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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17, 2011

Just for the record, I don't hit nine months until October. Just because September is the 9th month, doesn't mean it's my halfway point. I don't want to think about being that close to being home yet. I just hit 7 months, which is weird enough, but I don't want to be going downhill yet. Plus, when you account visa things, I'm not sure when I'm getting home. Usually it's either a transfer early or a transfer late. But don't jump the gun. I'm already getting jipped 6 months, so don't make my mission even shorter. ;)

I am feeling a lot better. The worst part was that it was so draining and I had no energy. But now I am completely better. I was even well enough to put together a musical number for our zone conference yesterday. Monday our Zone Leader, who's in our district, called us. Sister Mordwinow: "Hey Elder Jenkins, what can I do for you?" Elder Jenkins: "I was wondering if you two could do a special musical number..." Sister Mordwinow thinking it's for a baptism or something. Elder Jenkins: "...tomorrow in Zone Conference." WIth the help of Sister Bullough, who played piano, and her companion Sister Daniel, who sang with us, we sang a pretty great self-arranged by us version of "Joseph Smith's First Prayer." Just for the record, you can also sing those words to the tune of "Come Thou Fount." Since Sister Mordwinow and I are both musical, we're used to people calling us up all the time. "Hey, Sister Mordwinow, I need your voice." "Sister Ashby, will you play piano tomorrow?" Good thing we're so awesome and kind and willing to help out and share our talents and all that. ;) But we're actually trying to put together a musical fireside that investigators and members can come to and bring friends to without it being threatening--just a good way to get them into the church and feel the Spirit without feeling like they're listening to a lecture. We just have so much musical talent in our missionaries that isn't being used, and yesterday we talked to President Sorenson about it and he loved the idea and is very excited about it. He even appointed us the "unofficial mission music gurus." Sister Mordwinow and I have been trying to think of ways to contact with our singing talents, which is hard, since no one else in our district really sings or plays guitar or some sort of street singing instrument, but hopefully we can start going on some district exchanges to maybe get some contacts by singing. Because the two of us are both performers and so that's the way we need to find people. I'm sure everyone would want to hear the gospel if they could watch our two-woman rendition of Les Mis that we do just about every other day. :) 

Anyway, yes things are still slow. This weekend was pretty hard. We were just frustrated with situations and with ourselves. People weren't interested, we had no idea what to do, I felt like I wasn't working hard enough, just stuff like that. But we've kept pushing on. Zone Conference yesterday was full of things that I needed to hear--that fit in perfectly with the goals Sister Mordwinow and I have set for this transfer, both personally and as a companionship, things that I've been meaning to think about or do for weeks, and other things like that. Plus, we've been asking members we've been meeting with about how they came in contact with the church. There are some amazing stories, where the missionaries who first started talking to them found them on the metro, or randomly couldn't meet with them anymore and then they found the church again 5 years later. It gives me hope for some of the work we're doing--like trying to call people from old potential investigator lists...aka people that met with the missionaries once on the metro 5 years ago. And even if we're not feeling super productive right now, times like this happen and hopefully sometime soon things will pick up. 

Hopefully, though, things will start to pick up. We met with Yulia, and had a great lesson with her; there was such a beautiful, light spirit there. We asked her if she'd talk to her mom and see if her mom wants to meet with us too, so hopefully something comes of that. She is so great, and so we're hoping that she starts to progress. Elya, the lady who said she would call us, hasn't called us back, but we're going to try to call her again sometime soon now that's it's been a little more time. Olga--have I talked about her before? She is super great, but not really progressing at all. We had a VERY frustrating lesson with her, but then our next lesson with her, we found out some things that we think are a big part of the reason she's not progressing, so now we at least know how to help her a bit better! Mostly we just want some new investigators though, hopefully a family. As a companionship, we have a goal of 2 baptisms and 2 other baptismal dates this transfer, and so we need people to teach!

I don't really think that anything super funny or spiritual has happened this week--I asked Sister Mordwinow if I've missed anything, and she said that all the funny stuff just happened between us. I am so blessed to have her as a companion. The two of us laugh and laugh and sing and then laugh some more. So yeah. Just normal life as a missionary. That's one thing I've been thinking about: when I come home and read through my journal and all my emails home and things, it won't be normal anymore. Right now it's normal when I ask what metro stations people live on and that all the signs are in Russian and that I can read them (kinda, maybe, sort of for the most part), it's normal to have these great spiritual experiences and to help other people. I mean, obviously those things happen to an extent in normal life, but not as much. Anyway. But things I will be happy to be normal in America again that aren't normal (for me) here: jeans and normal shoes, not having to go to the grocery store every few days, and carpet. No one has carpet here. 

But yeah! That's about all I can think of for this week! 

From Russia, With Love,
Сестра Ашби

Oh! P.S. I got your post card from Nauvoo today! I figured you ran into Sister Hilary Casperson when you said you met someone who knew me. I also got a huge envelope of letters and pictures from some people that Sarah Snow put together for my birthday--THANK YOU! I LOVE YOU, SARAH S AND SARAH L AND SARAH N AND LISA! :) 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10, 2011

My birthday was great! Thanks so much for the shirts--they are perfect. I was very impressed with your choices. Also, thanks for the CDs. I was kind of hesitant about the piano one at first, but it's now probably my favorite, and I love the MoTab ones as well. I'm starting a list of other CDs I have at home that I'd like, but you don't have to worry about that for a while. ;) I haven't had a chance to make the cake yet, because our oven is filthy. But don't worry. We had district meeting on my birthday, and Sister Craythorn (our senior couple) made me a delicious cake. We spent the rest of the day doing a lot of English prigging. 

Summer hasn't really ended here. It's still hot, but thankfully not as hot as it was last month. It's sometimes been a bit chilly--like today it's rainy, but it's not really cold. It will probably be like there in Twin because that's how most of the weather has been so far, with the exception that here it's wet and rainy and humid. But other than that it's pretty much the same. 

It is so crazy that Matt is leaving the MTC already. He can't even say anything--I was there for 3 weeks longer than him. Haha, but remember when I called you from the airport and you almost hung up on me? :) And Matt hasn't been sending me his emails to the family, but he has been emailing me himself. But yeah. I have been emailing him both myself and my family emails, but you should forward HIS emails to ME because he's not sending me them. He's just replying to the other shorter ones I send him.

Things are still really slow. We've spent most of our week prigging and contacting, with little success. Our problem isn't getting people to set up appointments with us. It's getting people to keep their appointments. We had twice as many appointments fall through this week as we actually had. Frustrating. And contacting just isn't my favorite thing, since most of the time people just completly ignore you when you try to talk to them. But we did meet a very nice lady the other day, who took a Book of Mormon and gave us her phone number (!!!), and we talked to her for almost 30 minutes. However, when we called her the next day, she said she will call us later once she reads a little bit if she's interested. Sigh. I'm so tired of people saying they'll call us, because guess what. They never do. :( However, finding her and talking to her was just a really cool experience, because we had had just a bunch of rejections all day and both Sister Mordwinow and I were super frustrated and feeling lost, but we just decided to keep going and then we found Elya. So even if she doesn't call, at least finding her was a good experience. That same day, this little slightly-mentally-disabled boy on the metro reached out to shake my hand. He was super cute. It is amazing how much little kids just know. SO many times we see little kids who can't stop looking at us or smile at us or something, and their parents just ignore us. Some other maybe good news though--we had a meeting with Yulia! You probably don't remember her, because we haven't met with her since my first few weeks here. She just kind of disappeared, but then she called us a few weeks ago asking us for C. X. I was worried she wouldn't want to meet with us anymore since C. X went home, but C. X is actually back in Moscow for a few weeks for a job and we were able to have a lesson with her and Yulia and it went super well! And it sounded like she'll actually want to meet with us even without C. X there! Whoo! 

Lastly, another reason it's been kind of slow is because I am sick! Yesterday morning I woke up feeling horrible. We were able to do a bit of stuff yesterday, but really, being sick wipes you out a bajillion times more on a mission. I just have no energy, which is bad, because I'm a missionary--I need to be out and doing stuff! But luckily today is P-Day, so I spent most of this morning just trying to sleep away my head cold and sore throat. 

Anyway, that's about been my week. Yep. I think I'll try to send some pictures today, but I can't make any promises. Anyway. Yep. THat's about it. Love you!

Сестра Ашби

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

August 3, 2011

Dear Family, and Friends,

Thanks for the birthday wishes. It's so weird--I'm almost 22. It doesn't really feel that much older than 21, I just can't believe that it's been a year since last summer. Yes. Lindsey and I are having communication problems. Mostly because the Russian postal service is not all that super great. I sent her a letter a while ago, and another one just last week, but last I heard she hadn't even gotten the first one, so who knows. And I know I owe Chip a letter, but I haven't had time to write it yet and once I do, who knows when she will actually have it in her hands. So yes. But I miss them both. I miss everyone, of course. Tell either of them that I want (need) to hear about this whole 5 dates/5 days/same person thing, via DearElder, of course. Just because they haven't gotten my replies doesn't mean I haven't written them. EVERYONE PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT I AM WRITING YOU BACK AS FAST AS I CAN BUT IT TAKES LETTERS A LONG TIME TO GET TO THE STATES AND ALSO I CAN'T WRITE A BAJILLION LETTERS ON PDAY!

Some of the funny stories, that I was reminded of when you said that my bday card was addressed to Rachel "Ashley." Sister M's first name is Ashley, and when we got our new Liahona's yesterday, they were in the schoff (cupboard) with a sticky note that said "Mordwinow Ashby," meaning the two of us. HOwever, Sister MOrdwinow read it as "Mordwinow Ashley" haha. Also, I met a girl yesterday who misheard me when I said my name and thought I said Ashley. So. Yeah. Even here in Russia I can't get away from people calling me Ashley.

To be honest, I don't have a lot of FHE memories that don't involve kids screaming and parents yelling. haha--especially since I wrote that before I even registered your last question about everyone fighting. They're funny, but probably not exactly what you're looking for. ;) And I say our FHEs were never very consistent, but we had them more often than sporadically. But I don't favorite moments are probably the recent ones where Matt and I would be quietly goofing off and just kind of making fun of you and Dad and someof the other kids. ;) I don't know how to get them to do their jobs. I'm on their side, remember? ;) And don't get excited. For all you know, I still won't have any kids. haha. 

Anyway. TO be honest, I don't have much to say this week. C. M and I started going through a lot of old records--we have 20 pages of potential investigator lists going back to 2003ish that we've decided to go through, try calling, etc. And we have set a lot of great personal, companion, and district goals. It's just been a slow week, just like the past couple. We're just trying to kind of wait for miracles to start kicking in, while still working as hard as we can, of course. But we're not having a lot of meetings, and not a lot of people want to talk to us when we're contacting. I love the people we are working with, of course, but it's just frustrating because I feel like I don't know how to help them besides what we're already doing and of course they have their agency. Plus, when no one seems to be progressing, and there's not a lot of them in the first place...koroche (long story short), I want some new investigators, and we especially want to start teaching some families. 

Transfers are tomorrow, already! Once again, I'm staying in Kahovsky. None of the sisters are moving (except for the new sister who is going into a threesome), so Sister M and I will be together for at least another transfer. Part of me thinks I will leave after this next transfer, but then again, so many people have been staying in areas such a long time. One of our Sisters is about to start her 6 transfer in an area and my district leader will be dying here in Kahovski after 7 transfers there. So who knows. I'm excited, because I feel like we'reon the brink of something and I want to see how that goes. Also, I don't have to move the day before my birthday. ;) Just kidding. But I feel like I've grown a lot this transfer, even in just the past few weeks. C. X is back in Moscow for 2 weeks working, and we saw her today. She said that I'm different, that even my Russian is different (good different) in just 3 weeks! So...whoo!

Anyway, for not really having anything happen this week (besides crazy weather--it has been soooooooo hot the past few weeks, and then at the change of the month it got super chilly. I even pulled out nylons and a long sleeve shirt today), this ended up being a pretty long email. Thanks for the family pictures and thanks for everything! Keep praying for the work here--we're just remembering that with only 1% of the population here, we'll have 70 stakes! This is His work and it is true!