Hey there everybody!
Well, transfers were this last weekend. And guess what?... I'm still on Sakhalin serving with Elder Naumov! I was super excited to get to stay here on Sakhalin along with Elder Zamora, my MTC companion! He's been here four transfers (24 weeks) which none of us were expecting. So it looks like I'll be here through Christmas and New Years. Should be fun and exciting!
This last week (of course as you all know) was Thanksgiving, my first on the mission, which felt a little strange. But we (all the missionaries on Sakhalin) were graciously invited by the Jones family, an American couple that live here in our branch and also work for Exxon Mobile, to their home for Thanksgiving dinner. They live a little ways out of town in a community that I think was built by Exxon Mobile for all the Americans that work for them here on Sakhalin. They’re not very big homes, but they’re definitely much more American. It was kind of weird going over there because I felt like I had somehow ended up back home, just without my family and friends of course. The Jones family had coordinated with all their neighbors to have Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, from what I understand, but they all agreed to move it to Thursday so we could join them before transfers. It was super nice of all of them. All of their guests were very welcoming and so friendly to us! It was actually kind of strange to be surrounded by so many Americans and so much English. I met a woman that is originally from Massachusetts and I talked with her for a while during dinner. And there was a couple from Texas that had been to the Houston Temple open house and had a bunch of questions. It was crazy to talk in English about the temple! I know speaking in Russian has been such a blessing, and I do love teaching in Russian, but this last transfer has been really hard for me. Being a native Russian, my companion can be a huge help, but he's also super intimidating because he expects his companions to speak just as well as he can, if that makes sense. He corrects me constantly, which is helpful, but there are times I'm just afraid to speak because I feel he gets impatient with me as I mutter through my thoughts. It's just been frustrating, and I don't know how to overcome it. I've prayed so much and I just haven't felt the relief I've been seeking. Please pray for me that I'll be able to develop love toward him that will strengthen our ability to serve together. Anyways...) It did honestly feel great to just speak openly about the gospel with someone that had interest and questions and not be hindered by any language barrier. I know I will be able to fully overcome that barrier through time, but that experience helped me see my future for missionary work after my mission. I know that may sound silly but it made me think about the things I will do after my mission to continue to further the work of the Lord. So, Thanksgiving dinner was delicious!!! I was stuffed and we were sent home with leftovers! It was horrible because the next day, as I warmed up the food, the smell of turkey and gravy filled our apartment and I had a slight moment of homesickness. But it left quickly enough and I've actually been surprised at how much the Lord is helping me focus on my calling.
With the holidays coming around and with Thanksgiving that just happened, I thought I'd take a moment and just thank you all for all you do. My family is the best family on the planet! Despite our problems or differences or weaknesses, I'm so grateful for each of you. I'm grateful for my friends that support me, for Fallon and her Family (Happy Thanksgiving to the Frapps!), for my grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins in Utah and California (You’re all so awesome!), for the families that support and pray for me (the Pittards, the Hansens, the Hales, the Christensens, the Bates (got your letter Br. Bates! Thanks so much!)... There are a lot of you and I don't have time to write all the names down. Sorry! I know who you are! :) I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve here in Russia. To serve my Father in Heaven and to bring His children truth that is not known to everyone, truth that can change lives. I see that in the members here in Russia. They are examples to me. I'm so grateful to my Heavenly Father for His love and support. In times that I have felt alone and that I had no one to turn to (family is far away, friends are out of contact, people on the street don't want to listen to us, and I lose the desire to share my message, what I've been blessed with) I have learned to turn even more to Him that dwelleth above. I'm so grateful for prayer. I haven't used it enough. I'm so grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ. He knows me and loves me despite my weaknesses. He will help me overcome them. I'm just so darn grateful. :) I thought a lot this week about blessings. Sometimes it's hard to see our blessings when we aren't looking for them. But when we stop and slow down and take a look around, our eyes are opened to see how abundantly we really have been blessed. Just try it if you think you haven't been blessed. Slow down. In fact, stop. And look around. Pray for the Lord's help, and he will open your eyes to see those blessings you may not have even recognized.
Saturday was the branch talent show. It was great! The elders and Igor did this cup game thing as our talent (the thing they always do in the dining hall at scout camp). It went really well and everybody liked it! Then I played the pink panther with Elder Naumov since that's about the only thing I can remember on the piano. I messed up big time. But who cares. It went alright. :) Some of the talents were hilarious! The branch president, counselor, and some branch members did a skit about the missionaries. It was great! I tried recording it but my camera ran out of space! So I quickly deleted a bunch of pictures I already sent home from the MTC (save those CD's I sent you all!) to make some room. I'll have to buy a new card soon. The youth and branch members also did a hand puppet play that was hilarious. All in all, a great activity. Yesterday was the Primary program in Sacrament meeting. It was so awesome! They sang parts of the song, "A Child’s Prayer" in English and in Russian. I felt the Spirit overwhelm me as I listened to them sing those simple words in English. Despite their accents, the spirit flooded the room testifying to me that the Father does hear us when we pray and when we are sincere and have a desire to act on the answers we hope to receive, He answers. It was such a small but tender moment.
Please continue to pray for me. :) I’m having a bit of a rough time right now, but I'm also having the time of my life. I just can't let myself forget that. :) We are planning on watching “The Best Two Years” later today as a P-day activity so that should be interesting after having served for a little while as a missionary. I love you all so much! I can't even begin to describe to you all how much your prayers are appreciated and how much I love each and every one of you. Good luck with all you have on your plates this next week! May the Spirit always abide with each of you to guide you in all your doings.