Hey there family!
I know you are probably getting sick and tired of hearing from me so often (last Tuesday and Friday and now Monday!) but I hope you'll bear with me. I'm now back in Irkutsk. My flight left Vlad this morning at 11 am and I got into Irkutsk around 1:15 pm. And since now Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude are (almost) officially part of the Vlad mission beginning this transfer, our pday has gone back to Monday. So for future reference, you can write me on Sundays your time. I'm super drained and tired of airplanes, and I'm glad I'm done with traveling and hope to stay put in one place for a little while.
So, once again, I'll reemphasize that Korea was wonderful and I loved being able to attend the temple. Some of the senior couples here in our mission were also there at the same time which made it fun. One couple (the husband from Nakhodka and the wife from Sakhalin) were there as well and were sealed on Wednesday. While there, we were able to do 2 endowment sessions and 1 session of baptisms which was a really neat experience. Elder Zamora and I both got the opportunity to baptize one another while the other acted as proxy. Needless to say, we got very good at saying Korean names.
I passed on to Brother Southerland some ties that I'll have him send home for me. I'll probably get a few more for Dad and Trev next trip. We'll see. Hopefully, Dad or Trev will like some of the ones I sent home this time.
Flying from Vlad to Korea was really interesting because Elder Zamora met a man at the airport who was from Spain with his wife/girlfriend who is Italian and he was able to speak with both of them in Spanish the entire flight. And even afterward on the subway into Seoul. It was so neat to see Elder Zamora freely speak with this man and it turns out they already knew a lot about the church. By the time we went separate ways in the subway station, it seemed we had made lifelong friends in just a matter of hours. They were really really nice people. I got the chance to sit next to an American on the way to Korea. His name is Elliot and he is from North Carolina and was studying Russian in St. Petersburg and Vladivostok. If I remember right, he is studying at Davidson. He also knew a lot about the church and we had a very long interesting conversation.
After we made our way back from Korea to Vlad, we stayed the night in Artyom (the city were the airport is) and worked there on Saturday and Sunday. (On Sat, we talked to a ton of people and we met some really really neat people!) But since we don't presently have a church building in Artyom, the elders and members have to go to Vlad for church which is about an hour ride by bus (if there's no traffic). They've been doing construction on the road from Artyom to Vlad pretty much ever since I got into the country and since Elder Zamora and I didn't really want to make another trip down there for church on Sunday, we got permission to go an hour in the other direction... to Usserisk! We surprised everyone there by showing up just before church and it was wonderful to get to see all the members and missionaries there. Needless to say, on the way home, we got stuck in traffic for an hour and a half but a 2 1/2 hour bus ride was worth it.
I guess to end this letter, I'll share a real quick experience. Lately, my letters may not be a very good reflection of this, but the mission has been kind of hard. Yeah yeah hard mission. What's new? I guess it's always hard but it's hard in different ways and in phases. Lately, it's been hard to have desire to keep going out there when success is just difficult to see. I know I should have stronger faith and know that if I'll remain diligent and do a little more every day, we'll see the fruits of our labor. For whatever reason though, lately it has just been hard. While I was in the temple after the first endowment session we went through, I was sitting in the celestial room and I prayed and prayed for guidance and comfort and desire to push forward and to become the servant the Lord desires I become. Because I'm so far from where He wants me. Yet, I had an assuring feeling of comfort in answer to my prayers as I sat there that I know the Lord loves me and appreciates the work I'm doing. Along with that comfort, I felt the need to continue to work harder because He expects that of me. But I know He loves me. He loves all of His children. Never let yourself think otherwise. The temple is a special place. It is the House of the Lord. Literally.
I love you all and I'm always super grateful for your support and prayers. I hope this next week brings you an abundance of blessings, laughs, and smiles. :)