Well hey there everyone!
Guess what?!... I'm staying on Sakhalin!!!! And my new companion is Elder Thellman! I absolutely love him. He called me from Vlad on Friday before he flew in on Saturday and when I answered the phone, all I heard was, "Yesssssssss!!!!" I met him a while ago and had the opportunity to serve a little with him while I was in Vlad after my previous Korea trip. (I'm completely blown away that I'm already going back to Korea. The mission just keeps getting faster and faster.)
So that's the biggest news. Secondly, Elder Thellman brought me mail. I was super happy!!!! Unfortunately, I haven't received anything from Mr. Martin. There's still a chance that a few packages may still be there for me because Elder Thellman couldn't bring everything because of weight limits. So we'll see. Keep my fingers crossed! But he was able to bring a bunch of letters from home, from Grandma and Grandpa Bush, from the Spencers and the Whitcombs, from Jared Sholk (I loved your letter Jared, I can't wait to see you again) and from Fallon!!! I got her birthday package and I was soooooo grateful!!!!! You probably already know this but she gathered a bunch of letters from so many of my friends and teachers back home and put it all in this little book!!! It even had Russian on the front that was completely legit!!! So to each of you who wrote to me, Mrs. Miller, Ariel, Mrs. Mahany, Kiersten, Kenneth Kuk, Joyce, Nonni and Baba, Emily, Duck, Alex, Brittany, Mr. Frapp, Justin, Payton, Mrs. Frapp, and especially to Fal, I want to say a huge thank you!!!!! I love reading all of your letters! Thank you for wishing me a happy birthday and remembering me in your prayers all the way over here in Russia. You’re all in my prayers and I wish you all a wonderful New Year!!! :) Fal, I'll write you more in my letter I'm finishing up later today. Thank you to everyone that has written me and keeps me in their thoughts. It is super encouraging and means a lot to me. Just the thought that you took to send me something in the first place is a huge deal and deeply appreciated. Mom and Dad, I got the family's Christmas letters from everyone yesterday as well. It was great to read from all of you, to see pictures of the girls (you are both so beautiful!!! You're getting older! That's not allowed!!!!), to see Trev's drawing of Meat Man (which Trevor described as the most soul crushingly difficult game on the face of the planet) and to read Matt's letter and story. I loved it Matt! You are awesome at writing letters and stories! I love you all so much!
So, what's new with me? Well, Sakhalin has been getting a little colder this last week. The coldest it's gotten was -14C. The day it started to get really cold, (I think it was Thursday or Friday?) anyways, it was snowing really hard and there was a ton of wind. I got bundled up really well and we headed out to find some potential investigators/formers. The night previously, we had gone to the farthest north point in our area which (with traffic) was a 1 1/2 hour bus ride. It was about half as short without traffic the next day. Anyways, we headed out and as I stepped out of our stairwell, the wind and snow hit me pretty hard. It was surprisingly cold and not pleasant to say in the least. However, I just decided, be happy, and I said to myself, “You're wearing your ginormous badger шапка (hat). You have every reason to be happy and warm.” :) So I started by saying a very happy greeting to a woman that was struggling against the cold wind and snow on the street. I guess I caught Elder Naumov by surprise because he started laughing at my unexpected excitement despite the weather. I'm learning that being happy and positive and upbeat around people just makes the day so much better. I guess I've always known that, but experience is helping engrain it in me. So we went out to meet with someone that had said to come back the next day in the afternoon up in that northern part of our area. She wasn't so interested the next day, but in the end, we stopped by some other people and I took some pictures up there. (Hopefully, I can send them today).
One day this last week, as I was in my pajamas reading before bed, I noticed my knees. Weird, huh? I looked at them, and I realized they're a little calloused right now. On my knee caps, the skin has begun to become a little more rough, and for some strange reason, I noticed that earlier in the week. As I sat there and thought about it, I realized why. I have spent a lot more time on my knees in prayer with my Father in Heaven in the last year or so than I have in all the other 20 years of my life. I have never had such a strong desire to communicate with Him before and I know it is one way in which I have been able to gain great strength from on High. Greater strength that can simply be found within myself, strength to push forward when it just gets discouraging. I do not share this to present myself as a premier example of prayer. But I share that because I know how much praying has blessed my life these last 11 months. Having a conversation with my Father above, pouring out my heart and my desires to Him has become such an important part of who I am as one of His children here on earth. I love prayer. I know He listens to me, to each of us.
With my trip to Korea coming up, I'm pretty darn excited about going to the temple and getting to spend some great time with Elder Zamora. By the way, he's still going to be on Sakhalin for another transfer. He's been here forever it seems! This will be his fifth transfer on the island. Anyways, I look forward to being as spiritually strengthened as I can be in the House of the Lord. I loved hearing about the Youth temple trip back home. Cherish the temple. It is so close to home. It is so much harder for saints here to have such blessings available to them.
I love you all so very much. I'm so deeply grateful for your prayers on my behalf. Thank you Mom for your letter about your Relief Society lesson (I'm going to study more about it today and get back to you). I'm so grateful for the blessings I see in my life each and every day. It is unreal what the Lord is helping me become and accomplish. If only I can continue to push myself and work even more diligently in the service of others, I know I can reach a greater potential. The Lord is the master sculptor. He is shaping me with each passing week. It blows my mind with how fast this experience is passing and I pray I will make every moment worth it in this coming year. Again, I love each of you so much and all those that support me from back home! :)
P.S. Elder Thellman brought a pull-up bar with him. I'm going get in the best shape of my mission this next transfer. :)