Dear Mom and Dad and the Family and everyone else who may read this,
I want you to know, especially Mom and Dad, how much I love you. I don't think that in the mission culture, it just so happens that trainers and trainees take on the name of "papa" and "son" because it truly is a unique experience to train a new missionary. I really have learned so much from just two weeks of the experience. I also feel so much responsibility and it really gets me down when I don't feel I'm succeeding or reaching my potential because I feel it affects my companion and that's the last thing I want to happen. If there's anything I must work on more and that I want to accomplish, I want to make sure my weaknesses don't affect the beginning of his mission. I don't know if any of what I just said makes any sense but I pondered a while about that this morning and I hope I can continue to steadily improve so as to be the best possible example and trainer for Elder Patterson.
He really has taught me so much. And I love it. This certainly isn't my focus now but the thought just occurred to me that I can't wait to be married and be able to learn from my spouse. It will be such and adventure and rewarding experience. Anyways, this past week was a great lesson in love. You have to love the people. Love them with all your heart, even when you don't want to, because it has a profound impact on the progress of the work. It has a profound impact on how you grow as a missionary, as an individual, as a son or daughter of Heavenly Father. When we take it upon ourselves to serve God, we forget about ourselves. We give up ourselves, take up our cross 'daily' as Luke says in chapter 9, and we follow Christ and never look back. It's so hard to do that sometimes. I'll tell you all right now that forgetting about yourself completely and entirely is insanely hard. It takes some time to really work at it and accomplish it. But it is possible. Craziest part about it is once you think you've figured it out, you realize that you can do even more to give of yourself and to focus even more on others. You would think that simply leaving home and your family and friends would be enough. Not. The Lord requires more. You stop thinking about home nearly as often or letting your mind drift to past memories. Enough right? Nope. It takes even more. At least it has for me. And there's nothing more rewarding than losing yourself in the work of the Lord. You come much closer to your Savior. I still have some distance to cover and a bit of a gap to bridge but I can see the progress I've made thanks to the Lord's help.
I found out the other day that Sveta, the girl that Elder Miller and I were teaching got baptized this past weekend on Saturday. I'm sure it was a great experience for her and I pray she will never forget it. I also pray the Lord will continue to use me as an instrument in His hands to affect the lives of others. We never know the effect we have on others. You just never know. So, do everything you can do bring about good about you and the Lord will use you as an instrument for the benefit of others. Galatians 6:9 be not weary in well doing. Never stop doing good. Never stop serving. Quick story... So, we missionaries often find ourselves on the streets here in Russia. Go figure since we walk most places. Or take buses. But we're pretty much always on the streets and talking to everyone we see. I have seen the examples of past companions who always asked to help people that may have been in need, and I too have been striving to offer help at any setting that help could be offered. Rarely does anyone ever take you up on the offer. Even if a babushka is carrying 10 grocery bags filled with potatoes, carrots, cabbage and beets to make some borsch (keep in mind she's going uphill and she also lives on the 10th floor) for some crazy reason, she'll still turn you down when you offer to help. That has never made sense to me, but I have a hunch it's due mostly to the untrusting nature of many of the Russian people who have a hard time trusting those around them. This past week, we talked again to a lot of people and offered to help many that seemed they could use it. I reminded my comp that despite rejection, we must continue to offer our help because we never know who will accept it. On our way home Saturday night, we walked between two apartment buildings not far from the church and I noticed a babushka who was slowly making her way down the street as she carried two large grocery bags. We changed paths and made our way over to her and offered to help. She was astonished and told us we were like angels from heaven! She couldn't stop telling us how handsome we looked and how nice it was that we had offered to help. To her, we seemed to have come out of nowhere as though we were angels from above. We slowly walked down the street to her apartment building and offered to take the groceries to her door but she insisted that she see us off at the bus stop. We talked and talked and talked and she told us all about her granddaughter who speaks fluent English and has many American friends that have come to visit. He name is Nina and she was so loving. It felt so good to help someone and not that we expect it but it is rare that we're ever thanked for the service we try to provide. She generously thanked us over and over again and gave us her number and invited us to visit. We hope to see her this week sometime. Never ever forget to offer your help.
It's been so awesome to see my son (new missionary) grow and to see his faith. He talks to everyone. Really he has no fear which is so awesome. Continue to pray for him. He really will be instrumental along with all the other missionaries that have come with him in helping the church grow here. I'm convinced they will help fulfill prophecy. I pray I be here long enough to aid in the fulfillment of that prophecy as well as the church begins to explode here. By the way, we got to see the church building's interior this past week and wow, does it look amazing! As we walked into the chapel, Elder Patterson and I were immediately hit by the Spirit. It was a wonderful experience I will never forget, and this new branch will be a blessing for the members here. We had an interesting pday last week which made seeing the new building even greater but I'll tell you all more about that later.
I love you all so much. I realize my letters home have changed a lot throughout the duration of my mission. I've come to realize training that a lot of the crazy cultural differences are not so crazy to me anymore. I really don't seem to notice that stuff much. So I'm sorry if that's what you enjoyed hearing about. I'll try to pay more attention to it all. It is really neat to relive things though through your new companion. I hope you all have a fantastic week! Love you ALL!