Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June 29, 2011

Hi Mom and Family! This week has been crazy and super fast!

It started off with transfers! C. X and I were joined by Sister Mordwinow, who is from California, but her grandparents are German and Russian. She is awesome; loves musicals and singing and the three of us have had a ton of fun so far. It has been interesting having 3 people in our tiny apartment, but it hasn't been bad. Then we had our visa trip to Kiev. It was great to be with my MTC group again and we had lots of fun. The best part though was the temple. It was so wonderful to be able to go--being in the temple just made me want there to be a temple in Moscow for the Russian saints so badly. One day. It was so spiritually rejuevenating as well. Plus we ran into a ton of people--I love how small the Mormon world is, especially in Russia. We met a brother of one of the sisters serving in our mission there, as well as a previous sister who is acutally now living in Moscow (so we see her all the time anyway), Bonnie's cousin who's serving a senior mission there, and a friend of C. X. But just being able to sit in the Temple was so wonderful. It's a tiny, but beautiful, temple. Plus, it was really interesting having translation headphones during the session. Sunday I played piano in just about every meeting for every song. I even played for music time in Primary, which might become a regular thing. Let me tell you, for only having 4 kids, our ward has a rowdy primary. :) 

The work has been going great though. It's been kind of slower, but yesterday all of our lessons went really well. The 3 of us each kind of headed one, and after each one, they said it was just what they needed to hear. It is always nice to know that the Lord is using you to touch people's lives, whether it's investigators, less-actives, or active members. And I'm feeling a lot more confident about things and talking to people now, especially after the temple. But things are happening. Yesterday we were buying some water in a grocery store very quickly, and a man looked at my tag and started gesturing at it, wondering what it was, so I started talking to him, and we gave him some church and english prigs. He wasn't very interested in the gospel, more just curious as to why in the world I had this black thing on, but things like that happen all the time and that is where it starts. English Club is so great--we had some great times English prigging this week. I know so many people who have come to the Church through English Club.

The weather this week started out cooler and rainy and now it's burning hot, and sticky. It's very interesting to see what the weather will be like. I would love more short-sleeved shirts, preferably cooler ones, and not really like the ones we bought when I was coming. I can wear pretty much any nice shirt that I can put a tag on. Maybe you could just go through some of the clothes I already have at home. 

For a package, like I mentioned, maybe some summer shirts--something light and pretty that isn't button up and that is fitted and makes me look like I have a shape and am not just a fat blob. CDs! Please send me CDs. Classical, anything churchy, maybe some musicals--like Les Mis. Foundation: Mineral Powder, Beige 1, from Helen. Email me pictures. Just anything that you want to send me. C. X wants to know if you can send her a White DownEast shirt--just a wonder tee, small. She'll be gone by the time the package gets here, but she'll be back in Moscow in August, so it'll hopefully be here by then. 

Well, I hope you all have fun in Nauvoo! When you stop in Winter Quarters, please say hi to a Sister Jessie Hawkes for me if you see her in the Visitor's Center. She has long curly brown hair and was my roommate and I love her. Also, maybe Sister Julie Warner, but really I don't know if either of them are in the Visitor's Center there right now. I hope Cari gets to come with you and that everything works out and that works great. I am praying for her. And you never sent a link for that article, but I looked it up online quickly and found it. Yep. :) I know all those missionaries, except the ones from like 10 years ago. But all the other ones I know--Sister Jones, the one mainly quoted in the article is great. It is crazy to be seeing all the missionaries I know in these pictures. 

Anyway, that's about it. Have fun, be safe. Love you all.

Sister Ashby

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June 21, 2011

I guess I don't really have anything to reply to this week. Thanks a lot for your email...haha. ;)

I feel like this week has been pretty uneventful. It's just part of missionary work, sometimes. Right now our main goal is to find some new investigators, since everyone is either 1) not progressing, 2) has disappeared for some reason or another, or 3) is Sofia and got baptized. :) So we spent 2 entire days this week going through our area book trying to call old investigators and contacts to see if they want to meet with us. It is crazy. Half of the numbers don't work at all, but we did find a few that asked us to call them in about a week or two and they might be willing. Right now it's hard because school is just ending/ended so people are in the middle of finals and vacations, so, of course, they don't want to meet with us until after that. 

Sunday was interesting. We went down to attend church in the little Podolsk branch. Sofia is actually in that branch, and the Podolsk Elders asked us to accompany her on her first Sunday there. The branch in Podolsk is soooo small, and the building is actually being remodeled right now, so there's really only one room. It is crazy, but it was nice. The sad part was that we missed our Kahovski branch--I mean WARD! (It's hard, since it was a branch for so long and the word is the same in Russian), including the organization of our bishopbric. 

We had a zone specialized training this week. Our mission has some lofty goals for the summer. We're continuing the goal of 120 new investigators every 4 weeks, and have a goal of 45 baptisms between now and the end of August (5 this 4 weeks--Sofia was the first, then 15, then 25). It's going to be crazy crazy, especially since that brings our baptism total for the year up to the total for last year, but our mission can do it. We also found out about transfers, which are TOMORROW! I'm staying in Kahovski with C. Hmelinina, but since she goes home in the middle of this next transfer, we'll be in a threesome with Sister Mordwinnow for a few weeks until C. X goes home. It should be a lot of fun--Sister Mordwinnow is great. She studied German, is a GREAT singer, and I'm super excited for her to be my companion. I'm just very glad I'm not a trainer--2 of my MTC-mates are training already. I'd feel ready if it wasn't for the language thing. I can't believe it's transfers again already, though. I am still getting used to the new companionships from this past transfer. Time flies so fast.

Other exciting things: We got English Liahonas this week. Wooo! I had been trying to read the Conference talks in our Russian one, but it just wasn't working as well. Plus, I found a picture of Elder and Sister Nielson in the newest one, with Elder Anderson in the Pacific. That was cool. And I got a wedding announcement from Lisa. :) :) :) And I got all the letters from the scouts yesterday, although the one Danny wrote was actually to Dad and there was an empty envelope with my name on it as well. Haha. And, my first visa trip is on Saturday! I'm excited to be with my friends from the MTC, to get a change of scenery and most especially for the TEMPLE! Whoo! 

Sister Rachel

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 15, 2011

I'm not sure what you are asking about when you ask if my investigator has committed to baptism. But on Saturday Sofia was baptized! (She had already committed a few weeks ago, remember? And then all of other investigators stopped progressing, so I'm not sure what you were asking about, but I did have a baptism!) It was SO wonderful. Last Wednesday we found out that she's actually not in our ward (?!) but the branch just south of ours in a town just outside of Moscow, so it was kind of crazy figuring everything out, but we had permission to baptize her arnd have her confirmed in our ward and then this week we're taking her to Podolsk. There were people from both branches there, plus quite a few missionaries with investigators. She bore a GREAT testimony, and just looked sooo happy. And then on Sunday when she received the Holy She was just glowing all day, both Saturday and Sunday. There is nothing better than seeing someone you love so much, who you know you've at least done a little bit to help with teaching them, in the waters of baptism and then coming up with such a huge smile and tears of joy. So that was the main excitement of this week.

Other highlights from the week: Konstantin, an investigator from some Elders who aren't even in our branch, followed us around for like 3 hours and wanted me to help him with his English. haha. I woke up Monday morning with my left eye swollen to the point of not really being able to open it. C. X said I looked like an alien. Luckily, I was able to get the swelling to go down before we had to leave for the day. It was just a really bad bite of somekind and it's almost all normal now. And last night was Culture Night. Our district went to see Sleeping Beauty (you know, the ballet, not the Disney film). It was pretty good. I loved how I could tell you in what part of the movie Disney used the Tchaikovsky music. And, you know, there's the usual antics. Diving into metro cars right before the doors close, getting lost or thinking you're supposed to be somewhere else and then realizing you're supposed to be 2 metro stops away (with a line transfer in between) and then a 15 minute walk--in 10 minutes. Right now we need to find some new investigators, since Sofia isn't an investigator anymore and most of our others aren't progressing at all. It's crazy though: transfers are a week from tomorrow. This past 6 weeks have just flown by. I cannot believe that I'm pretty much done being trained.

I have been thinking about Matt a lot this week, obviously. He will be awesome. I am sure that it will be hard having him gone (although, not quite as much as having ME gone, obviously). ;) But he will be great. I hope Grandma is doing at least a little better--I am glad that everything was okay despite the emergencies! Anyway. Make sure that Matt sends me his emails too! Ahhhh! I can't believe he is a missionary. So вообще crazy! (That middle word is a word that means "in general" that Russians use all the time to mean any sort of way--and more--that you could possible construe "in general" to mean in English). 

Anyway. That's about it for this week! I love you all! (Oh, also, it's probably time to start thinking about a...birthday package! Since it takes a few weeks for it to get here. I need some new mascara from Helen and also some foundation...I know, I'm so needy. I will tell you what kind of foundation later. And other than that...surprise me. :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 8, 2011

So. Since I don't have anything to reply to you about yet, I will just tell you about the AMAZING THINGS that have happened this week.

First, we had a great miracle with Sofia. As I mentioned last week, we were very nervous about her, but Thursday (I think?) morning she called us, asked us if things were still alright for her to be baptized on the 11th. When we asked her if she'd been reading and praying, she said "Of Course!" There has been such a change in her. When we saw her on Saturday, for the baptism (not hers, just one she came to), she was just glowing. And she was able to come to both the Saturday night Adult fireside with Elder Nelson, where she met him, the Sunday conference when the stake was organized, and the YSA fireside Sunday night. She is super wonderful, and I am so excited for her to be baptized in just a few days. The Lord has truly taken care of her and prepared her for this--honestly, we haven't done anything as missionaries, really. It's been all her and the Lord. 

Other cool things: Russia is truly where the 12 Tribes are being gathered. We were at dinner at the apartment of a young couple in our branch. They both served missions, and are expecting their first baby sometime in August. But out of the 5 people there, there were 4 different tribes of Israel. 2 Ephraims, 1 Simeon, 1 Mannassah, and 1 Naphtali. Really, it is so cool.

Now, for the main part of the week, and by far the coolest, most miraculous blessing: Elder Nelson coming to organize the Moscow Russia stake! :D Saturday night was when it started. We were lucky enough to be able to go to the Adult Session (we weren't supposed to go unless we had a less-active or investigator, and Sofia was able to come, which was a miracle in and of itself). Elder Nelson talked about the miraculous story of how he was able to work to get the church here into Russia 20 years ago, and how the Lord made it possible, despite all the literally impossible bueareaucratic red tape. His son was also one of the very first missionaries in Russia, and came along with him and Sister Nelson. Elder Nelson said he had so many people come up to him and tell him that his son taught them or their family, and said thank you. Anyway. It was so great. After the Saturday meeting, so many of the Saints were coming up to him to meet and thank him. I had the wonderful experience of standing right there behind him as he greeted these beautiful Russian saints. C. X even was translating for those who don't speak English, including one of our babyshki from our branch. It was such a miracle, and the Spirit was so strong. Then Sofia really wanted to meet him, so I took her up to him. He turned around when I said his name, and he greeted Sofia, who speaks perfect English, pretty much, and it was so wonderful. And then he turned around to me, and shook my hand and asked my name. It was super cool. He is such a great man; although he's old, he has worked so hard to serve the Lord, and the look of love in his eyes all weekend was sooo....I don't know how to describe it.

Now, was so miraculous. We walked into the big hall we were meeting in, and there was just such a feeling of love and excitement. Then the first stake in Russia was organized--#2,962. Sister Nelson called it "the day of greatest light in Russia." And it was so true. I am so grateful to be such a small part of this work and these miracles. I cannot even explain the Spirit that was here this weekend. The wave of excitement when the new stake leaders, especially the patriarch, were announced. That is what people here are most excited for, I think. They have had to wait for years over the past 20 years for a patriarch from somewhere else to come and give blessings to the next people on the list. And now they will be able to have that great blessing of having a patriarch here in Moscow. I cannot wait until there are more stakes here in Russia. These saints deserve it SO MUCH. 

And Monday was so great. We were priviliged enough to have a missionary meeting with Elder Nelson, of what I already sent the picture to you of. It was so personal. We all got there at least 30 minutes early to study in reverence, and when he walked in Elder Nelson commented on how good we looked. :) Then each missionary had the opportunity to go up and greet Elder and Sister Nelson, and President and SIster Schwitzer. It was so personal, and there was such a feeling of love. I was able to sing in a quintet for a special musical number, Elder Nelson had a question and answer session. Of course, he asks if anyone has any questions, and I just sit there and am like, "OF COURSE! WHY CAN'T I THINK OF ANY OF THEM RIGHT NOW?!" haha. But all the talks were just so personal, so inspired--just what we needed to hear as a mission and as individuals. I never wanted it to end. This weekend was like General Conference, except better because it was over 3 days and it was so historical and so PERSONAL. Oh my goodness. I just loved it so much. I am so blessed to be a part of this mission at this time; it is something that I don't deserve.

Anyway, language-wise...well, I thought it funny that you asked if I've taught a lesson without C. X's help. No. That's the point of having a companion. haha. You always teach with someone's help. That's how missionary work works. ;) But it's slowly getting better. I am understanding so much more. And yesterday a woman was so surprised at how well I know Russian after being here only 2 months. It's slowly coming. The great thing is that I am actually feeling able to communicate for the most part. I'm still super far from being fluent and still freeze up and get nervous every time I'm supposed to speak in Russian, but for the most part, I feel like I'm making progress and feel like I can express things in lessons. Mostly that's just the gift of tongues though. But it's turning into less of a stresser, slowly. My goal is to not even be worried about it at all in October, when I've been in Russia for 6 months. Also, with the Stake it hasn't really changed the way we do missionary work too much. HOpefully it will allow the wards/branches to help us more with missionary work, but right now it's just too new to see huge changes yet. Anyway. THat's about it that I have! Until next week.

Sister Rachel

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 1, 2011

It is so crazy that there's still so much snow in Utah and it's still so cold there. Here we have been burning up, and it's not even summer yet. However, I've realized that's because lots of my shirts are long sleeves, which will be great in fall and was great up until like 2 weeks ago. I just can't believe that it is already JUNE. I have been here in Russia for 2 months. Time flies, and yet at the same time, I feel like I've been here forever.

Elder Nelson comes in just a few days! Saturday he will be doing interviews for all the stake positions, and Sunday the first stake in Russia will be organized. We are all getting ready, obviously. We are almost done checking all the addresses on our branch lists (the best we can, obviously some people aren't home when we go check). The other day we walked probably about 6 miles in order to find out that one lady clearly didn't live there since the building had been demolished, and then to have 2 other "not home." The mission is at 109 new investigators. Sofia's baptism is scheduled for the 11th, although like I said, we're very worried about her. We see drunks all the time, but I actually have a really funny story about one this week. We were passing out English prigs and, to make a long story short, I was almost kissed by a bald, drunk Russian man. Yep. He was arguing with some slightly drunk guys who were talking to us about English Club and then he just kind of reached out and grabbed me and tried to kiss me! Not a very pleasant experience, but definitely a funny, good story. I also stumbled into a telephone pole yesterday while talking to one of our Elders...yeah. I'm REALLY coordinated and alert. Although C. X and I have started running 3 times a week. Not really any amazing miracles this past week--just little ones, like people being home when we check addresses and whatnot. But this weekend will have such a great miracle, so... :)

That's about all for this week I think. Next week, I will have awesome stories about the historical day in Moscow when the first stake in Russia was organized, our missionary meeting with Elder Nelson, and hopefully other miracles about the work here in Moscow! The church is true!

Sister Rachel