Still praying for miracles. And when we don't have time to talk to every one on the way side we ask for Heavenly Father to somehow send people to us or to put them on our path when we finally do have time, we're just running all over the place right now. I would say that I see miracles most when I am quietly making my way somewhere and I say small prayers in my heart to let me pleeease have a miracle on the bus. Let me give out a Book of Mormon! That is the most satisfying feeling, giving out copies of the Book of Mormon. Why does that give me so much joy? It's wonderful :) We saw a miracle last night when we went over to a woman's house who is normally VERY busy, and she was still busy cooking for herself, but loves having us over, so she let us in. She was running around the kitchen and we just really wanted her to relax and take a deep breath! She finally put down her spices and spoons and sat down on a stool with us. We asked her if we could pray to invite peace into her home, and wow!! I don't think I have ever felt the spirit enter a room so quickly, the rushed atmosphere calmed down and we were able to focus more on things of eternal value. It was so wonderful to just help remind her that she can feel rest and peace in prayer. Some people really have a gift of inviting the spirit when they pray, that's something I'd really like to develop.

I'm sure you've all heard about Russians and their dreams... but that is how they receive answers to their prayers. I have met with at least a dozen Russian people who have had some pretty crazy dreams! Weird winding staircases and sitting on clouds and talking to dead ancestors :)

I'm gonna really make myself at home here in Saratov. I will be "killing" Sister Busman (this is her last cycle) and I will most likely be staying here. Also I've been getting lots of hints from other missionaries lately that I will be stuck in Saratov for quite a while. Missionaries refer to Saratov as the blackhole, because as soon as somebody goes in... they never come out. 

Sister Wilson