Why hello there everyone!
I know Mondays shouldn't be the focus of my week and I shouldn't just be waiting for each Monday but I must say, I do love Mondays since I get to hear from you all and know how things are going back home where it's warm and doesn't snow in April. For some odd reason, nature can't make up its mind and it has decided to snow on and off here the last week or two. We woke up to snow yesterday morning and snow this morning as well. Not my favorite snow since it's really wet everywhere but looking on the bright side, it's not summer where I'd be sweating all the time.
Well, this past week has been a wonderful spiritual feast. It has blown me away! President and Sister Lawrence came to visit our mission and it was a privilege and wonderful opportunity to meet them, associate with them, and learn from them. Elder Lawrence is in the second quorum of the seventy, he spoke in general conference last fall about parenting (the one about sleepovers that confirmed Dad was always right. :) We missionaries got to talking and we all agree that some of the stupidest things we did as youth was at a sleepover. Let's see, let's get a group of boys or young men together, it's late at night, nothing to do... a recipe for stupidity. I will say, I never really had that problem but I can see what it could lead to.) Anyways, we (the missionaries in Khabarovsk) flew to Sakhalin on Tuesday evening. The next morning, we all met at the branch and had an awesome zone conference with President and Sister Lawrence, and President and Sister Pratt. Elder Lawrence was a mission president in Novosibirsk about 10 years ago (just before the Brethren introduced Preach My Gospel) and is currently a counselor in the Europe East Area Presidency with President Schwitzer. He shared wonderful council with us regarding our missionary work and who we are becoming. Obedience is key. It is fundamental. I can't tell you how many times that theme was repeated. Faith is also a key principle that dictates the likelihood of miracles in our lives. The Lord can only work miracles according to our faith. I immediately knew his wife to be a seminary/institute teacher from the minute she began speaking. She just had a gift for teaching. She shared with all of us about the Abrahamic covenant and we are all heirs of that covenant since we are part of the house of Israel. It was intense. First of all, it was something I was very intrigued to study and learn more of because I've lately been focusing my attention on covenants and all that they entail. They’re extremely serious, very sacred, and bring with them the greatest blessing Heavenly Father has to offer. It's inspiring to realize that with the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ came not only a restoration of priesthood authority but also a restoration of covenant making. That is why this work is so important. We are all about helping people enter into covenants with God. It's not just about getting more members so our church will be bigger than the church down the street. I want others to see the beauty in the blessings that await them when they enter into covenants with God and remain faithful to them. That's a very big part of why I'm here spending all my time on this holy work. I won't share everything that Sister Lawrence shared because it was honestly one of the deepest doctrinal presentations that I've heard on my mission in such a setting. One thing she did mention was that our patriarchal blessing is our license to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is there that we find our lineage to Abraham and we realize our connection to the House of Israel, the Lord's chosen, covenant people. We touched on the topic of "election" (go look in the Bible Dictionary about that) and how we are elected children of Father because we proved faithful in the life before this and we made promises that we would carry forth His work here on this earth. We talked about a lot of things that I will share more about when I get home but it really was a spiritually enlightening experience that helped me to better realize my role in all of this and the role I will continue to play for the rest of my life.
That evening (Wed), the branch had a fireside with the Lawrences speaking and we were able to stay for that which was a real treat because we got to not only learn more from them, but I got to reunite with so many awesome members of the church there on Sakhalin. It was fantastic to see them again even after only 2 months or so. We got to do a little work there on Sakhalin the next day with the Sakhalin elders which consisted of meeting with a member who lives in a retirement home (man, could he talk and talk and talk!) and we then headed back to Khabarovsk that evening.
Friday we did service with Sister Galina and met with one of her students named Stepan. I think I mentioned him to you. I bought him a gift in Korea on my last trip. It was a pack of UNO cards with Cars characters on it. At the end of our visit, we played a few rounds and he loved it. :) He has such a sweet spirit about him. I always love seeing that kid.
Saturday evening, we gathered together as missionaries at the senior couples' apartment and had an Easter dinner that Sister Burnham prepared for us. It was so nice of her and greatly appreciated. :) Yesterday was obviously a very special day. I awoke excited to celebrate Christ's triumphant victory over death. We (Elder Waltman, Elder Steed, and I) sang praise to Christ in sacrament meeting yesterday and I'm certain that angels were there singing along with us as our voices joined together and filled the sacrament hall with the Spirit of the Lord. It was a moving experience that I shall never forget. I taught Sunday School yesterday and since the only investigator that came speaks only a little Russian and is from China, he read from a Chinese PMG and heard some translation from his Chinese friend that is a member of the church named Daniel. It was odd because Daniel speaks better English than Russian, so I taught in English and it's always a strange feeling to go back into English.
I know that my Redeemer lives. I know He has loosed the bands of death and offers all of us the opportunity to return to live in the presence of the Father. He is my Lord, my God, my King. The Prince of Peace. He atoned for all of us. And it is to Him that I humbly bow and worship. I hope you all have had a wonderful Easter! I love you all so much! :)