Dearest of dear families,
Thank you all again for wishing me a happy birthday! It was indeed a very happy birthday as I made my way back to Russia. Transfers and our visa trip were a little hectic, but as far as I know, we didn't have any major problems. So I would say that's a success of the week! As of now, Elders Zamora, Winkler, and I are the oldest missionaries in the mission. Weird. Super weird.
Really quick, before I forget, I'll let you know about our Christmas calls. So, we can use Skype this Christmas! Well, other elders and sisters were able to last year as well but since I was on Sakhalin without a senior couple, we didn't really have the option. So, this is the plan... I'll be at the office in Vlad to use one of the computers with Skype at 8:00 am my time on Monday the 26th of Dec (that works out to be 4:00 pm on Sunday the 25th of Dec, Christmas Day). So, I'm pretty sure I'll be using the former senior couples' skype account that is on the office computers. I'm not sure what their account name is but what I'll do is call you from their account. So, by Monday morning, send me an email and let me know which Skype account you want me to call. In the event that our building loses internet (which isn't uncommon) I'll give you my phone number and you can call me at 8 if I haven't already called through Skype. Can't wait to hear from you all!
So, to put it in a nutshell, the past week has been a whirlwind. Monday, my companion spent the evening packing and getting ready to head home. Tuesday, the other elders and sister heading home arrived along with my new companion! (He’s actually a former companion... Elder Steed!) I'm super excited to get to work with him again! He was my comp while we served in Khabarovsk a little less than a year ago. Hard to believe time has flown by that fast. There was a little stress throughout the day as transfers were already beginning and missionaries were beginning to move from city to city. I'll have to tell you more about transfers once I'm home but it really is the craziest process. Trying to coordinate getting missionaries to and from the cities, making sure they all have companions throughout the process, making sure they'll make their buses or getting them taxis to hop on a flight or a train. And on top of it all, my visa trip coincided with the transfer. So, there was a little craziness but like I've said before, what's the mission without a little crazy? On Tuesday night, we had the chance to be at the departing fireside at the Pratt's apartment and to hear from the departing missionaries. It was a neat experience to see them as they prepare to move on the next part of life. Although, it was a little hard because hearing them and realizing they're going home throws you off your focus a little. You start to realize you don't have much time. And part of you wants to return with them because being a missionary is super hard. Yet, the other part of you wants to remain and do everything you possibly can to fulfill the Lord's will and further His work amongst His children. It was an enormous blessing to be in the temple and to return and refocus on the work. I flew to Korea on the same flight as the missionaries going home. It was neat to say goodbye in the Korean airport. (Side note... I realize I've mentioned this before but I'm a firm believer that Korean Air is one of the best airlines ever. The food on the flight which only lasted 2 hours was fantastic! So much better than a bag of peanuts.) We got to Korea and while we were there, we found out our flight that was suppose to return on Friday had been canceled. Thankfully, there was a flight that returned on Saturday. So, we were able to make it back. While in Korea, we had dinner at the Southerlands, the couple that lives there. It was a wonderful little early birthday present to me to be in the home of such a loving family. We had dinner, made cookies, and sang Christmas carols. A simple little Christmas celebration. As we finished, some of us took the chance to bear our testimonies of the Savior. And the Spirit was felt by all. The flight returning to Vlad was great. It was a ginormous plane! It had 2 seats on either side and 4 in the middle. I can't remember which Airbus model it was. But anyways, it was a smooth flight. We grabbed some donuts and bagels at Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks before we took off. Funny how a donut and a bagel are the best thing ever when you've gone a while without them. Lastly, as I already mentioned, the temple was wonderful. The Korean temple workers are heavenly. As we stayed to do more sessions, they simply told us in their English, "We love you." It was touching and a sweet experience for maybe the last time to be amongst the Korean Saints.
So, I'm back in Vlad. Yesterday, I spoke in church and it went ok. I talked about covenants. Something I feel we all need to strive to understand better and be sure that we're always mindful of keeping our covenants. Had the chance to do a little tracting yesterday. Needless to say, it wasn't that fruitful. But, it sure was fun and we did meet some nice people!
I hope and pray you all are safe and in good health. Merry Christmas to you all! Can't wait to hear from you in a week!