Well, after 1 transfer (six weeks) in Vlad, I'm still alive! I am so humbled and grateful for the prayers and support and for my family who fasted for me because I know the Lord is helping me. Obviously, I still don't understand everything and sometimes it's hard to catch all of what people are saying, but I'm getting better at it, and I now understand a lot more of what's being said at church. The hardest part about that is when we read from the gospel principles manual, I can't read very fast or understand much because there are so many ginormous words. But the last couple Sundays, I've been able to contribute to the lesson and I know the Lord has helped me do that.
So, first off, there have been some changes in the mission. Up until this last transfer, we had no districts in our mission, just five zones (Vladivostok, Usserisk, Nakhodka, Sakhalin, and Khabarovsk) with a zone leader in each that reported to the assistants here in Vlad. President Pratt felt impressed to change our structure so it will be how the Brethren have asked all missions to be and to relieve the load on the zone leaders. So now there two zones (north: Khabarovsk and Sakhalin; south: Usserisk, Vlad, and Nakhodka) and in each of those cities, there's a district with a district leader. Elder Waltman is now the district leader. (By the way, he is such a great companion. I love working with him.) So I'll be staying in Vlad this next transfer and then we'll see where I go after that. I have loved being in Vlad because I'm around the assistants and the President a lot more often than if I were in any of the other cities. I’m also with the McGills, a senior couple who serve in the mission office. They are hilarious and so funny to talk with!
This next week, Elder Waltman and most of our district head to Korea to renew their visas, so I'll be with one of the assistants since his companion will be in Korea as well. It will be interesting because it sounds as though we'll be doing assistant things in the morning and then working in my area in the evening. I'll let you know how this all goes.
Anyway, I was definitely right about the 150 year anniversary of Vlad and how they're sprucing up the city. They're redoing a lot of the road (which is a huge blessing) and planting a bazillion flowers! And there's more sweet art they're doing on the walls around the city! I'll try to get some pictures at some point, maybe when I'm on the bus. By the way, right now the weather in Vlad is weird. Some days it's smoking hot and other days it's windy and cold.
So I thought I'd share some of my feelings about the missionary work here... I'd always heard that serving in Russia is hard. "Oh your mission is going to be really hard." etc. etc. I'm starting to realize why. In no way am I saying that my mission is the hardest mission in the world and that everyone else serving missions should be thankful because serving a mission period, no matter where in the world you are, is a super big challenge. Russia is just different. And I know I needed to be here to be humbled. It has humbled me so much. The language, the work each day, it has sent me to my knees and caused me to pray throughout the whole day. Sometimes it's hard to keep your spirits up. When we're contacting, we talk to people for hours and person after person just ignore us. That amazes me the most. The hardest part is trying to keep faith that there are people the Lord is preparing to receive our message. Contacting for hours sometimes causes my faith to dim, not dim in the fact that I feel any less that the message we have to share is true and important, but more my faith that anyone in this city will want to talk to us. I don't know if that makes sense but I'm working on it and doing my best to stay positive and strengthen my faith in the work.
I had a funny language blunder this last week... I went to ask someone if they spoke English because I wanted to invite them to English club. I accidently asked, "Do you speak Russian?" The man of course said "Da (yes)". And since I had thought I'd asked him about English, I felt surprised because people rarely ever say yes when you ask them if they speak English. They just say "I’m really bad" or "only a little," or yesterday, some guy said "sometimes." Anyway, so I then asked in English really slowly, "what is your name?" He was super confused and said "I speak Russian not English." Elder Waltman tried not to laugh and Elder Papok who was with us started busting out laughing after I told him what I had said. Gotta love the language blunders. :)
Love you all,