So tomorrow is May 1st, or Day of Labor (Work, Peace, May!) here in Ruskiland. And then next week we have Dyen Pobedi, or Victory Day, so ZGrad is once again all decked out in lights and banners and the like. Except this time it's a lot less white than it was around New Years.
This week has been full of miracles.
- Primary song book in Russian (We didn't have this until...well, the branch got it on Sunday and we found it in the library on Tuesday). It's so great!
- 12 people in my group at English Club, 9 of whom were new! Biggest English group I've ever had!
- Thunderstorms and a double rainbow and perfect weather.
- 4 contacts, all of whom starting talking to us first (!! what?!) and who each have an interesting story. More later.
- Cleaning up around our branch building with the youth. Yard work is so much more fun when it's 1) not too hot and 2) it's not your yard
- Going to visit an old investigator at work, who is so ready for the gospel, but just works all day every day.
- And table contacting. What is this you ask? Well, I will tell you.
So on Monday, we had the super cool opportunity to listen to Sister Lawrence. She is the wife of a member of our area presidency (soon to be our area president) and she is brilliant. Every month she'll teach a scripture class that we can go to. Usually, since we're up in ZGrad, we just skype into it. But they were at our ward last Sunday, and they told us that we wanted to be there in person. President gave us permission to go down to Moscow, so we went! It was sooo cool. She talked about the House of Israel, and it answered so many questions I had and also just explained a lot about missionary work. Turns out that more than 2/3 of the people on the Earth are Gentiles (not preelected to be in the House of Israel based on choices made in the preexistance, and which makes sense when you consider that Noah only had 3 sons, and only 1 of them was the ancestor of Abraham and then Abraham had sons and grandsons who aren't part of the covenant--Ishmael, Esau, etc. but still) and hardly anyone (like less than 1%) of the people who join the church are Gentiles, so that's why missionary work is so hard. So now we've all started calling those who reject us Gentiles. haha. "That person was such a Gentile. It's okay."
Thursday we tried out this new contacting thing. Basically, you take a table somewhere where there are a lot of people (a park, the train station), set it up with paper and Books of Mormons, and then ask people if they could ask God a question, what would it be. They write it on the paper and you then take the Book of Mormon, show them the answer, give them the book, and get their contact. Well, it didn't really work out that way. Basically, no one wrote their question down, but we had a lot of people come up to us to know what we were doing, so it attracted attention and worked really well. We were test running it--we had heard that people had done similar things in other missions, but we weren't sure if it was mozhno (allowed) here. So we asked President (we meaning Elder Ayers, district leader) and he said that we could try it up here in Zelenograd, and that if it went well, that they could start to do it in the city-city and also that chalk drawing could be started again (you probably don't remember, but at the end of last summer, they banned chalk drawing because there were getting to be too many problems with the police). So this was a big deal. As a district we went to Krukovo, the train station, with a table, and we just put a ton of Book of Mormons on it. We started with 56. We had plans to be there for 2 hours, but we had said that we weren't going to leave until we gave away 20 BoMs. So we start, and people, before we're even all set up, are already coming up to us. It was super cool. Of course, the majority of people didn't take a book, but it was still cool. Then, after only 15 minutes, this police officer comes up to us and tells us that we have to leave, because it's against the law to do stuff like that there. So we were super bummed, but of course agreed. We start packing up, and Elder Ayers (who is a genius, I never would have thought to do this) goes and talks to the police officer about what we would need to do to get this legal. He was super nice and told us everything that we would need to do, the place to go, etc. and I guess he said, "Sorry, I know that you guys are trying to do good and all, but I can't let you be here." So that was cool, so now we can hopefully go make this legal so that we can do it more often because it was super fun. And not just fun, but successful. Because as we were packing up, we counted how many BoMs we still had left. We had 26. Do you remember how many we started with? Go look. Yes. We gave out 30 Book of Mormons in only 15 minutes! If that is not a miracle, I don't know what is. It was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me on my mission.
Then, on Friday we had a lot of cool stuff happen. We met this super cute, really prepared for the Gospel Babushka sitting outside her dom. She asked us what we were doing (we were passing out prigs on our way to the branch, we've started walking everywhere we can), and so we just talked to her for a long time and gave her a BoM. She gave us her contact and invited us over anytime. We haven't been able to meet with her yet, but we're hoping to soon. Then, later that day, we had been walking through the forest and came out to go to this park and there is this guy. I wasn't going to talk to him, because there's a orthodox church right there and we try not to contact right next to the churches out of respect, but he started talking to us. He asked us what we were doing and when we explained he said "Well, there aren't any people to talk to in the forest!" (Good point, but it was the fastest and prettiest way to the park). And then he asked if we were Christian and gave us his number, which we passed to the Elders. :) THEN we talked to this super nice lady on a bench in the park about English Club and a bit about the Book of Mormon. She was super interested in English, not so much religion, well, she was, but more just to find out about what we believed and why we were here, and not so much to act on it. But still. She was super nice. And THEN we were riding on a marshrutka (little bus-van) and we get a phone call from an unknown number! This lady is just like, "hi, I'm calling because I read the book." I just thought..."Uh...I don't know what to say...AHHHHH!" and said, "Are you interested? Do you want to meet sometime?" Unfortunately, the phone connection wasn't super great and everyone picked that moment to start talking at the same time and I couldn't here anything. I asked if I could call back in 30 minutes, and he said yes and I had got her name. Even more unfortunately, the phone is possessed, and everytime I try to call, something super weird happens (it's the same thing every time, there's just a problem with the phone) and we haven't been able to get through yet. :( But still. It was cool.
The next day, we were trying to go see this babushka we had met, and this guy starts talking to us. He was soooo drunk. At first I couldn't tell, because he was talking pretty normally and was the most polite drunk person I've ever met or seen (and I've seen A LOT here...) but then he was like stumbling into the side of the doorway and he kept repeating himself and wasn't making any sense. He told us that he was god. While he was smoking a cigarette. Ha. But he kept apologizing and was really nice and things. And finally Oleg (his real name) told us that he'd love to talk more, so to call him on Tuesday after he's back from his dacha (oh man, gotta love dacha season...it's starting and everyone is going to be gone). So, I got "God's" contact....and passed it to the Elders. haha.
Not that this is news or anything, but I love my ward so much. Yesterday there were 3 different members who called me "sunshine." It sounds weird in English, but it's not weird in Russian...anyway, that meant a lot. There's also this brother in our ward who is soooo awesome, and he calls all the missionaries his heroes. And he's this BIG guy who looks like he's part of the mafia. :) They are all just super great, and I love our youth and our kids and our babushki and I will be so sad when I leave this ward. Not that I didn't love my last one, because I did so much, but...I'm convinced that our ward is one of (if not THE) best in Russia, maybe the world. Yes, it has it's problems. But it's still pretty great.
Anyway, that's about it! The Church is true! Read the Book of Mormon every day!