My dear Family,
(So you all know, this first part of the email is from last week. The power went out at the internet place so I didn't get to finish. Sorry! I did however get your emails last week.)
I am so blessed and honored have you as my family. Mom and Dad, you are both wonderful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your emails. You have no idea how awesome it felt to read of your words for me, your encouragement, and your love. Really, it's so much more than I can express. As far as General Conference, we get to watch it in 2 weeks. Disks with the Russian translation, as well as English, get sent to us so we'll meet together on the 16th and 17th of this month to watch the sessions. I'm super excited!!! I really just can't understand why I didn't love conference more before my mission. I mean, I loved it, but this is like a missionary's Super Bowl. It's what I've been waiting for the past six months. :)
This last week, probably the greatest event yet was when the CES directors for the Far Eastern Europe Area and Новосибирск Area came to visit us here in Уссурийск. Brother Kosack and Caшa something (I don't remember his last name). Bro. Kosack is from Germany but lives in Moscow (he's the branch president there of the international branch). He spoke great English and pretty good Russian. They were both just hilarious and so much fun to be around. They're CES people like Brother Nixon. I didn't want them to go because I couldn't stop laughing. They came to figure out what they could do to strengthen the youth and the seminary and institute programs here in the Far East as well as provide some training for teachers. I could just tell how much they love their work and the Lord.
This last week, I read both of Elder Bednar's talks on praying that he gave a couple years ago. I loved in the second one he gave how he compared the scripture, I believe in Moses 3:5 about all things being spiritually created and then naturally. “For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth”. He then compared that to our prayers. I had never seemed to grasp that, and now I do. Prayer is so key to life. It's a conversation with Heavenly Father. I testify that he listens and answers. It's not just one way. It's so much more. I now understand why I need to pray in the morning. Why wouldn't I want to spiritually build my day and plead for His help?
The weather is getting colder. Right now, it's rainy. I really need to buy a kepka but I'm sort of at the mercy of my companion's desires. Oh well. I have come to love him. He may drive me a little crazy, but he is an awesome missionary, and we have had some great moments serving together. Prayer has helped me love him and see all the good in him.
I testify that the Lord …(this is where the power went out at the internet place with only a few minutes left on my time)
Hey there! So I don't know where I was going with that last statement. Probably something like, I testify to you that the Lord is mindful of each and every single one of us. We are all his children and he knows us each by name. He loves us so much.
This last week has been a good one. We had another baptism in Уссурийск! Her name is Татьяна (I think I told you about her. She’s the one who asked me to give her a blessing a few weeks ago). She's just awesome. I always love the special spirit that attends a baptism. I've been thinking lately how simple and yet profound the ordinances of the gospel are. They're so simple and do not take much time at all. However, they are binding and forever, and the feeling that occurs along with them can only be described as the Spirit of the Lord. I love that peaceful, reassuring, happy feeling. Павел, who was baptized a couple weeks ago, received the priesthood yesterday, and it was another small but awesome experience.
So this last week, I had an interesting encounter with some young girls on the street. There were three of them and they were probably 12 or 13. Maybe 14. Let's just say they were ridiculous. Trevor would have had none of their nonsense. I've never met such forward and well, stupidly acting girls in my life. It was shocking and saddening that they would act that way (trying to get us to smoke, asking if we "wanted" them, grabbing me and my companion and not letting us leave, throwing rocks at us as we walked away, and all mixed in with some lovely cursing. Don't worry, they threw rocks like girls ;) so it didn't hurt, but I was surprised they would do that. In the end, a group of people drinking near the home we were at yelled at them to leave us alone.
Afterward, we had a lesson in probably the most run down home I've been in yet with a man that is so sincere and humble and has some trouble with learning and remembering things. That lesson was an experience that taught me how each lesson must be for the individual person. I had to change my teaching to fit him and work with him on his level of understanding to help him grow closer to Christ. Although we usually have 8 principles to discuss when we teach about the plan of salvation, he needs a slower pace, so today we'll focus on one or two and review with him to help him understand. The gospel is so cool.
Here's an interesting fact I learned yesterday while doing finances in the branch president's office. I noticed a ton of bugs outside flying by the window. Turns out they were ladybugs. In Russian, ladybug is little god cows. I have absolutely no idea why.
Something interesting I heard a few days ago by Elder Eyring that I thought I'd share (I don't know if I've already shared this) but he said something to the effect of "when we pass to the other side, we will be surprised at how familiar our Heavenly Father appears to us." That's a really cool thought.
Yesterday, at church, I noticed how much I have come to love the people here. Sister Слава was having a rough day and it was apparent that she was upset and that she had been crying. I sat down beside her and asked if I could help in anyway. She smiled that Sister Слава smile, put her hand on my should and said “No, but thank you.” My heart went out to her. I had no idea why she was upset, but I felt such love for her and so many of the Russian people here that I wanted so badly to help her feel better. I guess missions do that to you.
Glad to hear you liked borscht and plov! When I told Elder K. that you had made some last week, he asked how, and I said you got recipes from the internet. He was jealous because he doesn't have internet service at home and you can find out anything basically on the internet. I actually made plov today. It was tasty.
Well, I love you all. Elder Koзoдoeв leaves for Vlad tomorrow and then flies home on Wed. So I'll be here with Elder Fife until transfers at the end of the week. I have a feeling I'll be staying in Уссурийск. Mostly because Pres. Pratt kind of already told me. He's having me put together a schedule for the patriarch coming in a couple weeks. I'll tell you more about that next time. Got to go! LOVE YOU!