Monday, February 27, 2012

February 27, 2012

This week has been great. Mostly because there's been lots of Russian culture. For example:

Last Monday, we went to see some monuments here in Z from the war. The Russian army held off the Germans very close to here--Kryukovo was the closest the Germans got to Moscow, so this is kind of a special place.

Thursday was Men's Day/Defender of the Fatherland Day. Which means that there were tons of fireworks. We were on the way back from a meeting at night, waiting on a bus stop and we got to watch this pretty big firework show that was going on in one of the parks here.

Friday was our culture night! We got permission to go to a hockey game, as long as it wasn't a super big one and we had a senior couple with us. We had GREAT seats and it was AWESOME! Oh man. It made me sooooo excited for football season again. But it was so cool. It was like the Moscow team versus a team from Minsk. And it was a ton of fun. And a super good game. We ended up losing in a double-overtime shoot-out 3-4. However, looking over the videos that the Elders took, one of their goals shouldn't have counted. I had never been to a hockey game before though, and it was really cool. Plus, it was in Russia. I love Russia. However, the game didn't get over until after 10, and it was clear down in south Moscow, which meant a long ride home, especially due to some incidents that prevented us from getting to the train station until midnight. And then our train just stopped in the middle of nowhere for about 30 minutes. We were SO tired, and just crashed as soon as we could get home. Poor Elders, we got home that the bus system wasn't even running, so they had to walk home (we live close enough to Kryukovo that we just walk most of the time anyway and the Elders walked us home). But everyone got home safe. And it was worth it. That game was great. There was one point where the crowd started screaming some...well, as they say in Russia, "not very pretty" words, but they were all in Russian. I can't wait until the next winter Olympics when I can root for Russian hockey. Especially since they'll be here in Russia!

Saturday some ward members had this big party--lots of members and lots of not-members--for a Russian holiday: Maslenitza. AKA Panckake Week. Basically, the week before Lent, people eat lots of blini (Russian crepes) and it also is kind of a pagan holiday celebrating the end of winter. And it is a blast. We got to dress up in "traditional" Russian clothes (dress-up version, hence the quotation marks), listen to traditional Russian music. There were hundreds of blini, with cgushyonka (sweet and condensed milk) and smetana (sour cream) and cheese and a ton of good good stuff. We played in the snow, snowball fights, etc. Tug of war. A game where you get to try to hit people off the pile of snow with bags of...something? There was a little fire, that people had fun jumping over. And at the end, they burned this effigy of Maslenitza. We got to talk to a lot of people about the church, strengthen our relationships with and serve the members, and it was a lot of fun and a great unofficial continuation of our culture night. It was such a fun holiday, and it felt so Russian--the music, the food, everyone dressed up. Afterwards, we were waiting for our ride back to Z (this family lives out in a little town) and we got to learn some dance steps from the grandma of the family and talk to her more about Russian culture and stuff. It was a ton of fun. I love Russia. I'll try to attach some pictures of me in my babushka garb.

Other fun things from this week:
  • It's been warm! Only -5 on average. I even pulled out my pea coat again. Haha. -5 and -10 is warm. :)
  • We stopped by an inactive woman, and after the guard at the door let us in, my companion (who is from a town where the highest apartment building is 5 stories with no elevators) just goes for the stairs. We get up one story and the guard (who is a babushka, like usual), yells up the stairs, "GIRLS! Take the lift. You're crazy to go on foot. SHE LIVES ON THE 13TH FLOOR!"
  • On kind of a tough day, we visited a woman in our ward who has a hard time coming to church because of her two crazy boys and non-member husband, but she is always so great and she completely made my day. And then her oldest (he's 4) said that they were going to come to church on Sunday--usually he doesn't want to get dressed. And they came!
  • Another lady took a picture/pass-along card that we had and really liked it. Hopefully tonight we are going to run a BoM to her and give her the first lesson. I hope. I have been trying really hard this past week not to get super frustrated with a lack of success in the new investigators area. I mean, contacts and BoMs are great, but if no one ever answers their phones or wants to meet with you or even calls you themselves (practically NEVER happens) then you still never get any new investigators. But we're hanging in there. 
Well, that's about it! Love you all!
Sister Ashby

Monday, February 20, 2012

February 20, 2012

I cannot believe that another week has come and gone already. These past 2 months with C. X2 have gone by SO FAST. 

This week started off with a mission conference in Moscow. It was fun to see everyone, and to hear the last testimonies of some missionaries who are going home in 2 weeks--Sister Mordwinow, another sister who I love, and two Elders, one of whom I served with. It's super weird that people I know and have served a long time with are starting to go home. Before this, it was usually just Elders I had seen around and knew or served a bit with. And going home (unfortunately) just seems closer and closer every day. :( My companion and others are always like, "Oh, I just want it to be summer soon! And warm!" I'm fine with it just being winter for as long as it wants, if that means that August doesn't ever come. However. Not thinking about that. 

We were kind of bummed this week when our family--the couple who we felt really good about--didn't come to English Club AGAIN. It had been 2 weeks since we'd seen them or talked to them, since they didn't give us their phone number. But yesterday while we were out contacting after Church, we ran into the Mom and the son! She said that she got sick, but that she looked through the BoM a little bit and that they're going to come this next Wednesday. I hope that they really do come back. We've talked to some other people this week, given out lots of BoMs (more and more every week) and are just trying to keep going. I really feel like this week hasn't been super productive. We've been working, but all our potential investigators are still just potential investigators. I guess it's alright since it means they're still potential and not all dropped or disappeared or something, but still. We haven't had a baptism yet this month, and no one in our district really has any progressing investigators right now, so we're praying for a miracle, maybe someone who can at least be baptized around the end of the transfer. I am hoping that Lena maybe that miracle. She is a girlfriend of one of the members, but she couldn't meet with us this week even though she wanted to and to come to English Club, and after church yesterday they left right after sacrament meeting for some reason. So we need to call her to set up an appointment so that she can actually become an investigator.

We also met the sweetest old man on the street this week. We were walking along the road, contacting, and I saw him (he was the only person around at that time) and wanted to talk to him, but before I could say anything he came up to me and said, "Do you remember me?" We told him that we'd never met before and he said that it must have been someone else, but then he told us about how he started believing in God after the War when he was studying something that I can't remember. Like microtechnology or biology...and he is such a believing man, but as far as we could tell he's not Russian Orthodox. He gladly took a Book of Mormon and gave us his phone number. When we called him to invite him to church the next morning, he said that he looked through the pictures and really liked them and wants to start reading. But he couldn't come to church, because his daughter is against it and said, "If you want to come to church, just come with me." But he is the sweetest thing and I really want him to come to church. He even stopped by the branch building on Saturday, even though he knew that there wasn't a meeting. Luckily one of the members was there and they met. :)

Yesterday we had ward conference and I'm not sure why, but I just really loved church. There was just such a great spirit there. There were a few less-active members there and it was just great. I was playing piano and I just sat there and was so happy to be here, in Russia, on a mission. Attitude is so important; it makes so much of a difference. Sometimes C. X2 starts to feel like she's been here for 2 months already and nothing has happened and that she hasn't done anything. And it's hard to tell her that things get better, because I know that miracles happen here in this work, but you never know when they're going to happen and maybe that you can go for 2 transfers and not teach anyone, but that doesn't mean that you're not a good missionary, and then suddenly you'll find a new investigator who's golden and who'll get baptized soon, but you just need to keep working and eventually something will happen. You said that you at least hope that I feel like a successful missionary. Sometimes I don't, but for the most part I do, because I am doing my best, and especially now that I've been out longer, I can see little successes more. I don't know.

Anyway. Not too much this week. Just the same old, same old, great work in Moscow-Zelenograd. 

Love you all,
Sister Ashby

Monday, February 13, 2012

February 13, 2012

Ny vot is kind of like Oh Well, I guess. Vot is like "behold" except in Russian we say it ALL the time--it's not only scriptural. It's like, "look" or "hey" or "here" or something else. And ny is just kind of a filler word. No is nyet. And that is a super cool story about the Russian that you took care of for surgery. 
I'm not sure I'll be getting transferred yet, but it's just the pattern of my mission, and as much as I love Zelenograd, I am kind of getting ready for a change. We'll see what happens. C. X2 thinks that I'm staying, I think I'm leaving, there are two sisters going home and a lot of sisters are in the running for a mix up, so we'll see. Transfers aren't for another few weeks. 

Anyway. This week has been HUGE. There has been a lot of big news that we've found out this week. First--I know when I'm coming home. And if possible, maybe you could move the family reunion? Not because I'll be flying home then, but because I still won't be home, and I haven't been to Yosemite in so long and of course I want to see everyone. But I'll be coming home around August 11. It was funny--one of my MTC Elders is our Zone Leader and he was up here on splits on Friday and we were talking about how I didn't know when I was going home yet, because he said that the other sisters knew. In the middle of this conversation, President Sorenson calls, says he's putting in a mid-transfer release request, and asks if it's okay if I go home on August 11! I was like, "THAT'S PERFECT!" There have been lots of problems with the elections coming up, so the visa laws probably won't get changed (and if they did, I would be flying home July 12--right in the middle of the reunion), but I was a little worried about getting home so close to when school started, so going home in the middle of the transfer is perfect. It was such a tender mercy. Plus, I'll get 2 mission birthdays. :) So yeah, August 11. 6 months. 

Next big news. On Wednesday, we were all told that on July 1, our mission boundaries will change. It won't super affect me that much, since I'll be going home so soon after that, and I doubt I'll get transferred to an area outside of our current mission for the last 1/2 transfer of my mission. We knew this was probably going to happen after the stake was formed. On July 1, the President of the Moscow West Mission goes home. And the West Mission and our mission will just kind of be combined to form a new mission that President Sorenson will be in charge of. Belarus and Kazhakstan will go to different missions, and our mission will be Moscow (our 9 wards/branches) and the 9ish Russian cities that are currently part of the West mission. And the number of missionaries in our mission will double, from around 50 to around 100. So this is big. It's weird though. It will happen, I'll almost positively still just serve in Moscow, and then I'll go home. And it will kind of be like my mission doesn't exist as it did when I was there. But it is still super great, because it means that eventually we will be able to expand and split the stake here, and that the church here is growing! But yeah, between those 2 pieces of big news, this week the end of my mission has just seemed a lot closer. Except that it's in August, when it's super hot, and right now it feels like -25 Fahrenheit outside. Haha. Anyway, if you want to read the official church release, it should be out on Friday.

So this past week has been kind of hard, but full of little tender mercies from the Lord. I'm not sure why, maybe just the winter or something, but the past week or two I have just not been feeling like myself--always tired, really moody and testy. I was on the verge of tears multiple times a day, and would go from having a really good day to it being horrible for no reason in just a few hours. Poor Sister Habibullina has had to put up with all us this. She is so great and so patient and funny and helpful and such a great missionary (side note: she really doesn't need me. She's more of a teacher for me. Usually when I think of my role as a trainer I just think, "Those that can't do, Teach." That is me. Haha, just kidding, but really she's a better missionary now than I'll ever be). Finally, a few days ago I asked one of my Elders for a blessing, which really helped. Things have been great since then, and it was a lot of just what I needed to hear. I love the priesthood. It is such a blessing that we have. Plus, between finding out my perfect release date, getting housing figured out (kind of ) last Monday, just a few other little answers to prayers, and starting to have a lot of potential investigators, it's been a good week full of tender mercies, hard work, and the start of success.

For example, we still don't really have any new investigators, but like I said, we have a couple really promising potential investigators. We gave out 13 BoMs this week, and are slowly starting to meet our goals. I am finally starting to feel like the slow time is over. For example, on Friday we didn't get a contact when we were out on the street like we wanted, but right before bed, one of the sisters from Moscow calls to give us a contact of a lady here. And on Saturday, we wanted to give out 4 BoMs, but we had kind of a slow start to the morning for a few reasons and then had a meeting go longer than we thought, so we ended up only having an hour to contact. And for the first half of our walk, there was NO ONE out. But then we managed to meet our goal and give 4 KMs away in the space of about 30-45 minutes. It was a miracle. And one of our less-active-becoming-more-active members had had a missionary experience after we invited her to talk to one of her acquaintances about the Church where her friend asked her about the Church, and then I guess this friend has kept asking the member about the Church and they've been meeting every week, and so this week we're going to go have FHE with them all on Friday. And there's a girl who's come to church a few times with one of the members--I think they're dating?--and she is super interested and yesterday we gave her a BoM and swapped contact information. 

Basically my life right now is me trying to be this quote by Eliza R. Snow: "I will go forward. I will smile at the rage of the tempest, and ride fearlessly and triumphantly across the boisterous ocean of circumstance . . . and the 'testimony of Jesus' will light up a lamp that will guide my vision through the portals of immortality." I love this quote, and although I know that the next few weeks will maybe even be harder than the last few have been, this is the Lord's work. There will be miracles when we do all we can. Our Heavenly Father knows each person on this Earth--me, all missionaries, all church members, all other people I see on the street--personally. He looks out for each of us and blesses us with little things that keep us going or make a big difference in our lives and the lives of others. He gave us His Son Jesus Christ, who gave us everything He had and His Atonement. And because of that we can smile always, even when people say that you're stupid and you should go home and finish your studies or when there's absolutely no one on the street because anyone sane is inside and warm, and have faith and confidence that our testimonies and faith will give us success, because our goals and hopes and dreams and our vision here are not any different than what the Lord wants.

I am not really sure what else to say, but this email is already super long. But yeah. Tomorrow is mission Conference in Moscow and C. X2's birthday. I can't believe that Elizabeth is 17. I was just 17. Anyway. Keep me updated on everything, on my contract for fall, on family stuff, on everything. And...I'll see you all in 6 months!

Sister Rachel Ashby

Monday, February 6, 2012

February 6, 2012

So I can honestly say that the 1st of February 2012 was the coldest day I have ever lived in my life. Yep. It was -25 Celcius most of the day. And most of the day we were out contacting! WHOO! Actually, it was a lot of fun. Wearing my thermals and 4 pairs of tights and lots of layers and no one was out on the streets at all, but we couldn't get any meetings so...contacting! You know, it really wasn't all that bad. There was all this ice on my coat and scarf from my breathing. You can't really take a lot of pictures or use your phone all that much because the batteries freeze. So even though it was probably like 40 degrees (Fahrenheit this time) colder than it was back home, it was a lot of fun. I have always hated the winter up until this one. God knew that I hated the cold so he sent me to Russia. But he also knows that I hate the cold and couldn't handle days like Wednesday every day for 2-3 months, so he sent me to Moscow, where it is at least kind of warm. And after Thursday it has started to get warmer, so don't worry. It's not even that cold

This week has been super up and down. Really, Wednesday and Thursday were probably some of the best days of my entire mission. But there have been some really hard days (not really for any particular reason) this week too. But anyway, Wednesday, we were really hoping that Dima and Olya would come back to English Club and that we could set up an appointment to meet with them. So we fasted, and the Elders fasted with us (our Elders are soooo great), and I was freaking out because when it was time for English Club to start there was pretty much nobody here. But then they showed up like 15 minutes late! And not just Olya and Dima, but they brought their son AND her mom! Wow. It was soooo great. After English Club, it was kind of hard to talk to them; they were kind of in a hurry, and the grandma hadn't even wanted to stay for the spiritual thought, but Olya and Dima convinced her. But we were able to give them a Book of Mormon that we had written our testimonies in, and invited them to meet with us. They werent' sure of their schedules and gave us the typcial "We'll call you, you don't need our phone number" but they seemed genuinely interested. And I think we've definitely got them hooked with English Club, especially since the son needs to practice what he's learning in school and the grandma really loves English and already speaks it pretty much fluently. So I'm almost positive we'll see them again. I just feel really strongly that we just need to slowly work on them and not scare them off. So we're just trying to invite them every week, strongly but not being pushy....I hope that makes sense. I just want it to be sooner rather than later, especially since I am pretty sure I will be leaving ZGrad after this transfer. 

Then on Thursdsay I had the best (really) contacting day of my entire mission. No joke. Our district went up to Kleen, a town about 30-40 minutes north (I went there once before on P-Day to see Chaikovski's house). In 2 hours, we gave out 2 BoMs and got 5 contacts. Plus, the Elders, between their two companionships, got another 4 contacts and gave away a BoM. That's more contacts than I've gotten in entire transfers before. I was blown away. We met a man who took the BoM super willingly--turns out he knows Mormons, and about 2 days before was talking with one of his friends about how much he likes Mormons and our Church. He's not super interested in travelling to ZGrad, especially in the winter, for church, since he's already retired, but I think one day if---WHEN--there is a branch in Kleen he'll be ready. Then the Elders also met a lady who already knew about the Church and liked it. That has never happened to me on my mission, and it happened to us twice in one day. Plus, I just love Kleen as a town. And it was a lot of fun to contact there. We're going back this week to follow up with a couple contacts. Unfortunately, those we've already contacted aren't super interested, but hey, it's a start. At least we got contacts. Maybe in a few years, they'll be ready. And it's just a start. You need contacts before you can get new investigators.  But yeah. This week we gave away 6 KMs on the street, and I hope that we're just building momentum. Eventually something has got to break and someone has got to want to meet with us. I am hoping that it's the family from English Club, but really, any investigators would be great. 

So yeah, those are the two main events of this week, besides saying goodbye to my dear Gronnings, who fly back to America-Land on Wednesday. But we're not going to talk about that, because it's sad. I'll just think about how I can go see them all the time when I'm back home, since they just live in West Jordan (West? There are too many Jordans...) 

Ny vot. That's missionary life here in Russia for right now. I am having a lot of fun, and trying to be a good missionary. I hope I succeed. Life is great. 

Sister Ashby

Coldest day of my life, with my "ice beard"


Me in my hood. I never really wear it like this because it's ridiculous, but Sister X2 makes fun of me that I'm an eskimo

Me and C. X2

Us with Ludmila Gorbatkina, maybe my favorite person in the entire world

In snow up to my knees. It really is only this deep in snowbanks, where no one really walks, but I love to walk there and didn't realize it was so deep.