May 18, 2015
All is well :)
Holy cow. The amount of different emotions I have felt within the past week is insane. I seriously don't even know where to start. I guess I'll start from the beginning (that didn't sound cheesy at all) By the way this letter is SUPER long, so I won't be offended if you don't read it, but it is an interesting one ;)
So. Monday, my companion and I went to Victory Park in Saratov. There is an insanely beautiful view if you go up on this big hill, and there I said goodbye to my lovely city :( man Saratov is such a good place. The members are my best friends, and the people on the streets are honestly some of the hardest, most stubborn people I've ever met, but I love them :) But really I can feel a huge difference with the people here in Samara.
|Victory Park - Saratov Russia|
On Tuesday morning I finished packing all my stuff (it took me 5 hours to pack, such a pain in the behind) oh and by the way, one of my suitcases alone weighted 90 pounds, let's just say I'm glad I'm not going home anytime soon. At 4:00 there was pretty much a wolf pack of missionaries at the train station who would be heading up to Samara. My very first train ride in Russia :) :) :) We got to Samara at 2:00 in the morning. The mission's van driver came to pick us up and then would drop us off at our various locations throughout Samara. Guess where we'd be dropping by first? The zone leaders. I never expected to see elder Graf at 2:30 in the morning in his pajamas, but that's exactly what happened :) he came out to help the elders bring there bags in and we said hi, shook hands, and parted ways just like we'd do if it were any other missionary.
My new companion is Sister Sotnikova who is a native Russian. She is 2 cycles older than me and is a champion. I love contacting with her, she is very bold and isn't afraid of anybody. She is also very humble and motherly :) She is also very very very veeerrrryyyy superstitious. Probably the most superstitious Russian I have met. There have been a few times where I have stopped in the middle of our conversations and have to check to make sure that I am actually understanding correctly what she is telling me, then I'm always a little shocked when yes, I understood correctly. For example she thinks that people can turn into animals by the power of the devil (maybe that's true but I've never heard of that people) and she explained to me about how picking up money on the ground heaps other people's sins onto you because sometimes people throw money on the ground when they want to slough off sins or bad feelings. I'm sorry I really didn't have any charity in some of these situations and just told her, "No. I am sorry but that is absolutely not true." I am going to need to work on seeing from her point of view a little bit more this cycle....
The first two days of speaking straight Russian all day gave me a real big head ache, but now I am used to it :) I have been learning a lot of Russian slang the past week. I've always been against slang, but Sister Sotnikova told me that slang is the soul of any country. And... I agree. She says that if she hears a missionary talking and they use slang she automatically thinks that they are fluent in Russian. Because only people who REALLY live in a country know the slang and more informal parts of speak. Of course I won't speak slang with random people on the streets, but it will help me to connect to the youth and it will help with my understanding. So we'll see how it goes :)
On Thursday I met a bunch of the members in the branch at English group, including K who is a new convert (Elder Graf and his companion were the ones who taught him before he was baptized). He is such a little punk :) he is a real jokester that's for sure. He walked us home from English group and just raved on and on about Elder Graf to me the whole way haha, he really really loves that guy.
Yesterday at church I was feeling a little bit homesick for my ward in Solnechney, and then about halfway through sacrament meeting, through the window I noticed a girl run into the church building. It was my first Sunday here so I thought that it was probably somebody who was just running a little late. K ran out and got her because she was standing awkwardly in the hall and she came in and sat by him. I turned around to one of the missionaries who has been here longer and asked him, "do you know that girl?" he said no, and I then assumed that it was a friend of K's and it was her first time here. I kind of squirmed in my seat a little bit the whole time because the theme was temples and work for the dead... which can sound SO weird to people who have never heard of it before.
At the end of sacrament meeting I ran to the back of the sacrament hall and grabbed her just as she was about to walk out the door. I asked her what her name was and if it was her first time. She said yes and I asked her to come sit down with me a minute. I asked if she was friends with the new convert and she said no. I was a little bit shocked and then asked her how she ended up here. She said, "my father is a taxi driver and he drove some of your boys not too long ago and they gave him this book." she then showed us her Book of Mormon and said that she just came to the address that was written on the inside. She said that her father also wanted to come but he was working that day. (I was honestly shocked, and it was so hard not to freak her out with my excitement of seeing such a miracle right before my eyes.) She said that she's been interested in our church for about 2 years now and once she got the Book of Mormon she had a little more direction on where to start with things. She stayed (happily and more than willingly) for all 3 hours, we managed to have a restoration lesson and committed her to be baptized when she receives confirmation. She said that she is totally ready to commit to this if she knows that it is true and understands that baptism is a big step. She promised to come to church next Sunday and we even set up another meeting for her this week :) I have literally never met anyone more elect on a first acquaintance to the church in my entire life. Her name is L and is a star :) I am pretty sure that I am in this city right now specifically for her. She loves swimming and rock climbing and sports and is SO cool. I love her.
Sister Wilson mentioned "Temples and Work for the Dead"
These sacred ordinances are to allow people who have already passed on
to accept the teachings of Jesus Christ. Follow this link to learn more