Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Here's the Miracle

Hey Guys!

So it's been a really good week, way better than I expected, I'll try to tell you all of the highlights.  First, before I forget, I received a dear Elder from Matthew yesterday, it sounds like he wrote it the day I left from the Salt Lake Airport, so that might give you a good idea of how long things take to get here.  Make sure Sam put the mission address/dear elder instructions on my FB.

Ok, so the awesome thing about this week is that we have 5 first meetings set up with new potential investigators! That is way more than I thought we would have.  And I look back on every one of them and they have been a miracle in some way.  First, on Sunday we went around to an area and visited all of the families on our list that were either labeled inactive or no label because nobody even knew who they were.  Only one of the families answered the door for us the whole time.  In Russia there are huge apartment buildings and there is a separate staircase for each 20-40 apartments or so.  And they have huge metal doors and you have to use the keypad and call up before you can get into the building.  Anyway, only 1 person out of all of those families let us into the staircase even. At a couple we snuck in behind other people but then weren't let in the door,.. Anyway the person who let us in happened to be our second house, he is a 25 year old guy named Gleb. He talked to us at the door step for a while, he had never even heard about the church really, his wife has been an inactive member for about 8 years.  Anyway he was really nice, he invited us in, served us watermelon, and talked to us. Then his wife walked in, and was also really nice, and gave us some awesome soup that she made.  She knows almost nothing about the gospel, she's basically a wet investigator.  Gleb agreed to have us come back later this week, but he assured us that he's unconvertable, so we'll see, he will at least listen to us.  We think it's a miracle that the wife wasn't at home initially, we think that if she was the one to answer the door, she would not have let us in.

The second miracle happened yesterday, we had a meeting set up with an old contact from Elder Rupper, Aleksei. I guess this guy met Elder Rupper on the street and liked him basically because he's American and came to the mission office looking for him. But he had gone home, so we got Aleksei's number. We set up a meeting, and he is an English professor at a university here so the whole thing was in English! it was so awesome, I actually understood everything.  Anyway, so while talking to him after a while we find out that he is not religious at all, and doesn't know if he believes in God.  But here's the miracle: just last week, he went on a trip to the place where his mother was born and it is hard to describe but basically he had a spiritual experience that made him start thinking more about God this week, and believing in God. At the end of the lesson he even prayed for the first time in his life! It's such a miracle- I think if missionaries would have met with him a week earlier he wouldn't have been ready.  So, we have some good hopes for those two investigators, and hopefully our three other first meetings will go well too.  One of them we met at English club, one we met at the grocery store, and one was a former investigator from the area book, so we'll see.

We haven't had any hot water for the last couple days and for probably the next week, so needless to say that really stinks. I've been showering at night right when we get home and I'm all hot and sweaty, but it's still painfully cold.  I guess the whole city is on a central water heating system, so whenever they need to repair something it gets turned off and I guess its pretty frequent in the summer.

We are also being kicked out of our apartment by the end of the month, because the landlord sold it. I still don't have any pictures, but I'll get some for next week.

Another strange thing around here are there are tons of stray/wild dogs around.  Especially away from the busy streets, like where our apartment is located, there are a bunch of them.  And missionaries are really scared of them because I guess if they bite you you have to go through tons of hassle getting rabies shots at stuff.

I had my first Russian tea the other day.  Well, first I had some fruit tea at a ladies house and I put sugar in it so it was awesome, very close to apple cider, but the next day, a man offered us tea and he literally went to his yard, pulled out some kind of plant, and put it in boiling water.  It was not very good, but I still got it down no problem.

So I haven't had much crazy food here.  Every meal we cook on our own.  It's common for people to give us tea and some snack things at meetings but we have to cook all the time.  I'm very grateful that Elder Drasso is a very good cook.  We mostly eat basic things.  We eat pasta multiple times a week and rice and chicken stuff.  He makes really good sauces.  My two favorite things that we eat here that are a little different is, palmeni, which is a lot like pot-stickers - fried dumpling type things which we eat a lot, and we make sausage sandwiches.  The sausage here is really good, so we just slice some of that, cheese, and mayonnaise and put it on toasted bread and its delicious.  Elder Drasso made blini this morning and that was really good too.

P-day is being changed to Monday next week. So I'll be able to email again then.  I guess that's the way the big people in the church want all of the missions to do it.

So music is allowed here and it's awesome.  Elder Drasso has a bunch of good music and there are a bunch of CDs lying around here from previous missionaries.  I think we have every EFY CD ever and most Mo-Tab CDs.  And we have a few other good ones like the Joseph Smith Nashville CD. So as far as Christmas presents,  I think I will maybe make a list of some CDs or songs that I want and you could surprise me with a few others.

I got to play basketball this week.  We have a 16 year old friend who I want to become an investigator named Zhenia.  He showed us where a good place is.  It's not too bad, it's an outdoor court with a bunch of hoops.  I think the 3 point line is too close, the baseline isn't far enough under the basket and the bottom of the basketball standard sticks out too much so you land on it when you do dunks and lay ups, but other than that its good.  There were a couple of other people there too that we played with, they aren't bad, its just funny the different things they do.  I think we are going back Saturday night, when a lot of people play there.  That is usually sports night at the branch, but there are always tons of missionaries at sports night so we think basketball will be more fun and more effective anyway.

I really like it around here.  We ride the metro a bunch and the buses too when the metro doesn't go there.  I love metros, they are awesome.  The area is really big so we usually have to ride the metro a few stops then walk a while to get places.  It's weird, some of the areas in the city are really, really run down and just not nice areas, and it's crazy how much we stand out.  But it's cool because I feel totally safe wherever we are.

I gave a talk last Sunday, it was easy because it was only 5 minutes and I could choose the topic, so I just did it on faith.  About 10 babushkas told me that I did a great job (or I think that's what they were saying) I think men don't compliment much around here.

So just a little more about Elder Drasso, he is a really good guy and a really good missionary,  and I'm definitely learning a lot of things from him.  He knows a ton from experience about missionary work around here so I'm learning a lot. He understands Russian really well and speaks pretty well.  He takes rejection really well too, it's amazing how he can go from person to person saying no and other things to him.  He is really nice, he has already ironed a couple shirts for me in the morning when I've been doing other things and is always willing to cook.

So I haven't started looking for winter clothes yet, maybe in a few more weeks.  Thanks for your emails mom and dad, I'm going to print them out so I can read them in more detail.  Love you all!

-Elder Topham