Monday, December 12, 2011

December 12, 2011

It's hard to believe that Christmas is in two weeks, because it doesn't feel like Christmas! Despite the Christmas tree up in my apartment (just a little one I bought at the equivalent of the dollar store that's across from our apartment) and the lights and trees up all around Z (which usually doesn't happen. Sister Marty says that Z is one of the first places she's seen decorate for the holidays) and all the signs that say "С Новым Годом" and "С Рождеством Христовым" (Happy New Year and Merry Christmas)'s just weird. It doesn't feel like Christmas. We even watched the Christmas Devotional translation with Sveta, and it's gotten cold again and dumped snow the other day--it looked/looks sooo beautiful, but it really doesn't feel like Christmas. Just like it's winter, and that there's snow to have snowball fights with while we're walking home or waiting for the bus or something. I'm not sure why, but a lot of the Elders agree with me. It's just kind of weird.

Anyway, this week has been...crazy. I feel like not a lot has happened, but there has been a lot going on mentally and emotionally and spiritually, even if not so much physically.

Sveta is still doing so great. We moved her and her son's baptismal date up a day, to the 23rd, which is actually her son's 12th birthday, so that it wouldn't interfere with the ward and mission Christmas parties that are happening on the 24th. But she is so wonderful. It has been such a priviledge to see the changes she has made in her life over the past few weeks. We went grocery shopping with her the other day, and she kept asking if certain things were "можно" (allowed). She was feeling sick at the beginning of the week, so the Elders gave her a blessing. We've had some great lessons with her, especially our lesson about the temple, and although there have been some not so great lessons, usually when we finish she asks what else there is and asks us why we didn't prepare anything more. Her son Denis wasn't too excited at first, but the past few days I feel like he's been warming up to the idea and not being such a boy Michael's age. haha. They've been praying together and reading the Book of Mormon, and Sveta at least just wants to learn and understand everything. It is amazing. She is such a blessing.

The more I am here, the more I love the people. This Sunday was the primary program, and those kids are adorable. It is so amazing to see families being raised in the church here--it is a such a blessing that I think we take for granted in places where the church is strong. And it is also great to see these kids growing up and knowing that they will be the future leaders of the Church here in Russia. There are also so many great people. One babushka we visit (the one who told me I couldn't get sick from anything but the cold) this week started reading the Book of Mormon and she had at lot of good, sincere questions. She also said to tell our parents that she loves and appreciates us and our help and called us "People of the World," which for her is a people-person, someone who loves and takes care of other people. Another babushka told us that we needed to promise her we would live to be 100 and live happy lives. That spirit that is there when we talk with and serve these sweet people is what being a missionary is all about, it's when I feel most like a missionary.

The last big news about this week is transfers. I mentioned in my earlier email that I had an interview with President. We knew something big was happening, because usually when Z sisters get transfered President just calls and tells them what's happening, since we're like 1-2 hours away. But he came all the way up to Z to meet with Sister Marty and me (and all the companionships of sisters were changed around, except 1). C. Marty is being moved down to Podolsk. They haven't had sisters there in a long long time (it's a really small branch--yes, still a branch and smallest in the stake) and so she is going to shotgun there with Sister Mordwinow. And I will be training! We are getting 3 new Russian sisters, and I get to train one of them. Her name is Sister Habibullina (so I might just call her X2, since X was Hmelinina). President doesn't know how much English she speaks, so that might be an adventure, and I'm really nervous since I'm not anywhere near perfect as a missionary or speaking Russian, but it will all be great. I'm very excited, especially since Z is the place to be right now, and I love it up here. Of course, getting a new companion that you've never even met before is nervewracking (at least when it's just a new companion, you've probably met her before, since I know all the sisters who have served here at the same time as me). I will definitely have to rely on His help a lot more though, because this is such a big responsibility, especially since I also realized that I will be the "oldest" missionary (on the mission) in our district (maybe even literally, I just don't know how old C. Habibullina is). Heavenly Father has blessed me with great companions in my mission, and so I have faith that He will continue to bless me and that things will be fine with C. X2 and training and everything because He knows what's best and what we can and can't do, plus, we're never alone. 

Anyway, things here are great. The Church is true! 

Sister Rachel Ashby

Monday, December 5, 2011

December 5, 2011

Hey hey hey! I can't believe it's December already. Where has the year gone?!

This week has been wonderful wonderful WONDERFUL!

First off, Sveta! She is awesome! I guess I didn't tell you last week, but we met her 3 Sundays ago (so like 2 weeks ago) when she came to church with her friend/coworker. We started meeting with her about 2-3 times a week, and she is just so great. Monday night when we were planning, we decided that we were going to try to set a baptismal date with her during our lesson the next morning (Lesson 3) and that it would be my responsibility to bring it up. If for some reason it didn't work out (Spirit prompting otherwise, or whatever) then Sister Martyanova would do it on Thursday. So Tuesday morning we're giving the lesson and it's going great, but whenever I want to ask her about baptism and a date, the subject would just veer off to something not related. So at the end of the lesson I was kind of bummed and feeling like I had failed at  my job because I could tell that she wanted it and that she understood baptism was important, but I hadn't been able to invite her, and all of a sudden (we're about to walk out the door and are talking about ward Christmas activities) Sveta gets this ponderous look on her face and says, "I need to be baptized before New Year." !!!!!!!!!! We asked her if she wanted to set a date right then, and she said she needed to check schedules and think about it, but that we would set one on Thursday, when we met next. Which we did. So, as of now, we're planning on Sveta getting baptized on the 24th! Best. Christmas. Present. Ever! She also wants her son Denise to get baptized with her (he turns 12 on the 23rd), and he loves the Elders, so the Elders are teaching him now, and we're also planning on him getting baptized the 24th as well. The other companionship of Elders also has some people they're teaching who are almost ready for baptism, so we're hoping to have at least 3 more (Sveta and Denise and one more out of a few possibilities) in our ward by the end of the year. The Lord is really working miracles here in Z-Grad.

This week has been pretty crazy besides that. Wednesday we were down in Moscow for a zone PMG training, which was really great, and on Saturday I was down in Moscow on a split with one of the "AP Sisters." (Now that mission turnover is done and we are all not training or in training or new on the mission or some combination of the two, President has assigned two sisters to go on splits with all the other sisters, since we don't get to do that with DLs and ZLs like the Elders do) It was so great--she was in the MTC with me for a bit (she's from Latvia and speaks Russian fluently, so she was only there for the last month I was) and we had a lot of fun, and I even got to sing at a baptism for a little girl from her branch.

In other news, we've visited some great people this week, I have really felt good about my Russian lately (especially since I revisted some of my journal entries from right when I got here and so I've been thinking about how I felt about my Russian abilities 8 months ago...)--I know I'm super far from perfect, but I really hope that someday soon I can be. And, last night I tried holodetz, which is maybe the grossest thing ever. It's a Russian dish, where they basically overboil some meat for like 6 hours until all the fat is out and in the broth, and then they let it sit so that the water and fat gets all jello-y. I had sworn never to try it, but last night Ksusha brought some to the branch building and when the Elders found out that I had been in Russia 8 months and hadn't tried holodetz it was either try it or not live it down for the rest of my life, especially since some of the other Elders tried it too. Oh was horrible. The taste wasn't bad, but the texture is unbearable. But I am really glad I tried it, just so that I can say that I did and was able to keep it down. Really, it's so hard to swallow, since the texture is like eating...I don't even know what. I think I'll stick with borsh and blini and smetana...

As for weather, I've actually decided that Moscow area is just like Idaho--you never know what is going to happen next. This past week went from being super cold and me thinking that it's probably time to pull out my big winter coat that I bought here, to it being like 40 degrees and rainy. So...yeah. I'm probably warmer than you are right now.

Anyway, the Church is true! Love you all!
Сестра Ашби

Monday, November 28, 2011

November 28, 2011

It's crazy how time is. On one hand, I feel like I just wrote home. On the other hand, I feel like it's been forever since last P-Day. The same applies for my mission. I just got here, I think, but at the same time, I feel like I've been a missionary in Russia forever. I think it's because time is just a mortal thing, and so it feels funny to the eternal side of us. I don't know. But speaking of time, can you believe that I've been in Russia 8 months? Yeah, crazy! Time flies.

This week has been awesome. AWESOME. Last P-Day we went to Kleen, it's a smaller town up north, but still in our area, about a 40 minute train ride. We journeyed up there as a district to go to the Chaikovksi museum--aka his house, because turns out he lived in Klin. It was a lot of fun. I would really love to serve in a town like Klin. Just so quintessentially Russian. It was really cool. Don't get me wrong, though, I love Z and I love Moscow. It's just different. I'll send some pictures sometime, but I keep forgetting to bring my harddrive with me to the branch building to email.

So the main person this week is Sveta. She is so great! It is amazing how the Lord brings people into your path as a missionary. Sveta is friends with a rockstar member-missionary in our ward, and came to church with her last week. She's had a really rough past due to some poor choices, and she has an almost 12-year-old son. She really wants her son to be happy and she loves him and wants to have a real family. Meeting with her has been amazing. If she doesn't understand something--either in concept or why it's necessary or anything at all--she'll ask a question. I've never taught someone who does that before. She is just so open and curious and it has been so rewarding already to watch her put the pieces together in her head, seeing that not only does the gospel make sense in your heart but in your mind too. I'm so excited to watch her learn more things about the gospel, how to receive her own answers and such. Plus, she is just so fun and friendly and great. AND, after our first official lesson, she was the one who initiated setting up the next meeting, before we even had the chance to bring it up! What the?! That never happens. She brought her son to church this week, and I just hope and pray that things continue to go well and that the Spirit is able to touch them and help them fully understand and receive a testimony.

On Wednesday, I got the package of Christmas CDs. THANK YOU! Oh mad, it has been so great listening to Christmas music. Especially since I got it right on time for...

THANKSGIVING! Honestly, it was one of the best Thanksgivings of my life. We gathered at the Gronning's for an afternoon of...well, basically, Thanksgiving. Lots of good food, and my mission family. We had a lot of fun, talking, playing Phase 10...we laughed so much, and it just felt like home. I can't even describe it. I am just so grateful for this opportunity to be a missionary, to be in Russia, to be in this great district, to watch the Lord work His miracles--both big and small. I'm grateful for all the companions I've had (okay, all 3--4 if you count Sister Clark) and for all the missionaries I've served with in some way or another. All the friendships I've made here. My family, and being raised in a gospel home, and that our family is so awesome. Being on a mission has made me realize just how much I've been blessed in so many aspects of my life, temporally and spiritually. But especially, for the Book of Mormon, the Gospel, the Priesthood, modern-day Prophets, baptism, prayer, the Plan of Salvation, and my Savior Jesus Christ.

The week kind of slowed down after that, because I finally gave in and succumbed to the cold that had been trying to get at me since Sister Martyanova had been sick last week. Friday I had a babushka tell me that I was sick because I'm not dressing warm enough. (Don't worry. I've been dressing warm.) I told her that I got sick from Sister Marty and other missionaries and she told me that it's impossible to get a cold from other people--you only get it from the cold. Haha. I just kept quiet, but remembered with a smile all the times other people have given me colds, or I've gotten one in the summer when it's burning hot outside. No worries, though. I slept pretty much at every moment I could and I'm feeling a lot better now.

You all are awesome! I'm praying for you, and I hope that you had a great Thanksgiving and everything. The Church is true!

С Любовью,
Сестра Ашби

Monday, November 21, 2011

November 21, 2011

Привет всем!

This past week on one side has just flown by, and on the other it feels like it has been FOREVER. I think it's because I've just been really looking forward to Thanksgiving. :) Our district is going down to Moscow to eat dinner at the Gronning's, our senior couple's home. 

It started out with a great zone conference. It is always great to be in Moscow and to see the missionaries, especially the sisters, that I don't get to see very often. I even got to see Sister Mordwinow, even though she's not in our zone. I miss her a lot. But of course, zone conference was just great. It always amazes me how Zone Conferece (or General Conference, or other things like that) always touches on all of the main thoughts I've had in my head, all of the things I need help with. It was just such a great experience to receive revelation on how I can be a better missionary. We talked a lot about how often members think, "What can I do to help the missionaries?" but really, we as missionaries, especially here in Moscow right now with a still-new stake and a lot of inactives, need to be thinking, "What can we do to help the members?" 

And that's what we've done a lot of this week. This week we had a ton of service activities come up. First, we went to a smaller town about 15 minutes away to help a young couple in our ward (who are expecting a baby) clean up their new apartment and spent most of the morning sweeping and dusting and peeling off old wallpaper. We also have the great chance to help out with youth activities a lot, and we took the Elders over to an old woman in the ward's apartment because she needed their help taking some higher-up cabinets down. She was so grateful for their help. Serving the members really is so important, building relationships with them, and strengthening their faith and activity in the church.

We also had the opportunity to help an old investigator (old meaning both in age and in investigator status). She needed help cleaning out some stuff that was on her balcony. We didn't really get through most of it, but afterwards we were able to give her a great lesson on the first part of the Plan of Salvation. The spirit was very strong and she seemed especially interested in the sacrament and coming to church to partake of it, even if she said she wouldn't be able to for a while. Not to mention, she was so grateful for our help, and we'll be going back to help out some more and to continue teaching later on this week, although I will be in Moscow on an split with one of the AP Sisters.

Lastly, we miraculously were able to get 2 new investigators at the end of this week. Ksusha brought one of her friends to an activity and we were able to teach the 1st lesson with Ksusha there. Having members, especially recent converts who know the investigator, on a lesson is so helpful. Ksusha was just able to bear testimony about how the Book of Mormon and the gospel has changed her life, basically told her friend, "You know what I was like before. You can have this change too." And then yesterday at church, an awesome member (who if you look through our area book is all over the "member friend" box on teaching records) had brought a friend, who stayed for all 3 hours, seems really nice and interested and wants to meet with us later on this week. The Lord truly blesses us as missionarires, not necessarily by leading us to those who are interested, but by leading them to us.

Other than that, it's been a fairly uneventful week. Sister Martyanova is getting over a cold, and as she's the 3rd person in the district to have had one, I'm trying to not get sick either. Colds are the worst, because you're not sick enough to feel like you can stay home, but you also don't want to go out because you don't want to get more sick and you want to be running on full-speed and you're miserable. Anyway. Hopefully everyone is up to full health soon, because this week will be crazy, between Thanksgiving (and Mom's birthday!), and the split I mentioned earlier, and meetings should just be a fun, usual week here in Russia. :) Man, I will miss it when all this stuff isn't normal anymore. 

The Church is true! Have fun cutting the Christmas tree without me (if that's possible? ;) Send me pictures. I love you!

С любовью,
Сестра Ашби

Monday, November 14, 2011

November 14, 2011

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DANNY! Man, I can't believe that you are already 10!

Okay, so it really isn't all that cold. It just got cold really fast, but now I've adjusted and it's normal. Don't worry about it. I'm not that cold, and I'm not wimpy. :) And the heater in my apartment works great so far. Really, right now outside it's just about 32 Fahrenheit, so really...not bad. Some days it's colder. But it's gotten to the point where we have snow. The thing about here is that it doesn't ever really stop flurrying. And some days it snows more. For Sports Day this week we abandoned the football/frisbee stuff and ended up having a snowball fight. We've also made a snowman. Maybe if I can get the camera cord to work I'll send some pictures; it wasn't working last week. Also this week, I've started to notice some more "Christmas" decorations. Except here Christmas is on Jan 7 and it's not really a big deal. All the lights on the buildings and the "Christmas" trees are really for New Year. But it's great and is making me really excited for Christmas. 

I have a request for a Christmas package. Ksusha asked me if you could send her some Crest WhiteStrips. She had heard about them and wants some. They don't have anything Crest here. All the missionaries agree that they would make a fortune. She said she pay me for them, because they're kind of expensive. Other than that...maybe some warm tights? I don't know...

Other official business: please tell Lindsey and Amanda that I have written them, but that the letter I sent back in August just got returned to please tell them that I haven't forgotten about them and also that I need their address so that I can send them a letter that will hopefully not get sent back. Also...I need Amanda Frey's address. Basically, maybe facebook her from my account or something and tell her to DearElder me her address or something. :)

This week has been great! On Tuesday (I think) one of the Elders' investigators who was going to be baptized next week called and said that his work schedule changed and that he wanted to get baptized this Saturday. So Saturday we had a baptism! It was so great. I love baptisms, especially when it is someone who loves the gospel so much and has waited so long. There was just such a sweet spirit, and his mom who is not a member was there too. It's hard to explain the feeling that you get at baptisms as a missionary, even if you don't really know the person getting baptized. And that awesome feeling carried over into church. Yesterday the meeting was just full of such a sweet spirit of love. Valeri (Like Valerie, but the accent is on the middle syllable and it's a guy's name) received the Holy Ghost and Ksusha bore a really sweet testimony. Plus, there was a miracle--there is this CRAZY inactive member who's been calling the Elders, saying that they're the worst missionaries and stuff, and he said he was going to come to church and bear testimony against them. So Sister Marty prayed before we left that if he was there, that he wouldn't get up and say anything, and that if he did get up that he wouldn't be able to say anything. And he gets up...and just says a bunch of random nothing. It was pretty awesome. There was just such a sweet spirit all throughout the meeting, with Valeri and testimonies and then Gospel Principles was awesome, and...I just can't even describe it. Every once in a while I get this feeling at church, and I had felt it before my mission, but on the mission you just kind of see and feel things differently. It's hard to explain. I've come to find out that even as a writer, with the Spirit I usually have to just accept that I can't find words to describe it. But it does make me just so happy. :)

That's about it. I was about to say "not a lot special going on here" but then I realized that I had just written about a baptism and I'm a missionary, so everything is special. I don't know what I'm going to do when I'm not a missionary and I miss all this great stuff being normal. I love you all; the church is true!

С любовью,
Сестра Ашби

Monday, November 7, 2011

November 7, 2011

Oh man. It is SO cold here. Last night it was -7 (Celcius. It's what
we use here, plus it sounds colder. You can do the math). And it's
only the beginning of November. So sorry for any typos. My hands are
frozen. We played soccer this morning, and I took of my gloves because
it was getting warm, but then my hands slowly froze and haven't warmed
up since. What is ironic is that up until yesterday it was not that
cold. It was kind of chilly, but I was thinking it was just because
i'm always in a skirt. It's amazing how much warmer pants and real
shoes make you. I've probably already mentioned that. It was actually
rainy all Halloween. Yeah, really. I think it's the first Halloween
percipitation in my life that hasn't been snow. So that was kind of
ironic. And then yesterday--boom. So cold. Whatever I said about
bringing on the Russian winter...I take it back. haha, not really, I
just am not wanting to pull out all my really warm stuff yet, because
if I'm wearing that now, what will I wear when it's -20?

So, it's the start of a new transfer, and things are awesome here in
Z. Sister Marty and I are still t he same, but two of the 4 Elders (1
in each companionship) got switched out. They're both pretty new, and
I served with one of them my last transfer in Kahovski. So our
district is pretty young. 3 of them are starting their 3rd transfer,
and then our other Elder came the transfer after I did. And thenn it's
me and Sister Marty. It's really weird. I'm not used to being one of
the older missionaries. I don't know Russian well enough to be going
home in less than a year. One of my worst fears is that I'll be at
BYU and people who know Russian as well will be like, "How did you
live for a year and a half in Russia and still can't speak Russian?"
haha, I know that won't be the case (at least I hope not...),
especially since I can mostly communicate, but still.

This week we had a few adventures. There was one morning we had a
meeting at our ward mission leader's apartment. We hopped on the wrong
bus 2 times and then when we got to the area he lives in, we wandered
for like 20 minutes trying to find his dom, because sometimes you have
number 1 next to number 46 and you have no idea what is all in
between. Then, on the way home, we also hopped on the wrong bus which
took us out to the middle of nowhere where we had to wait for 15
minutes for another bus, and then we had to switch busses AGAIN. It
was really funny. Oh, the adventures of a missionary.

We also met with an inactive lady. She loves the gospel, but she works
on Sundays. It is such a problem here. A lot of people have
testimonies but don't think they need to do anything. Or they have to
work to live and that hinders them from coming to church. But don't
get me wrong, there are also great members and it's just like it is
anywhere else in the world, it's just a really big problem here since
the church is still so young. It's such a big problem that Elder Oaks
even spoke about it in Regional/Stake conference yesterday, but more
on that later. Anyway, we met with this lady, and her daughter who is
not a member. Her daughter has a lot of questions and is pretty
interested in finding out more. So we're very excited to start working
with them more. Only problem is that they both work a lot and the
daughter doesn't even really know her schedule in advance. I hate
work. Why do you need money to live? It hinders so many people from
finding out more. Of course, often they don't know what great
blessings the gospel will bring them, and so when they think of
picking between paying for an apartment or just some religion that
takes time, they're going to say no. Sigh. But anyway. We will
hopefully be able to meet more with this family, get the mom active at
least. That's another thing--reactivation.

We helped a lot with a small ward activity for "Halloween." It was so
cute to see all these little kids playing these games with smiles on
their faces. And then Saturday we had a zone service project picking
up trash out in this little town pretty far--we had to go into Moscow,
meet the other missionaries, and then ride another train out to this
town. But we cleaned up a lot of trash, had fun seeing our zone. There
was so much trash though. It's always fun to go pick up trash in areas
like that because you know that someone was living in this pile of
trash for a while. We found so many things of clothes, a bag of coins,
keys, I could go on. Also, on the train ride there I had a drunk man
ask me if I was really from America and then for my phone number. We
started talking about how usually if someone asked me for my number,
I'd more than happily give it to them and then ask for theirs so that
we could meet up. When you put it that way, missionary work is kind of
(read: REALLY) sketchy. But don't worry, I told this guy he couldn't
have my number because I didn't have a phone and then walked into a
middle of a bunch of Elders. haha.

And then yesterday we had a broadcast from Salt Lake. THe night before
was stake conference (the first one in Russia!) And then yesterday we
had the broadcast. Elder Clayton, Elder Oaks, Sister Thompsen, and
President Uchtdorf all spoke. It was so much what this area needs. A
lot about reactivation and church attendance, strengthening the youth
and getting them (especially the young men) on missions, getting men
to the Melchezideck priesthood and everyone to the temple, and on
marriage/family relationships (there are so many unmarried or
married-to-nonmember members). It was so cool to hear these leaders
and apostles talk to these people specifically about what they need.

Thanks for the pictures! Everyone is so grown up! I can't believe that
Rebecca is starting to drive and that Jacob is one. How is that
possible? I remember when Elizabeth was born, and now Rebecca is
driving I'm getting old. Thanks for all the ward updates,
I've already figured I wouldn't know anyone when I got back. I can't
believe the people who are getting married and everything. Not that I
can't believe they're getting married like there's something wrong
with them, just that it's weird because it's still weird to me that
people are old enough to be getting married.

Anyway, that's about it for this week! I love you all! The Church is true!

Sister Rach

Monday, October 31, 2011

October 31, 2011

It's Halloween! Weird. Russians don't really do Halloween. I mean, there were some ads on the streets for crazy Halloween parties, and the youth/young adults are doing a "halloween/fall carnival" thing this weekend to celebrate, but it's not big like it is in the US. So I kind of forgot that it was about Halloween time, however, at English Club on Wednesday we talked about Halloween and I got to teach the people in our group some of the Halloweens songs we'd sing in school as a kid. So, transfers are this week, and Sister Marty and I are staying together up here in Z. No surprise there. I think this will be her last one here though--it'll be her 5th. Also, this next transfer ends a week before CHristmas! How is it Thanksgiving and Christmas time already? Also: please send me Christmas CDs ASAP and get them here as fast as you can, because I really want to listen to some Christmas music (especially MoTab and the Forgotten Carols and maybe some other Christmas music, I can basically listen to any Christmas music that we have at home). Best part of this week was little Olya's baptism. It was so special. We missionaries sang "I Like to Look for Rainbows" (in Russian, of course) and helped get some things ready, and there was just such a sweet spirit there. It really made me miss Leah. You're waiting until I get home for her baptism, right? :) Olya is just so cute and such a special little girl. This week also had a scary moment. Have I told you about how we go visit an older sister in our ward who can't leave her house? She is awesome, the best, and we swap off visiting her with the Elders to read her the BoM and the Elders will also take her the sacrament on Sundays. Well, this week, it was our off day to go visit her, but we get a call from her, and she had had a heart attack while her girl who lives with her to help her and her husband and her son (who has some problems) was out running some errands. She heard the Elders ringing her doorbell and somehow managed to get her medicine and call emergency help, but her helper girl still wasn't back, so she called us so she wasn't alone if something else happened. So we ran over there as fast as we could. By the time we got there, her helper girl was back, but it was very scary and it was a miracle that it wasn't worse than it was and that everything is all right. This past week I realized what a slow learner I am. See? I'm even slow to realize that I'm a slow learner! It took me 22 years. Man, I am 22. That is WEIRD. Time goes by so fast, which is bad, since I'm such a slow learner. My mission will be long over by the time I learn everything I want and need to learn from my mission. I've been in Russia 7 months, and it feels like I just got here. Anyway, that's about it for this week. Life is great! С любовью, Сестра Ашби

Monday, October 24, 2011

October 24, 2011

So, right after I emailed you last week, the Elders came upstairs (we email in the branch building) and say that there is a little boy crying downstairs and they need Sister Martyanova's help understanding him. He was lost and had just wandered into the branch building. After asking him what all is going on, we decide to take him back to the main train/bus station where he got lost. Then we call a member in our ward (he used to be branch president and he knows literally everyone and is the best), to see if he had any advice/could help us find Sasha's (the boy) mom. Miraculously--not only did he know Sasha's family, but his mom's phone number, and told us that his mom and his sisters were actually members of the Church! We called his mom, who told us to put him on a bus home to Mendeleeva, where he lives. We don't know if he got home okay, but he himself invited us over about 10 times ("Are you sure you don't want to come home with me tonight?") and so we're hoping to be able to help their family back in the ward. But it was just a miracle that Sasha found our building, that Roman knew his family, and that now we know of an inactive, part-member family we can hopefully work with! So that was a really cool, little miracle. In other news, we did a puppet show this week. And there was a ward activity to celebrate 20 years of the branch/ward/church in Russia! Wow. I was kind of disappointed with how many people were there, but it was really great. There were and are so many miracles taking this work forward here in Russia. So many great missionaries and members have worked so hard. It's hard to believe that before I was born, the Church wasn't officially recognized here. I am older than the Church in Russia. And yet, there's a stake here. One day (hopefully sooner rather than later), there will be a temple. I am just so grateful to be a part of the Lord's work, especially here in Russia. This is such a great place to be, especially right now. And that's about it for right now. Love you all!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October 19, 2011

Not much out of the ordinary happened this week. We are just trying to meet with people, get some people baptized, etc. Haha. Not really super eventful. We had a really great meeting with our ward mission leader on Sunday and we are trying to meet with every member in our area by the end of the year. Right now we're really focusing on reactivation and part-member families. And working with the ward and stake. We helped clean up the grounds around the branch building to get ready for winter the other day, and played basketball with the ward mission leader this morning (I even scored two points to help our team win! Ура! Maybe I'm not as sports-hopeless as I thought...) It's been so great to go visit members. I mean, it's something that I've done fairly often through my mission--most of my meetings have probably been with members, whether active or inactive. But they are so wonderful. On Monday, we visited an older sister in our ward who also knows some English and she made us some great food and was super funny and sweet. And she wanted to say everything in English, so that I could tell her if it was right or not. Yesterday, we also had a combined Specialized Training, so it was basically like a mission conference, just shorter. It was soooo great. Everything was just what I needed to hear, just what I had been thinking about the past week. Plus, it's always fun to take a trip down to good ol' Москва. And to see other missionaries. I love the sisters in my mission so much. I wish there was a way I could be companions with every one of them, but even if I had a new comp every transfer, that wouldn't be possible. And I got to see a few people I hadn't seen in a very long time, like Olya. She was probably my first friend here in Moscow, and after she moved out of Kahovski, I didn't really get to see her anymore, especially now that I'm up here in Z-Grad. But training was so great. There was such a sweet spirit there, and not like I was feeling bad before hand, but it just left me feeling rejuvenated. Except for the fact that then we went up to the train station and realized that all the elektrishkis were cancelled for like another 3 hours, so we went had to run around the metro to get to the bus that goes up to ZGrad...oh man. The metro is so loud and crowded and Moscow is exhausting. I love it, but I am wondering how I didn't collapse out of exhaustion when I lived there, because it wore me out on Tuesday. Last of all: first snow this week. On Saturday when we were helping clean up around the building, it started to snow. It didn't stick at all--it was really just flurrying and I didn't even think it was all that cold, but it was definitely snowing. And it hasn't snowed since then, but it's been pretty cold. So...yeah. Winter is definitely on its way. But don't worry. I can take it. I've already told Russia to bring it on and hit me with all it's got.

I love you all! The Church is true!
с любовью,
Сестра Ашби

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

October 12, 2011

So yep. Today is a weird day. 9 months ago I went into the MTC. I'm halfway. Okay, not exactly, but istill. It's really weird. There's no way I can be considered a "new" missionary now (not that I've felt like a new missionary for a while or anything, but still). I have more time behind me than in front of me. :( Also, fun fact: a year ago tomorrow I opened my mission call. It's weird. I think back, and it doesn't seem like that long ago at all. But at the same time, I can't imagine being anywhere else but Moscow. I think back to when I didn't know where I was going and it just seems absurd to place me anywhere else. Oh, sending things. You should send me Christmas CDs ASAP so that they get here in time for me to listen to them before Christmas! Yes. Please. :) Anything Christmasy, but especially the newer MoTab Chirstmas CDs and the Forgotten Carols. Also, for general sending stuff ideas...I don't know. Warm tights? Maybe a cardigan or something cute? I don't know...I feel like I don't really need anything. Maybe just bugging people to write me letters. haha. Letters are the best. :) Anyway, um. Of course the best part of this week was CONFERENCE! Oh man. I love love love love loved it. There were so many answers to questions I had and things I had been thinking about. It is just amazing how you can receive answers to problems in a conference talk that you never dreamed would be able to be answered by a conference talk--like how to better learn Russian vocab (answer was right in Elder Scott's talk, very first). And so many of the talks I feel were focused on things that we have been or are currently focusing on as a mission. Of course, it was awesome when Moscow was mentioned--once in Elder Clayton's talk Saturday morning (which also talked about Argentina), and then again by Elder Nelson. Elder Nelson also mentioned sister missionaries. Basically it was cool that most of the international stories from conference this time around were about Argentina and Russia. :) I loved President Uchtdorf's talk, and President Monson, of course. He is SO funny. And he seemed so young this conference! I barely recognized Elder Hales though. :( But all the talks on missions, like "Are those REAL missionaries?" and the one the 70 from Japan gave were wonderful. Oh, and Elder Anderson's talk reminded me of our family. And Sister Dalton's talk was beautiful. Thanks Mom and Dad, for being awesome. One of the cutest things about conference was that little Olya, the girl we're helping prepare for baptism who reminds me of Leah, wanted to watch it with us. Saturday morning she comes upstairs and says, "My mom said that the missionaries are watching it up here, and I want to be with you!" We tried telling her it was in English and she wouldn't understand anything, but she just wanted to be with us. She wants to be a missionary one day. :) On Sunday morning, she comes upstairs again, and I try telling her, "Olya, you won't understand anything. You should go downstairs." But she insisted on staying up with all the missionaries (besides Sister Marty who was watching in Russian), because it was "too dark to color downstairs." We ended up making her a missionary nametag: Сестра Оля. She is adorable. One of our investigators has been actually starting to make progress, though. She's 15 and is CRAZY! Sometimes I think she's challening Michael's spirit, when he's the most hyper. But lately she's really wanted to meet with us, and has been paying more attention, and has even been calmer. She's called us and told us that she had a hard time with her homework, so she prayed and was able to do it. And also she called and said she wanted to quit smoking (yes. She's only 15. Kids start smoking when they're like 7 here, it's horrible. Cigarettes are soo cheap). We gave her some gum to chew whenever she wants to smoke, and she says she hasn't smoked in a few days! I look at her life and at Elizabeth and Rebecca and there is just such a difference. She's so funny and sweet, I just want her to be happy. Other than that, not much has happened. Just a normal missionary week. I set some great goals the other day, based on some revelation from Conference. It's been rainy and chilly, with the exception of last Thursday-Saturday. Apparently that always happens. Around the end of September (it was late and short this year) there's a warm, dry period again for about a week called "baba leta." But unfortunately now it's back to being chilly and wet. It wouldn't be so bad if I could wear jeans and my waterproff hiking boots. haha. No, really, it's fine. I'm not even wearing my pea coat and real tights yet, although I think it will soon be time to pull them out. That's it from Mother Russia, right now. I love you all! с любовью, Сестра Ашби

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

October 5, 2011

Hey hey everyone! It has been a GREAT week. :) First, I have to say, I already know about the temples. Since we have pretty easy computer access here at the ward building in ZGrad, we looked it up. I am SO excited that they're turning the Provo Tabernacle into a temple. I was so sad when it burned, and Provo needs another temple, even though that is quite the surprise. Also, when I noticed that Elder Holland spoke at the Priesthood session, I was super bummed, because he is one of my favorites. And then I realized I could just listen to it, so I did! Awesome awesome talk. I loved when he said "In this family, we serve missions." I can't wait to watch all of Conference this weekend, especially for President Uchtdorf's talk. He is always a fav. Well, Moscow IS beautiful, but not everywhere. Most of it is probably exactly how you thought it would be. :) But ZGrad is also beautiful. I love all the trees here. It has been getting colder, and has been really wet and rainy. There have been a few really cold days and a few nights ago it was almost snowing, but then a few days ago it was also nice enough to walk around without my jacket at times, so it's up and down. It will probably be winter by the end of the month though, I'd imagine. Which is kind of depressing. The fall is super gorgeous here. It gets dark probably around  7? A little later. It's really dark by 8. I have to say, I am not super excited for winter and it being super cold and short days. But I am pretty excited for Christmas to get here. Speaking of winter, I realized that I'm probably going to want some long sleeved shirts that I can wear under things for warmth. Do you think you could maybe send me some? Like white and black, maybe a brown, maybe some fun colors, but probably just 2-3 white and black one or two. (Also, while we're talking about things to send me...some good smelling bath and body works lotion and shower gel would be great presents, that I don't really need but would be nice.) Who all have I received letters from? Wow. That's a big question. A lot of people. But more people should write me. DearElder is soooo easy. It takes 5 minutes. However, I have not heard anything from the Bishopbric, but feel free to give them my emails. Anyway, the biggest thing about this past week was Ksusha! Friday was her 18th birthday, and then Saturday she was baptized! She is just a miracle. I love hearing her bear her testimony and I am so excited that she is now an official member of the church! The baptism was wonderful. It was funny--something was wrong with the water heater so after promising Ksusha that she would for sure have nice, hot water, it was freezing cold! The Elders got there early and did their best to make it warm--one of them boiled water for hours and poured it into the font trying to make it warmer. It didn't really help much, but it makes a good story. And I don't think I told you last week, but Ksush asked me to speak at her baptism. Oh man. I was so honored that she would ask me, but it was so nervewracking. My first official talk in Russian. I was so nervous, plus I wasn't feeling too great that morning when I woke up. But it all went great. I definitely had help. Sister Marty said that she was blown-away by my Russian. Gift of Tongues for sure. Everyone said I did great--I'm not sure that I believe them, but I do know that it for sure was not me talking up there. My Russian isn't completely horrible, but it definitely is very far from super great. But the Spirit is there and that is all that matters. I was just grateful to be a part of Ksusha's special day. The Spirit at baptisms is so perfect and wonderful. I think back to before my mission and I don't think I realized how important and beautiful baptism is. In other news, also involving my Russian skills...I translated for the Gronnings, our senior couple, during sacrament meeting on Sunday. Translating is super cool--because a lot of the time I only have a basic idea of what they're saying, or I miss something because I'm translating and they continue and it's hard to speak English and process Russian at the same time, or they're just talking super fast. So a lot of it is relying on the Spirit to pick up what you missed or to just kind of guess as to what they said, while still communicating thoughts to whoever you're translating for that will help them. And then Sister Gronning asked me to translate into Russian for her while she bore her testimony. I know I did a horrible job, but once again, the Spirit was there, and that's all that matters. So although I know I'm super far from perfect, I'm feeling a lot more confident in general about my Russian skills, for sure in understanding at least. I just need to learn more vocab to use when speaking. Lastly, can I just say how much I LOVE the Book of Mormon? Before my mission I knew it was true, but I think that only on my mission have I truly developed such a deep love for it. We are reading it backwards as a mission right now and I love it. I love reading it in English, in Russian, outloud or in my head, on the metro or the bus or at my study desk or in the branch building. It always brings such a special spirit and there is always something to help me that day, that moment, hidden (or pretty obviously displayed) among the chapters I read. It is the word of God, true through and through, and it is distinct proof that this is Christ's Church on the Earth today. Elder Holland said it right when he said 2 years ago, "I want it absolutely clear when I stand before the judgment bar of God that I declared to the world, in the most straightforward language I could summon, that the Book of Mormon is true, that it came forth the way Joseph said it came forth and was given to bring happiness and hope to the faithful in the travail of the latter days." I know it's true. That's why I'm here on a mission. I know that this is the true church, that this is where I am supposed to be. The Russia Moscow Mission is the greatest on Earth (sorry Matt. :P) But no matter where in the world you are, and whatever language you are speaking, whether in English or Spanish or Russian or German or Cantonese, this is still the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it will always be true and it will always be His. Love you all! с любовью, Сестра Ашби

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September 28, 2011

Okay, so this might be all over the place this week. I usually right down a list of things that I need to write about, but I forgot to this morning because we went ice skating with the Elders and we were running late and I completely forgot, so we'll just be doing this off the top of my head. But it's not like you know if I miss anything, so...yeah.
Anyway. Thursday I was in Kiev for visa trip! It was SO great. We actually did get to go to the temple, we just didn't have time to do a session, so the Elders did sealings, but then they were all full, so we sisters did initiatories. It was sooo wonderful to be there in the temple, especially since we didn't think we were going to get to go. And then we saw some missionaries over in the stake center, so we went over to talk to them while we wer waiting for one of our drivers. Turns out they were having like a 2-zone conference, and I saw my dear friend from BYU/the MTC, Sister Kristin Stiles! It was a miracle. Plus, it was just so wonderful being around my MTC district. I love them a lot.
Most of the rest of the week, we've been busy preparing for the baptism. Ksusha is wonderful wonderful wonderful. She is so ready. Even if I didn't teach her and commit her to baptism, I'm so grateful to get to be a part of her life and baptism and teaching and stuff. Our other investigator who was going to be baptized on Saturday decided to wait, which we were going to counsel her to do anyway. She loves coming to church and meeting with us, she's just not ready yet, plus her husband and daughter are really protiv. Wait. That's a Russian word. Against. They're against the church, but are hopefully starting to feel better about it.
Oh! But we're also starting to work with a few people, we hope, anyway. And there's a girl in the ward who we are helping prepare for baptism. It doesn't count as a baptism for us, obviously, because she's not a convert baptism, but she is SO cute and she reminds me of Leah. Plus, this is what we're here for--to build up families so that parents can baptize their own children. I'm super excited to be helping to teach little Olya.
Oh, you mentioned names, and actually, it's a VERY Russian thing, so I figured I would talk about it. So. Here people have their given name, their ochestvo/patronymic (middle name based off their father's name) and their familia/surname. But everyone has the same given names pretty much. And each given name has a few options of "short-form" names, which are like nicknames or informal. But what is really funny and Russian about it that I love is that most "short-form" names are just as long as the long/original names. Like Kcenia and Ksusha. Or Maria and Masha. Or Natalia and Natasha or Sofia and Sonya and Olga and Olya. Some really are shorter, like Tatiana and Tanya, but it's just something that is very Russian.
Dad mentioned Conference. Of course we don't get a live broadcast, we're 10 hours ahead of you. Plus people here speak Russian, and they need to send the translation over here. So we'll watch it next weekend. So next week, please don't really say anything about conference, because I'll haven't watched it yet. :) Also, Dad, your Russian that you got from Google Translate is pretty horrible. You told me to "Speak Russia always." Not Russian. Sigh. ;)
Anyway, all here is great. I love being a missionary. Keep up the good work at home. Depending on when I come home (separate email for you coming soon), I'm pretty much halfway done. :( I'm not good enough at Russian and I haven't worked hard enough to be halfway done. But anyway. Life is great still. This Church is true! It's His!
Sister Ashby

this is me and C. M and Nastia, a great member in Kahovski who actually just moved back to her home town, but she is so great and an RM and would always help us on lesson

me and Sister Mordwinow right outside St. Basil's Cathedral

 Sofia's baptism back in June

Me at Izmailovski Kremlin--super Russian looking building ("It's a Small World" anyone?)

Hatalia Vargina, one of my favorite members (although less-active) in Kahovski
Tsaritzino park for Culture Night, with Masha, one of the girls in the stake

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September 21, 2011

Привет всем!

So. I'm actually emailing to you from...Moscow! Yes. It's a long story. Basically, we have zone specialized trainings this week. Our zone's is on Thursday, but that is when I'm in Kiev on visa trip, so President Sorenson told me to come to the other zone's, which was yesterday. So Sister Martyanova (from now on C. Marty) and I came down to Moscow Monday night for training on Tuesday and then we just stayed here for P-Day since I have to be back here tonight for my visa trip tomorrow, so it's been kind of a crazy week. So I've been in Moscow almost as much as I've been in ZGrad since transfers, and tomorrow I'll be in Kiev.

Zelenograd is awesome! It is just the change that I've needed. The actual transfer process was pretty crazy, mostly because the Elders were late to help me take my bags to the metro, so Sister Mordwinow and I got them to the stanzia all by ourselves. Who needs Elders anyway? But we were about 10 minutes late to transfer meeting, so we missed most of that. But otherwise, things went really smoothly. My new apartment is really nice, with a great view, and a roomy study area, which is super nice. We didn't really have one of those in our last apartment. But ZGrad is so nice. It's still a pretty big city, kind of a suburb of Moscow, but it's like an hour train ride away and has a couple hundred thousand people I think. So still bigger than Twin. But I've been out and doing a lot. It doesn't take too long to settle in when you only have two suitcases and a backpack. :p You can't really take a lot of time doing stuff like that when you're a missionary anyway. But it's so nice. There are trees everywhere. I still have no idea where I am half the time, or how to work the buses (no metro, just the bus). But it's awesome The ward is great, and the town just feels...special, like home. It feels like I'm supposed to be there, plus the work is great, and it's been a nice change from the slow past few months in Kahovski. I can't say what a great blessing it's been so far. 

C. Mart is awesome! She is from St. Petersburg and is super sweet and funny. After we had been companions for less than 3 hours, she already knew all of my siblings' names. Michael is her favorite, because he looks like (and I told her that he really is) a hooligan. She loves to laugh, and has a super contagious laugh. She is also a great missionary--I have a lot to learn from her. She's been out on her mission about a transfer or two longer than I have, but she just came straight to Moscow instead of going to the MTC, so it's kind of weird, because she's been here longer. She's been helping me a lot with Russian, but being in ZGrad has actually made me realize how well I actually am doing with the language. But I'm hoping that with her, I will be able to really get all the little nuances down pat and learn more words. Basically vocab is my main problem.

Yes, sometimes (rarely) the STEERING wheel for Emerson would do that, but not often. You just have to keep trying to wiggle it and turn the key. I can't believe I remember all that though...It feels like forever since I've driven a car. It kind of has been. You can go ahead and use my iPod, just please don't make sure that any music gets deleted off of it. One of the reasons I didn't bring it is because I wanted to make sure that I still had all of my music, just in case my computer was dead-dead. (How is my laptop doing, by the way? I hope it's working and that it will still at least be alive enough to get stuff off of it when I get home).

Anyway. ZGrad is awesome. We are working with two people who are getting baptized on the 1st of October. One of them is a 17-almost-18 year old girl named Ksenya (Ksysha for short) who is a miracle and whom I absolutely love. There are a few crazy (but fun) people we're working with. And every few days we go visit a babushka in the ward who can't leave her house and we read the BoM with her outloud, which is great practice for me. Plus she is just wonderful. We have a lot of really great potential investigators who we are hoping we can turn into really awesome actual investigators soon. Our goals that we set for this next week were kind of ridiculous, but in an awesome way, but we know that we can make them with hard work and the Lord's help. The only problem is that we weren't up in ZGrad yesterday because of training. But C. Mart will be up in ZGrad tomorrow while I'm in Kiev with Sis. Rasmussen. She's companions with one of the sisters I was in the MTC with and served in ZGrad a few transfers ago, so she's going up there with C. Mart. But anyway, we're hoping all of our goals are at least mostly achieved and that we can see a lot of miracles this next transfer.

Random side note: every once in a while this computer does spellcheck underlining on every single word that I type and it's getting pretty obnoxious. But it only does it about every other paragraph or so.

Basically I think the only thing that is left to tell you about is the musical fireside! Saturday afternoon we went down to Moscow, so that I could get some practicing done with a few people before the actual fireside. Sister Mordwinow and I were kind of freaking out, because 10 minutes before the fireside was supposed to start, there were really only missionaries there, not a lot of people. Oh, not to mention that 3 people bailed on us either that day or the night before. We were so worried that it wasn't going to be good. However, you have to take into account Russian standard time, mixed with Mormon standard time, and realize that a lot of people will show up 10-15 minutes late. In the end, there were quite a few people there--it was almost full and there were quite a few investigators or non-member people from English Club and such there. Not to brag or anything, but I think all in all it worked out really well. And Sister Mordwinow and I rocked "For Good." A lot of people said that it was their favorite. I know that C. Martyanova took a video of it, so maybe next week when I (finally) have the ability to email you pictures I can also email the video.

Anyway. Life is SO WONDERFUL. I love my mission--both as a mission that I'm serving and as a group of people and an area that I'm working with. I love this Gospel. I love my companion and my other sisters and my district and my ward and my investigators, old and new.

Oh! Speaking of old investigators. Here's a little miraculous story for you. Remember Sofia, the girl I taught who got baptized in June? Well. One, she's awesome. Two, C. Mart. served in Kahovski right before I did, and she was actually the one who first met Sofia. Sonia wandered into the Central building and C. Mart could tell she was special and got her phone number, but was never able to get in touch with her or meet with her. So fast forward a bit and C. X calls the number not knowing who it is, just feeling like she should invite her to FHE or English Club. We start teaching her and all these miracles happen and she is baptized, despite disappearing for like 2 weeks due to work and all that jazz (you probably don't remember everything, but it was super miraculous, everything about her). Anyway. Back at the ranch, C. Mart is wondering about her, thinking about her and what happened to her. A few days before transfer she even was thinking about calling us in Kahovski and getting her phone number so that she could call her herself. So we're on the metro and C. Mart asks me how the Sofia I taught is doing. I answer great. And then we're at the musical fireside and C. Mart runs into Sonia, and realizes that it's the same Sofia she met months ago and that she's the same Sonia I taught and baptized! Man. So cool. I love missionary work.

Well. Yep. That's about it. Next week I'll send pictures from the past few months, I hope. I love you all! Remember to post stuff on my blog. :) The Church is true! Пока пока!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September 14, 2011

Hello everyone! 

Yep, this is my last day here in Moscow. It hasn't been a very eventful week, but we had a good day yesterday as a nice way to end the transfer. As far as I know, things up in Zelenograd are very similar to here. It's just a smaller city, but we still have English Club and do things pretty similarly. I'll let you know more next week once I've actually been there. I'm very excited though--I've only heard great things about being up in ZGrad. Meaning that everyone who has served there LOVED it and tells me how awesome it is. But yes. Normal schedules are basically the same everywhere in Russia, as far as I understand. During the summer when it's warm, people go to their dachas (cabins, country houses, whatever), or leave on vacation to the south or whatever. And now that school and work are back up, and it's getting colder, people are back here in the towns.

Haha, you still have a long time before you and Mom can go on a mission. Good luck waiting that long, but all of the senior couples here are awesome, so you'd fit right in. HAHA--you'd be a "senior couple." ;) We won't talk about how old I'll be in 18 years...

My feet are just fine. I haven't had any problems besides the blisters I had when breaking in my new shoes, and that was a long time ago and now they're more than fine. 

That's great that Lorinda and Scott live up by Boise and that they're coming to Twin for the temple. I have a visa trip to Kiev next week, but I won't get to go to the temple this time around. However, I'm still excited to see more of Kiev, especially with my MTC district.

If you want to look up things on Google Earth, I have been living on Kolomenskaya metro station for the past 6 months. That's about as specific as I want to get, since this is going on my blog...But we also are on Novokuznetskaya all the time, because that's where the central building is. And Kantemirovskaya. If you want to just go and look up all the meeting houses in Moscow and then take the area that's in the south between those two church buildings, that's where I've been. I will for sure keep you updated on the new happenings on my end of things--there will be a lot of them next week,I'm sure. 

Other than that, things here have been slow, as usual. We had as many meetings yesterday as we did all of last week total. Most of that was going to members I wanted to see before I left the ward. There are so many great members I will miss so much. We don't have a lot of investigators right now, but the few that we do meet with I will miss. It's weird to be packing up, to have had my last Sunday in Kahovski, to think that I won't go see Tatiyana Karpushena every week anymore. Have I told you about her? She is an AWESOME babushka in our ward. Mostly, though, I'm ready to leave. There are a lot of people I will miss, but it's time for a change and I know that I need to be in ZGrad. 

Um...sorry I don't really have anything super exciting from this past week to report. I will definitely let you know how everything is going this next week. It will be a big one, between moving and the musical fireside and ZGrad and whatnot.

Love you all!
Sister Rachel

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September 7, 2011

Sounds like everything is crazy back home with the first day of school! Michael emailed me about how BYU won against Ol' Miss! Whoo! Go Cougars!

Random Russian stuff: There was a fire in our trash dumpster the other night. No worries, it's pretty far from our actually apartment and wasn't too big, but it was kind of funny. We helped a girl move--a bunch of plastic bags on the metro; residence isn't the most permanent thing here. Today Sister Mordwinow and I went inside St. Basil's Cathedral and ended up running into a guy from Salt Lake on Red Square. It was so bizarre. He asked me if we were missionaries and I was like, "Wait...he's speaking English to me. Wait...he knows missionaries" Don't worry. It's not weird to here people speaking English to me--it's just weird to here people out on the street who I don't know speaking English to me.

There's not a lot to write about this week. Things are back on the rise--now that summer is over and people are back from their dachas (cabins/country houses) and people have a more set schedule things should get better. We had more people at English Club (including a few new people) last week than we had the last few weeks combined, I feel, so hopefully it's a good sign. We've had more lessons lately, too, and have a few people who might become investigators soon. There is a girl my age from English club who we have been getting to know, and who really loves her family and she said she would be interested in coming to church this next Sunday, so we'll see where things go with her. 

After a really frustrating lesson with one of our few investigators (but not progressing) that was more of an argument sadly, we went back a few days later, not sure how much longer to meet with her. But it ended up being a great lesson on the priesthood and authority and, surprisingly, she said something to the effect of "I think there should just be one church that everyone can believe in and follow," which was surprising, since she usually says that she thinks all churches are good and true, which they are...just not fully. So hopefully things will be going up there too.

And our musical fireside is going great! We'll have 10 numbers, mostly missionaries but a few members, and almost all of them we've been able to get a hold of and confirm that they'll be playing. If we can rent some trumpets, we have 3 Elders who will be playing a trio, but they're kind of expensive so we're not quite sure. A couple people singing, a sax player, some pianists, a guitar duet...Sister Mordwinow and I will be singing For Good, and then I'm also accompanying another Sister when she sings. But it should be great! We're so excited for it, especially since other people are excited for it and we feel like we're doing something useful. :)

But actually, all of these beginnings happening here in Kahovski aren't really relevant. Important, of course, because every part of missionary work all of the world is important. But yesterday I found out that in a week (from tomorrow), I'm getting transfered! Yep. After almost 6 months being here in Kahovski, I'm leaving. I'll be going up to Zelenongrad. It's one of the few places in our mission that isn't the city of Moscow itself, and they usually don't have sisters down in Podolsk. I'm really excited, and I'll be companions with Sister Martyanova, one of our native sisters! So that will be awesome. It's bittersweet--I have had so much fun with Sister Mordwinow and I love her so much, and I love our ward so much, and there are so many people I will miss, but at the same time, it is definitely time for a change. 

Anyway, more next week! I'll still be in Moscow then, and then off to ZGrad!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31, 2011

Hi Family!

I can't believe that people are starting school. We were just thinking about this yesterday, Sister M and I, about how school is starting. Can you believe that tomorrow is September? Crazy. I didn't know Tysha is getting/got? married! Yay! Anyway. It sounds like everything is going well at home, even if porcupines did eat all the corn.

Things here have been going a bit better. We had some miracles phone calls, first from an old investigator who had gone home for the summer and called me, saying she misses me and wants to meet (however, we haven't been able to meet yet and I'm not sure if she will actually progress or not when we meet up, or if she just wants to come back for the social part...). That was so great. It came after a rough day, and I had actually been thinking about her earlier in the day and how she was getting home soon and then she called! We also had a lady call us Sunday night. We had first been going through our phone, trying to clear out a lot of numbers we didn't know. And this lady calls us, saying that we called her or her friend or something (we still have no idea about how she got our number). She knew that we're believers and she knew that we had English club. Sister M was talking to her, but she seemed very pleasant, and she said she wants to come to English Club with her 8-ish-year-old son, so maybe. Plus she also seemed pretty interested in the Church, too. We'll see tonight if she comes to English. 

Also, we had an investigator at church on Sunday for the first time in weeks! I was so happy to see her there, even if our lesson afterwards wasn't the best, and we're not sure when we'll be able to meet with her again. And we've met with some wonderful, wonderful members this week. Our members are SOOOOOO great. I love them. I will miss our branch when I get transfered, possibly in just 2 weeks. Sometimes I want to get transferred, just because I've been here in Kahovski for 5 months now and I'm ready for a change, but at the same time, when I think about leaving, it makes me sad, because I will miss our great members and Sister Mordwinow and our district. Anyway, we'll see what happens. 

So it's getting better. This is just a test to see if I can push through and do things that are hard for me. I have to admit though, when I read Matt's email saying that he had found a big family just by knocking doors, I was pretty jealous. However, we've been doing better with talking to people this week. I actually talked to a VERY nice lady on the metro the other night. We were riding home from the apartment of some of my favorite members, and it was kind of late (however, not TOO late. Don't worry, I don't stay out until Midnight like Matt, haha). We hop onto the metro and Sister M sees this lady sitting across from us give us the biggest smile, plus she kept looking at us and smiling. We knew that if we didn't talk to her we would maybe be the lamest missionaries in the history of the universe. So I pulled out my pictures (I have a few family ones tucked in the front cover of my BoM) and motioned if I could come sit next to her. I showed her my pictures. She asked if we were Mormons--she had heard of the church, but didn't really know anything about it. But she said that she could tell we were believers; because of our smiles, she knew that we had hope and believed in God. That was such a great experience to me. She was really hesitant about giving me her phone number, but we did give her a Book of Mormon and a prig, so maybe something will come of it. I think she really will read. So that was a really awesome experience.

Also, Sister Mordwinow and I are putting together a fireside. It's going really well so far. We're hoping it will be in the next couple of weeks, and it will just be music, so hopefully it will be a great way for members and missionaries to work together to do missionary work and they can invite their friends to something that's not really threatening. And our district has been trying to do service together, picking up trash in a park. There is always a lot of really exciting stuff there--on Monday we picked up so many beer/alcohol bottles that our bag broke--twice. The Elders make it a game to see who can get the most "points."

 Last night we had Culture Night--Elder Bogdanov made us borsh (soooo good) and then our district went and walked around Tsaritsino park. It's beautiful--probably one of my favorite places here in Moscow, plus during the summer they have these beautiful fountains, like the Bellagio fountains in Vegas, that have music and different colored lights. We can't see them usually, since the lights come on too late for us to be out, but it was great to spend Culture Night there just doing something fun, walking and talking with our district and not having to spend a lot of money. However, summer is ending soon. it has been getting dark so early, and the weather has cooled down a  bit to the point of where it is super pleasant almost all the time.

That's about it for things going on here in Moscow! The Church is true!

Sister Ashby

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24, 2011

So...really, there isn't a lot to write about this week. As Sister Mordwinow wrote in her email home just a few minutes ago, "I really can't say that the work is progressing for us . . . We feel like such losers." haha. But really, that's kind of how it is right now. It seems like nothing we do is effective. We know that we just need to talk to more people, but it is difficult when we seem to pick only rude people, or suspicious people, or people who seem preyatna (pleasant/nice) but end up giving us wrong numbers, or later tell us that they'll call us. And when the few (read: 3) investigators you do have aren't progressing and consistently cancel appointments and no one comes to our English club because the one on Hovokuznetzkaya is more convenient. So it's frustrating. I've just been kind of frustrated with myself as a missionary this past week and also how our goals that we have just seem so far out of reach right now. 

So. Adventures this week. Well. We've made "fluffy pancakes" twice. That is always fun. We have started calling them "fluffy pancakes" because Sister Mordwinow will sometimes make these German pancakes that are kind of like crepes/blini/whatever. But I'm getting pretty good at making them. We also have started "family stalking." This is where we go out to these little playgrounds (I usually in my brain call them "triangles" because they are just these little playgrounds in the middle of the apartments and it reminds me of Hershey and they're EVERYWHERE) and try to put cute kids with their parents and try to decide who to talk to, but usually don't because there aren't any parents or we feel like creepers or the parents are drinking or talking with someone else or we just chicken out (true story; I'm lame). But we really just want to find a family or two or three to teach, so...yes. But we passed out a lot of prigs (pretty ineffective though, since no one really calls us and we didn't talk to a lot of people) by singing hymns in a perehod (entrance to the metro/crosswalk under the street). So I can kind of say that I've been streetperforming in Russia now. Kind of. 

There have also been creepy men talking to us. Friday was horrible. There was one man who sat down next to us on a bench and tried to sell us books, and then proceeded to try to convince us to go to the movies with him, telling us that "No one will know! God doesn't see anything!" Suuuuure. He was just SUPER creepy in general too. When he left, we thought he was going to shake our hands, but he ended up kissing them. GROSS. I know this really doesn't sound all that bad, but I just can't describe how creepy he was. Later on that night a drunk man grabbed Sister Mordwinow's skirt. Luckily his friend stopped him and got him to let go, but I was about to kick him in the face and Sister Mordwinow was about to hit him with her BoM that was in her hand. Luckily, we ended that night by meeting a super preyatna hippie girl named Tanya, who seemed way cool and interested in the Book of Mormon, but later when we called her said "It's better if I call you." But at least she wasn't a creepy man.

So. Yes. Not really a lot of good things that have happened this week. However, I did translate Relief Society for Sister Craythorn. Still couldn't understand everything and I"m pretty sure I made a lot of it up, but it made me feel better about my Russian skills. At least understanding-wise. Speaking still is tough a lot of the time. But it's slowly coming. And, of course, always the best part of these hard days is Sister Mordwinow. I know I say this every week, but I really couldn't make it through these rougher times without her. We just help each other deal with a lot of the same personal things and laugh a lot. And sing the Grandmother Willow song from Pocahontas for almost 3 hours. haha. If she ever reads this email, she might kill me for letting out her secrets. BUt yeah. Things are going. They're not horrible...just super slow.