Get ready because I have a lot to tell you. First of all, Hello!!!! I was super happy to hear from you all! :) And to laugh at the pictures you sent. I miss you guys. Laughing with you all again will be so much fun. :)
Ok so, after writing to you all last Monday, Elder Zamora and I found out that we were supposed to have been on a plane to Vlad earlier that day, but nobody told us that that was the plan. They (people in the office in Vlad) sent tickets by fax to the south apartment but no one saw we had received them until it was too late. So, Sister Tatyana in Vlad had to probably jump through hoops trying to get us into Vlad the next day. Turns out that she got us tickets to Khabarovsk earlier in the day and then a flight to Vlad in the evening. So, on Monday night, our FHE appointment fell through, so we went searching for potential investigators. I had a few addresses nearby that we stopped by. The first door I knocked on was answered by a guy in his underwear smoking and he quickly slammed the door and yelled at us to leave. His name was Peter. From the area book, he seemed promising. Next door, nothing. Behind the third door lived a woman named Tatyana Alexandrovna. She opened and invited us in and told us not to stay long because she was watching a concert. As we got to talking, we could smell and tell that she was a little drunk and acted a little bi-polar. She would be super nice and then go crazy on us with really interesting questions. Basically, we got nowhere and finally left, but it made for an interesting evening. I'll tell you more about it when I get home. Stories will be a lot better when I can act them out for you and tell you all the details. :)
So, the next morning, I packed and got on a bus to meet Elder Zamora and then headed to the airport to fly to Khabarovsk. The problem was, when I got to the airport, I didn't see a flight to Khabarovsk listed. The flight I did see which corresponded to our flight number and time was heading to Novisibirsk (which is the main city in the mission right next to us on the left). I thought, "Oh great, we're flying to Novisibirsk. This can't be right at all." As I went to go ask the desk, I noticed that it said Khabarovsk on that screen along with Novisibirsk. It then made complete sense. The flight goes through Khabarovsk! So, we met a less active member heading to Moscow in the airport (she was very nice) and then boarded and flew to Khabarovsk. And it was freezing there! -25C. I was so glad I wore leggings and my huge badger shopka. Now I know what -25 feels like. Yes, your body certainly feels the difference. There's no doubt about that. So, we got our bags, got in a taxi, and headed to the church in Khabarovsk. I talked to the taxi driver all the way and he was super nice. Not really interested but really nice. We met up with the missionaries at the branch in Khabarovsk, had a quick dinner, and then headed back to the airport with the zone leaders, Elders Jones and Waltman, to fly to Vlad with them. They had Zone leaders’ counsel with President in Vlad the next day so we ended up on the same flight. Once we got to Vlad, Elder Jones forgot his backpack on the plane which was a big hassle but luckily we got it back. My suitcase got really banged up but no worries. It was cheap and hopefully will last me through the next year and that's all I'll need it for. We took a taxi from the airport to President's apartment (the mission home) and that's where we stayed the night along with the assistants. It was super unexpected and so nice because the beds there are ridiculously comfortable. Plus, I didn't expect to sleep there until I go home. Honestly, it was great to be among such awesome people and to be in the home of President Pratt where there is certainly a special spirit. Elder Naumov was super surprised when he showed up at President's the next day and saw me as we were leaving. We took another taxi back to the airport to fly to Korea, (a lot of traveling) and we got into Korea with no problems and made it to the temple without any delays. I loved being in the temple. We did a couple of endowment sessions and initiatories. It was wonderful. I felt the Lord's love so strongly in His house and I loved the workers there. It always touches me how they work so hard to speak English with us so we can understand and not only feel of the Spirit there but learn from each experience.
The food in Korea was great as usual. :) I bought another scarf and beanie. No ties. Next time. I need to send you all some great Korean ties sometime soon. Korea was a little cold but not nearly as bad as back in Russia. We flew back to Vlad and stayed at President's apartment again (it was fun telling the taxi driver how to get to President's when his GPS took us the wrong way). We got really spoiled. We ate dinner there, which was delicious! And I got some packages and letters for Christmas from the Frappiers! Thank you all so so much!!!! :) That was super kind of you all to think of me, and I will definitely enjoy the hot chocolate! The cards were great (everybody has loved hearing from those crazy little guys (not sure what their names are) that talk about hot chocolate and marshmallows and then Fal's card from Buddy the elf. Everybody has loved them) THANK YOU! :) After we returned to Vlad, it had gotten a lot colder there and was down to -22C. Elder Zamora and I walked to the post office from the church and it was slightly painful to say the least. But I survived. Your face is what really takes the beating. Everything else stays warm. Anyways, we ended up in a taxi and back to the airport again. Our flight was slightly delayed but we finally got on the plane and sat down in the last row together. Then we both heard Elder Zamora's name called out on the loudspeaker. We talked to a flight attendant and she told us that Elder Zamora was supposed to be up in business class! We were both in shock. He asked if I could come with him and the lady said, "Unfortunately we can't do that." But then another flight attendant came back and grabbed me and we flew first class with a legit meal and first class cups with cold apple juice beverages all the way to Sakhalin. (A whopping 1 1/2 hour flight) Dad, I now know why you loved flying business class. It was so nice. While I was in Vlad, I received your Christmas card (thank you all for the family picture and the letter. It was pretty cool to get one from your family) :) a Christmas card from Grandma and Grandpa Bush (THANKS!) and the Bates (Thanks for thinking of me!) and Flat Stanley! So I took a bunch of pictures with Flat Stanley this last weekend. I'll try to send some today and if it doesn't work out, I'll send a bunch next week.
On Sakhalin, it was really cold as I was gone and then warmed up and started dumping snow. It has snowed for the past four days straight and it's just been crazy trying to walk around. This morning, we helped shovel out snow to the garage of Brother Severyukin so he could get to work. He was walking in snow almost up to his waist! I took pictures that I'll also try to send.
Basically, it's been a crazy, crazy week filled with lots of traveling. Thankfully, I got a few moments to breathe and enjoy the Spirit of the temple and reflect and ponder on my sacred calling. I know I'm not yet to my potential, but I'm super grateful for support from all of you, from so many people back home, and from my Heavenly Father. This experience is changing me and shaping me in to the man that the Lord desires me to become. I pray He will help me fulfill His will and do all that He desires so that I can successfully touch the lives of others. As I thought about it, this work is extremely expensive. Not that that is really the most important thing to notice from this past week, but as the thought occurred to me, I realized, "Wow. The Church goes through so much to continue our missionary service here in the far east of Russia." It really struck me hard and added fuel to my desire to work even harder and be even more diligent in fulfilling the Lord's will each and every day so that not one minute of His time is wasted while I'm in His service and in the service of His children.
I love you all so much. Thank you again for your support and for all those that remember me in their prayers. Sorry if this letter was a little crazy and maybe not that exciting to read. If there's anything you all want to know, any questions about the country or the culture or stuff like that, I would love to answer them.
Oh and I'll be in Khabarovsk again this next week on Friday and Saturday for Zone Conference. I guess zone conference doesn't change places, which makes sense cause they only have to get tickets for four missionaries on Sakhalin verses 8 missionaries in Khabarovsk.
Love you all! Hope you have a fantastic week! :)
P.S. I don't know if I told you all about this last week but Elder Naumov and I went tracting one night. I called one guy on the domophone (this panel thing on the door to the stairway) and introduced us and told him about our message and that we would love to share it with him and his family. He answered, "Guys, my family and I go to church each week and we talk about God there, but we do not talk about God at home." That struck me as interesting. I've seen the difference in my life as we've involved Heavenly Father in our home. He belongs in the home. That's how we can build stronger families. That's a huge part of His plan for us, the plan that brings us the greatest happiness. Plus, it reminded me of the Zoramites in the Book of Mormon.