So, the news report for this week is that it has been raining quite often here in Irkutsk and always seems to catch us when we don't have rain coats or our umbrellas. But, you just have to laugh and love it and not worry about getting soaked. I guess of all the grandest things I have to report, it's that Baikal was pretty grand. You could just barely see the outline of a few mountains off in the distance which mark the other shore of the lake but they were really hard to see and sometimes I thought to myself that my mind was making it up. In case you’re curious to look on a map, we went from Irkutsk to a small town called Listvyanka in a little minibus. The ride to get there and back was quite an adventure. The roads is windy and hilly and the drivers are not afraid to go zooming there and back. We first stopped at this small museum on the way that has old homes and stuff like the indians and pilgrims we have back home, and it was kind neat to see the unique things they thought up or how they built things. Yet, in essence, it's the same as what people in ancient times did everywhere else. You could do a tug-a-war there if you wanted and so we gathered together a group and went at it. The first time, Elder Zamora, Katya (a girl from English club who is super nice and has started meeting with the missionaries), and I won hands down against Elders Smith, Miller, and someone else. But the next time, we ate it. More specifically, I ate it because my feet didn't stay put and I fell flat on my face. Needless to say, it hurt a little. But I didn't cry. ;) Thankfully. We got to feed a camel down by the river Angara that feeds into Baikal (I still have no idea why there was a camel there). And we skipped lots of rocks. All the Russians who were with us probably thought, “Man these missionaries are just a bunch of silly American boys, that all they do is skip rocks when they're near water.” But honestly, it was pretty fun and there wasn't a whole lot else for us to do besides sit there and look at water. There was one 'site' at the mouth of the Angara where there's this rock in the middle of the river, the beginning of Baikal, that is always visible, even when the river rises or freezes over. There's a legend that goes along with the rock and I'll be sure to tell it to you all once I'm home. There were lots of souvenirs there of course but I didn't get anything since most everything there is possible to buy in Irkutsk and it's a lot more expensive there near Baikal. I'll be sure to send you all some pictures, hopefully in the coming weeks. The computer that I'm at doesn't have a USB input, so I'll have to send them later.
The other most exciting part of our week was Saturday and yesterday. A young man and woman who have been best friends since 1st grade and come to English club were baptized! It was such an awesome baptism. I really can say I have come to love the both of them so much. They're the kind of people that you just love to be around. They're always positive and happy and cheerful and just plain fantastic! Elders Stewart and Zamora taught them and baptized them and it was a very spiritually uplifting and bright moment in my mission. It's been a very rewarding experience to see Yana (the girl) and Kolya (the guy) slowly change and come closer to Christ through the whole experience. I was never in on a lesson, and I didn't have a lot of interaction with them in the teaching process, but I always saw them in English club since they're in the group that I'm in, and I saw them at church and it was so neat to see the gradual changes they made and to see the joy they were gaining. When Kolya was baptized and came up out of the water, he was so excited and shook his hands in the air. He did about the same thing after his confirmation. It's so awesome to see someone so excited about the gospel! They both bore their testimonies as well after the baptismal service and it was very powerful to hear of how they came to the decision to be baptized. Awwww it was a great day!!!
That night at sports night was interesting since some guy drove by the field we were playing at and kicked his girlfriend out of the car, slammed the car door on her (really on her) and drove away. We ran over to see if we could help and besides that, didn't do much but it made for an interesting sports night. It's kind of sad that in the world we live in, stuff like that happens. Thankfully, nothing worse took place.
As far as the rest of the week goes, well, it was a good one. Talked to a lot of people. Especially on Wednesday since everything we had set up fell through. We met an awesome grandpa named Nikolai and we had a great conversation. I hope to meet him again someday. After talking with him, I felt so much love for the man. I think that's my favorite part of serving a mission is the love you develop for the people. Sometimes it’s hard, but when you love the people, your service changes and how you look at the people completely transforms. You come closer to understanding how Heavenly Father looks upon each of us as His children and how much Christ loves each of us.
Thank you for your letters Mom and Dad. I know the Lord will continue to bless the both of you. I'm glad to hear things are going well with work, Dad! I continue to pray for you. Hope everyone else is well and enjoying the summer Florida sun!
Love you all!