Monday, January 2, 2012

This is God's Work

Hey! This was a really awesome week!  New Years Eve was the best day of my whole mission, but I'll get to that later...

Earlier this week was really cool because Elder Hyde and I got to go to Tomsk, to go on exchanges with the zone leaders.  The bus ride to Tomsk is about 5 or so hours. and on the way there it was a really nice bus, and there were only 7 people on the whole bus so we just spread out and it was awesome.  I spent all day with Elder Vargin, it was really cool because he is a native, and I just felt more legit walking around with him. Also, he's 6'8" so I think we really intimidated people sometimes when we were talking to them.  It was really cool, we met a babooshka at a museum so she could show us her exhibit, and it was in its own separate room, she started asking us questions about our church so we sat her down and taught her the first lesson and it went really well.  Then we had a really sad experience when we went to visit one of their other investigators, a woman in her late 20s who has a drinking problem.  She was drunk again when we got there, so we left after a few minutes because it was useless, she was either crying or yelling at us the whole time.  But the part that was the most sad it that there was a little 5 year old girl there, who was the cutest little girl ever, who would show us her toys and just looked so happy.  It was just really sad, because she probably has to deal with that every day, but there was really nothing we could do to help her.  Then after that we went to the bus station to try to get some tickets back to Novo but they were totally sold out for the next morning and we couldn't get out until the next night, so we spent another day in Tomsk.  That day Elder Vargin and I went out to the countryside to visit a new investigator family.  They fed us a really awesome meal with meat and potatoes and a mushroom salad thing, that was actually really good, I think I've gotten over the mushroom thing.  Anyway, it was some pretty legit Russian food.  They were super religious and they all knew the Bible really well.  We would bring up obscure scriptures like in Amos that talk about apostasy and they would know them all, it was kind of ridiculous.  And the dad was some kind of preacher so he kept interrupting to put in his own thoughts and verses, he wasn't arguing but it was difficult.  But the good news is that the only time that they were quiet for the whole lesson is when we were teaching about Joseph Smith and the Restoration.  So that was really cool.  We got a bus back that night, and it was the opposite of the first experience, it was a dumpy bus, I was in the back row that didn't recline, every seat was full.  The heater that heats the whole bus was sitting right in front of me and I was sweating profusely the whole time... it was garbage.  But overall the trip was really fun.

Then last Saturday was New Years Eve, we had to be in by 4 in the afternoon on both New Years Eve and New Years Day.  So we got a meeting scheduled during the day on New Years Eve with Zhenia.  So the story about Zhenia:   about 2 weeks ago we got a call from a guy, and basically he was like hey, you gave me this invitation a few weeks ago, I thought about it, and I'm very interested in reading this Book of Mormon. Can I come get one from you at your building today.  Of course I said yes great! He came right on time, he said he only had 5 minutes he lives in a suburb outside the city and had to catch a commuter train, so we talked real briefly, explained a little about the Book of Mormon, gave him the first lesson pamphlet and asked him to pray about it.  It was really cool because he came into the building and saw our picture of Christ and said "That's it, that's how he is, he is living, I don't like how people always picture him as dead on the cross."  Anyway, some time passed. I was trying to keep in touch by phone, but he wasn't coming into the city for a while and he "didn't want to tell me about his reading over the phone." So he calls us on the 30th and says, "Hey can I come into the city tomorrow and talk to you?" Sure, of course.  We sat down at the branch and asked him how he likes the Book of Mormon.  He said, "I love it, but its pretty hard to understand right now, it will take me a while."  I asked if he had prayed about it, he said "I put my hand on the book, started to pray, and right when I said Heavenly Father I felt my heart start pounding and I felt a feeling in my chest and I knew that He was telling me it was true." Elder Hyde and I were stunned. We expressed how great that is and how we know it too, then I was just like, "well we are having a baptism on the 21st, will you prepare to be baptized then?" And he said, "Well I think I'm ready right now." Once again we were a little stunned.  We kinda explained to him about that's great we just need to teach him some lessons, he needs to come to church, and how he'll need to live the commandments and he was just ready to go.  So we asked him if he read the first lesson pamphlet and he continued on to basically teach us the first lesson while piping in how much he loves everything about families and living prophets and everything.  So then we talked a little about how one of the things we need to work on before baptism is to quit smoking and drinking and he is willing, but he thought it would be hard, so that is what we will be working on soon.  Anyway, that's the gist of the story.  He's awesome, it's great because he has a family too, a wife and two kids still at home.  Elder Hyde and I were just overcome with joy going home and the whole day we spent inside (even though our fridge broke, and we spent a few hours fixing it) it was just an amazing experience.  Also, because for a long time we have had a goal to have a baptism before the end of the year.  We made a plan of all the sub goals we would have to accomplish and when and what other sacrifices and changes we would make in order for the Lord to reward us for our efforts.  It was getting awkward as the year was getting closer to ending and nobody even had a date, but the Lord rewarded us in his own way in his own time, and it just happened to be in the very last moment right before the year ended.  It was just a huge testimony builder that this is God's work and miracles are entirely possible.  It's amazing how we just put in work and work in other ways, contacting and teaching other people and all the other stuff that we do, and God just kinda slips you a miracle in the back door kind of like, OK you deserve this now.  It was just incredible. So needless to say, we are pretty pumped right now.

Other than that, all the rest of the day Saturday we cleaned our apartment, the fridge broke because we were pulling it out to clean behind there, and we fixed that and that was about it. But it was really fun because we listened to all 3 Lord of the Rings soundtracks while doing so.  Then Sunday was great. I tested myself on every single flashcard I have ever made on my whole mission, so that was fun.  Elder Hyde and I set some more goals and I worked on a couple letters.  So they were a good couple days.

They go crazy here for New Years.  There were fireworks going off all night and we went out in the middle of the day Sunday to go to church and it was like a ghost town. And even today almost every store is closed.  The post office is closed for a whole week, it's super lame.  But hey, our internet store is like the only one open on the whole block, so were are happy about that too.

Oh so the signs all (seen in the pictures of the apartment sent last week) said baptism Dec 31.  We should have changed them to say :  New Years miracle Dec 31. Sister Huffaker really liked the white elephant (that Drew took to the white elephant gift exchange) and thought it was cute and clever, so she stole it.  Elder Hyde is a really hard worker,  so he's doing well.

Well it was awesome to hear how everything is going and about the snowboarding trip, I really miss it walking through snow every day, but whatever, it will be there when I get back.

Elder Topham