Monday, July 30, 2012

A Lot of Work Still to Do

Well, I feel like this week went by very quickly.

Monday night we went out so see Andrei and his family. We had a good time over there and Irina fed us as usual, with that egg crab salad thing that I really like. Andrei is warming up to us more and more and participating much more in the discussion and giving us good answers. And he came to church again this week, so he is still moving along slowly.

Tuesday we did our regular office work, then we had a meeting with all of the missionaries who are going to Kazakhstan, and with all of the missionaries who are in Kazy right now. We were in the mission office with President, and the missionaries who are here now and we also had The Almati and Astana missionaries in on it by this church program to hold long distance meetings, basically just like skype but more private. The set up in the mission office is sweet with a nice flat screen and a sweet remote control camera. President basically just tried to motivate everyone and give everyone a little more direction on what they should and should not be doing down there. Speaking of Kazy, Elder Anderson and I will be going down there starting in the middle of this week with President. We will stay down there for a week. First to Astana where we will go to church, then to Almati for a few days and we will hold Zone Leaders Conference from Almati using that same video technology. Its been a rough time for Sister Gibbons because her mom just passed away so she will actually be flying home for the funeral this week, so President is sad with her but also kind of excited that we get to go on a man's road trip. (Actually he wants to take a train across the boarder from here to Astana, but we'll see if that works. That would be really fun.) So next p-day I should be writing you from Kazakhstan. Tuesday was also really cool, because we had a lesson with Viktor and Misha. And we ran into like 4 people in a row on the way home. Including 2 people who had seen us around and wanted to talk to us, our favorite bus conductor who quit her job and wanted to talk to us, and Aleksei who had disappeared on us because of his new job. It was really cool because we usually take the bus home from the branch, but this time we decide to take the metro because we just both felt like the metro would be better this time because there was maybe traffic or something. Then at the metro exit it's a big toss up which way to go out because they are equally as far from our house, so we just said whatever let's go left today because there is a hot dog shack that way and I was hungry, then boom all these 4 people right back to back. I thought it was my stomach leading us that direction, but I guess it was the spirit.

Wednesday we had to get to the airport at like 5:00 in the morning to pick up the new senior couple that is in Krasnoyarsk right now, then check them into a hotel. Then we went right to the zone leaders' place to start exchanges. I was with Elder Davis all day and it was awesome as always. We actually went and saw the old original Aleksei. He's got his roof built now and he came to church, but he's still coming along very slowly. Other than that, we had a good member lesson, an investigator lesson that didn't really work out, and a more successful than usual street contacting session. That night the patriarch was in the city and gave a fireside for the members. He's traveling the mission for 3 weeks doing blessings.

Thursday we planned and the patriarch did a meeting for all the missionaries in the city. It was interesting, it was all about the use of chiasmus in the sermon on the mount and it was fascinating and seemed much more like a BYU religion class or lecture than a fireside or missionary training meeting. But it was very interesting, and entertaining. And it also makes sense because he was a BYU professor of Russian and Theology for a long time. Our meetings didn't work out that day, but there was still English. For story time I told the story that President Utchdorf told a few years ago about the plane crashing into a volcano because the coordinates were off just by 2 degrees and it ended up like 50 km off target. Then Elder Anderson came in and pwned everyone by telling them about the apostasy. And how that is what happened to the churches.

Friday we had district meeting. Then taught Victor, then taught Aleksei. We taught him the last two little commandments and talked about his baptism, he still wasn't confident that he was ready even though he is based on all of the requirements. So we had him do the interview with Elder Smith anyway and tell us at our meeting the next day. He passed the interview and Elder Smith did a great job helping him along and encouraging him.

Then on Saturday he said he prayed about it but he still isn't ready. He says he wants to change more before his baptism and make everything, especially going to church, more of a habit. I think that it is actually mostly a social concern. So either way we reset his date until August 19 and made a really good concrete plan of what he has to do up until that point to be ready, including coming to church all 3 hours until that point and explaining more to his mom and his girlfriend about the church and why he believes it. It was actually a great and really spiritually uplifting meeting. We also finally got into older Aleksei's house. His wife didn't stay for this one, but we had a great lesson with him. This work is just killing him, and we gave him a blessing to help him deal with everything and I think he really liked that and he told us that after our talk he felt a lot better and a lot calmer. But we have a lot of work still to do with him. Saturday we also had interviews with President. Those are always very uplifting and inspirational. That is something that I'm trying to learn from President by being able to serve so closely with him for so long. He is just amazing in interview settings, just helping that person and making a huge difference in their life every conversation, so I would definitely like to develop some of that ability too. He was telling me about some of the blessings that he has received in his life and how they have even new meaning to him now. (Mom do we have any blessings that I have received recorded besides my patriarchal blessing and the one that Dad gave me right before I left?)

Sunday rolled around and we went to the office early to get the baptismal programs worked out. 4 people were scheduled for that date, but ours and Elder Smith and Lionheart's didn't work out, But 2 people still got baptized after church. It was a huge turnout. The only font is at the other building, so a bunch of our branch went over there after church, and almost all of the left bank branch stayed. So there were about 100 people at this baptism. It was incredible. Older Aleksei came too, so that was a really good experience for him. That night we went home teaching with Paval to the babushka, Ludmila. Well, that's the week.

So the Olympics aren't as big over here as they are in America. And this is the one time I really feel like dang, I really just want to take a day off and watch TV. I didn't feel like that for Superbowl or March Madness or anything, but there's just a special place in my heart for the Olympics. I haven't seen any at all, and I've only heard little fragments, most people don't really care. There are some, like the recent convert in our branch. He is a high school volleyball coach and he loves sports, especially volleyball, and he told us all about them yesterday, and tried to convince us to come over and watch with him. Don't worry, I'm definitely cheering for Russia.... to get 2nd! Go America baby! No, but seriously I want Russia to win, just not if there is an American in the competition. They are my second favorite. Its like UNLV basketball, they are great and I love them, but I'm just not going to cheer for them over BYU.

Elder Topham
Sofia right after her baptism.

Us with young Aleksei on the boat on that same activity.

Me talking to Vika (Andrei's daughter) on the boat cruise branch activity. (I stole her hat)

District Meeting

Recently active Misha

Us with President and Sister Gibbons with matching ties

Us celebrating Elder Anderson's birthday.

Us celebrating Elder Anderson's birthday.

Us celebrating Elder Anderson's birthday.