Well, my dear family,
I'm trying to stay positive but I think that the computer I'm using just deleted or corrupted the file that I had on my thumb drive that contained previously all the pictures for the first several months of my mission. And I'm not too excited about that. But, I'll try not to think much about it and hope that my companion and I can figure out how to maybe fix it. I did absolutely nothing which makes me not all that happy. All I did was plug it in to see if it worked and to check my pictures, they were all there, so I safely removed it and then realized I needed to add some pictures to it so when I plugged it back in, for some reason, the file was corrupted and says all my pictures are gone. Not cool. But what can you do? Just shake your head at technology I guess. Sometimes it's fantastic and other days, it bites you.
So, back to more important things. I'm loving being back in Vlad! As I mentioned before (maybe) Vlad looks a lot different. Everything just seems nicer than I remember it being. For example, the road from Artyom (the city where the airport is) to Vlad is completely redone finally and is absolutely wonderful! You can sleep in the car on the way there if you want! Before, it was the craziest, ricketiest, loudest car ride ever! I don't really know how to put it, but things just seem newer and nicer and now I understand what's happening around me and what people are saying. So in general, the city just has a new yet familiar feel to it. I called Baba Galya last night, my dear babushka that I came to love my first two transfers here and it was so awesome to talk to her! She's doing great although she can't see anything anymore. She said she remembers me although I doubt it. She's had tons of missionaries here in Vlad since then so it wouldn’t surprise me if she was just trying to be nice by saying she remembered. Oh, how I love that grandma!
Serving as assistant sure is a little crazy. The phone is always ringing and you always seem to be busy with one problem or another. But it really is an awesome opportunity to learn and grow and I hope the Lord will continue to mold me these upcoming months. So, here's the update on the past week...
I might have mentioned this to you, maybe I haven't, but I took a train from Ulan-Ude to Irkutsk and met some really neat people on the way and talked for a while with them. My flight from Irkutsk to Khabarovsk and then to Vlad got delayed by 12 hours so I spent the night in the airport with Elder Miller, the senior couple from Ulan-Ude, and youth from Ulan-Ude going to a youth conference on Sakhalin. That wasn't one of my more favorite memories, but I will say I was extremely happy to sleep in a bed finally come Tuesday night. Wednesday, we took a taxi to the airport and met the new elders coming in! We then took them back to the Pratts' apartment and had dinner there and got to know them. There were three new elders and 1 new sister! The sister's name is Sister Huber and she's from Magna! She went to Cyprus as well and knows Lisa! What a small, small world we live in. Thursday, we worked in the office some and I was feeling a little sick but that happens. The new elders got to participate in drawing on the street with Elder Winkler and the Vlad missionaries and it went really really well! One of the new elders that will serve in Ulan-Ude with Elder Steed was given 1000 rubles by some drunk guy (the equivalent of $30). Crazy. Your first day, you get money and the guy refuses to take it back and leaves you with it. Yeah, that 1000 rubles is definitely going in his journal. Friday, planning day and we ended up in the office again finishing up some things.
This past weekend, we had a special regional conference. Saturday there were two sessions and the topics were under the direction of the general authorities who spoke, but the talks were delivered by local leaders and members. It went pretty well. I had the privilege to translate for President in both the priesthood session and in the general session. Thank goodness I grabbed a Russian Handbook 2 because President talked a lot out of the Church Handbook and it was so much better that I was able to read some of what I translated. The Lord really does help us to do what we are called to do. Sunday, after dealing with a few technological problems, we were able to watch a broadcast in Russian and in English that was from Salt Lake and our speakers were (I think, I missed the first speaker because I was helping with trying to get the Russian to work) Elder Clayton Whitney, Sister Barbara Thompson, and Elder Oaks and President Uchtdorf. The talks were wonderful once we got the problems fixed. Thankfully, there were a few members that speak English in the branch that translated while we tried to get the Russian translation on. But man, is translating hard!
One last thing... Just in the last couple days, I've really come to recognized just how much President Pratt does. I don't think anyone can really understand until they're in his spot but honestly, he has to wear a couple hats in a very very big area of the church. He's a Mission President and he answers for all the missionaries in the largest mission in the world geographically. He's also in essence the acting stake president so he answers for everything related to the church and its members in the same area. He really has a huge, full plate in front of him. The only way it's possible to do what he and his wife, what any servant of the Lord does, is due to the fact that it's the Lord's work and He helps His servants enormously. Otherwise, the plane would have crashed a long time ago.
I love you all and I'm super grateful to have your support! Have a wonderful week!