Hey there everyone!
Well, I'm writing to you all a little later than usual since we flew in from Irkutsk today and didn't get home until a little after 3:00 in the afternoon. Honestly, I'm wiped. Traveling this last week was rather hectic. But, it was a great trip! Like you said, Mom, it really is a huge blessing to be able to return to previous branches where I've served and see those who I had been in contact with. I don't even know where to begin. Actually, I take that back. I'll just start from the beginning.
So, Tuesday, we had a great meeting with President and discussed transfers and upcoming events in the mission. I found out not too long ago that I actually won't get a chance to go up to Magadan since it's not going to work into President's schedule to make that trip in February. Instead, they're going to go sometime in April. I'll have Elder Steed take some good pictures he can share with me later. We began logistics (information for transfers and visa trips) Tuesday and continued into Wednesday. Tuesday night, we had a really neat lesson with a family that we've been meeting with here in the center of Vlad. I'm positive I've already mentioned to you all about them, but they have 6 boys. Yes. Six. It's awesome to meet in the home of a big family. It was neat to meet one of the older sons this past week and the second youngest offered the closing prayer. It was really, really neat to hear him talk with Heavenly Father. All of them are usually shy and never want to pray but one of them finally said he would try and he offered a great prayer. When we really realize the importance of missionary work and helping others come closer to God, than you start to realize why on earth we would ask someone to try praying. It's not just because it's our "job" or what we're supposed to do. It's because praying or reading from the scriptures literally brings us closer to our Father. We invite others to take steps closer to Him. And that's exactly why we have to do those things daily because otherwise, we move away from Him.
Wednesday evening, I translated for President Pratt's Presidency meeting over Skype while Elder Steed helped Sister Pratt by finishing the dishes of the dinner we scarfed down during the meeting. That way, she could finish packing for our trip. At 9 pm on Wed, our mission driver, Pasha, picked us up from the Pratts' and took us to the airport. We checked in, waited for a bit, and then boarded the bus outside on the tarmac that took us about 50 ft from the airport doors to the steps leading up to the entrance of our plane. (I absolutely love how they do that here in Russia.) Our flight then left from Vlad at 11:30 pm and arrived in Irkutsk at about 2:00 am. (There’s a two hour time difference) I could not sleep for the life of me on that plane! But that's alright. We got to Irkutsk, boarded the bus after getting off the plane and got to the terminal to pick up our bags. Everyone, including Elder Steed and I received our baggage except for the Pratts. Everyone left the baggage claim and we were left looking at the conveyor belt that was empty. So, I talked with the woman working there and explained in a rather urgent manner that there were supposed to be two more suitcases for the Pratts and that they had to be found. The flight we had been on was continuing on to Yekaterinburg (where Justin Ebanks and Jonathon Tharpe served) and we reallyyyyyy didn't want their bags to be sent there. Especially since we had lots of important things happening on this trip, including zone conference and the building dedication in Ulan-Ude. After I filled out some forms, a man came in with their bags and we were extremely relieved. We got into two taxis and the Pratts headed off to the new Marriott hotel in Irkutsk. We went to Elder Zamora's apartment. And it was just our luck that our taxi broke down about a km away from them. We sat there and waited while the taxi driver tried to fix it. But it didn't work out so he called someone else to get us and finish the distance. We got in around 4 am and finally got a little shut eye for a couple hours. Later that day, we had a really powerful zone conference with the Elders from Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude. We also ate very well... Papa Johns. :) My favorite part of the trip though was seeing some of the members who I had close contact with when they were baptized when I served there last summer. They're so strong now! And it was such an awesome reunion to see them again! It's amazing the friendships that are formed through the gospel of Christ. That night, we hopped on a train to Ulan-Ude and while in Ulan-Ude, I got to work with Elder Patterson, the missionary that I trained, and it was in short, fantastic. The building dedication was held after some branch council training President Pratt conducted on Saturday evening. The meeting was short to dedicate the building but it was one of the most powerful meetings I've been in in a long while. As soon as President Pratt began to offer the dedicatory prayer, the Spirit flooded the room and was ever present and noticeable throughout the prayer. Great experiences I'll never forget. To wrap things up, we left last night around 6:30 pm and got to Irkutsk a little after 2 in the morning. Then we waited at the airport for our flight to leave at 7:15 am and we got in around 2 pm earlier today. Long but worthwhile trip.
I love you all a ton. Sorry if this email's a bit boring. I got to wrap it up though. I pray for each of you always, and I know the Lord looks over His children.