It sounds like all is well back home! I'm glad that you all have had such a great time with Grandma and Grandpa Bush and Uncle Derek! Please pass on my love to them! :) I'm also glad you all were able to see Fallon! And that Jessica sang so beautifully! I'm sure it is wonderful to be home together with family. :) Honestly, I miss that. But you don't always get to have Christmas in Russia, right? ;)
This last week was just another wonderful week to add to all my wonderful weeks on a mission. I just happen to no longer be a teenager now. Strange. It was a week filled with exchanges (switching companions because my companion is the district leader and is supposed to work with each member of our district) and lots of good ole missionary work. I got to serve with Elder Zamora!!!! Which was such an awesome day!!! I have really come to admire and love him, and I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to serve with him in the MTC. I didn't appreciate it then nearly as much as I do now. We support each other so much because we're both at the same stage in the mission and understand the struggles that each of us are facing. I don't know what it was, but while I was serving with Elder Zamora, we both got super excited and tried talking to everyone on the streets. We were both filled with that desire that the sons of Mosiah had and that Alma had as they performed their missionary labors. We desired to share our message with every soul because it changes lives. Not just in a colloquial (Trev, I hope I used that word correctly... maybe vituperative would have been better. ;) ) "Hey our message changes lives" sort of way. No, the gospel of Jesus Christ can and will change your life if you truly apply His teachings and follow His commandments. Elder Zamora and I taught a man name Roman who has good desires and intent but rarely fulfills his promises. He smells horrible and looks just about the same as he smells. First of all, I was astonished, as we both taught, at the difference between our ability from when we started at the MTC and where we're at now. It's huge. Astronomical. And it's all because of the Lord's help and the desire we have to do His work. Secondly, after I finished praying at the end of the lesson, I looked up into his eyes and I saw past all the dirt and grime and smell and all that was less than ideal about his appearance. I saw in his eyes that he is a child of Heavenly Father. That he may have his struggles and it may be a long road as we help him come closer to Christ. But he needs this message. All of us do. The spirit hit me so strongly. And during the lesson, I was surprised at how boldly I could express my thoughts and feelings. Those who truly know me know that it's hard for me to sometimes speak my mind or be bold with others. Yet, I found myself teaching boldly along with Elder Zamora. It was unreal.
A day later, after my exchange with Elder Gmeiner, we came back to the north apartment and there, Elder Naumov surprised me with cake and Elder Zamora surprised me by fixing my iPod! (One day it just stopped working but magically, Elder Zamora brought it back to life) I had my eyes closed as I came into the apartment (upon their request) and all of a sudden, I heard the melodious voice of Josh Groban and saw cake before me. :) It was super nice of them. Then, that evening at the church, Igor and Paulina and the South Elders surprised me with a little party and gifts and it was super awesome of all of them! I was so grateful. :)
As we near the Christmas season, I want everyone at home to know how much I love you all. A mission has been the greatest experience of my life in several aspects. It has been super rewarding. And it has been super challenging. Challenging doesn't even really quite describe it. Dad, you know what I mean. I want each of you to know that I'm deeply grateful for your support. As a mom or dad, as a brother or sister, as a grandma or grandpa, as an uncle or aunt or cousin or friend, I want each of you to know you have played a vital role in shaping who I am and providing me support that has certainly helped. I've also come to learn in the recent months that there is support that is unrivaled by that which we can find here on earth. That is the support from a Father in Heaven and from our dear brother, even Christ the Lord Jesus. As a baby born in Bethlehem, he came into the world to fulfill the most sacred of all callings and missions. He came into the world as the Christ. He is our Savior and Redeemer. I hope this coming week, I can focus even more on His birth, His life, His mission, and His triumph over spiritual and physical death. He has carried me and lifted me through my times of despair and I trust He will continue to support me through my greater trials in the future.
This last week, I've also learned one important principle. The Lord doesn't fix our problems. He expects us to fix them. But he doesn't leave us helpless or stranded. As we pray to Him, we should ask for guidance on how we as His children can understand and fix our problems or overcome our obstacles. While He could just remove the obstacle before us or fix our problems, He doesn't. He is a loving parent. The most perfect of all loving parents. And He will help us as we do all that we can. I don't remember if I wrote this quote last week but I loved what President Uchtdorf said in last conference. (paraphrasing...) We may not be able to understand the deep valleys or trials of the present until we look back upon them from our future mountains of experience.
I love you all so much! I'm overwhelmed with this feeling. :) I hope you all have the most wonderful Christmas! Good luck on exams! And I can't wait to talk with you all! :)
With Christmas love,