Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30, 2012

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'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!
Sister Ashby

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23, 2012

It's been kind of an up and down week. But we have a brand-new greenie in our district. I'm kind of wondering why I'm still here in ZGrad. I mean, I'm not complaining, I love it here and I love Sister Thrall and's just weird, and I'm kind of ready for a change. I guess that I just haven't done what I'm supposed to do here yet. I'm really tired today. I'm want the last few months of my mission to be like the first few months of my mission, and I'm worried that they won't be. But the work goes on, however slowly or quickly.
Last Monday night was really cool--we went to go drop-by some less-actives. And the first one, we get there and 1) we can get into the building and 2) they're home. Her mom (who I guess was an old investigator) opens the door and invites us in. The less-active woman got baptized like 10ish years ago, maybe a little more. Most of her friends got married and moved away, and then she also got married to someone who's a little protiv (oh whoops, I forget that not everyone speaks kasha...protiv=anit. and kasha=porridge, and Sister Martyanova and I would use it to mean English-Russian together). But she let us in and talked to us and we gave her a spiritual thought. She was super nice, and she still knows a lot of the members--she remembers all the youth when they were babies and a few of the kids go to the school that she teaches at. And she's expecting a baby girl in a month or two. She invited us to come back anytime, so we're hoping we can start working with her regularly, but she also said that the weekends are the only time she gets to see her husband, and since he's not super religious or interested, that will be an obstacle, but whatever. We try anyway.
That same night we were riding back on the bus from stopping by another inactive (she wasn't home though), and we ran into the less-active deaf son of one of the members of our bishopbric! He came up to us and started talking. It was an interesting conversation, since he was kind of hard to hear and then he also can only barely hear and we were on the bus, but he and his friends were super cool.
This weekend, I went down to Moscow on a split with Sister Frolova. She's from Latvia and came to Russia with me. She goes home a couple months earlier than me due to school, but she is soooo cool. I am glad that I've gotten to go on splits with her, to at least kind of make up for the fact that we never got to serve together. It was kind of a crazy two days, but it was a ton of fun. ON Friday we went street singing with some Elders. I love that. It was super the end, we had already decided that it was the last hymn because most of the Elders had a visa trip and had to take off to the central building to meet up with the other missionaries. And then this lady comes up to us and just starts talking. She says that she's a choir director at a university and she was so impressed with us and our singing and that she thought we were professionals and wanted us to come to Florence (yes, Italy) with her choir this summer to sing with them on the street. hahaha. Unfortunately, it's about a month before I get home, so probably not possible. ;) We talked to her a little bit about why we're here and tried to give her a BoM, but she mostly just wanted us to sing another hymn. So we gathered up all the Elders and sang one more. Afterwards she was said something to the effect of "You are just such beautiful young people! And when you sing, there is something in your faces like you have power come down from heaven."'s true, isn't it? :)
Also on the split, I got to play piano at a baptism for the International branch. Three Elders were singing and I was playing for them. We hadn't practiced ever before, and we didn't get to. Because black people here in Moscow are always late. It's just a fact. They love the gospel, but they are late. It's kind of one of the mission jokes that if you serve in International, you learn how to be even more flexible than you do with just Russians because you're running on Mormon-Russian-African time. So the international missionaries and one of the guys who were being baptized were an hour late to the baptism. But they all eventually got there and it was a great baptism. The musical number went well, despite the fact that we had never all practiced together. It was soooo weird that everything was in English. Basic gospel subjects in English just are weird to me know. I cannot talk about baptism in English. It has to be in Russian or it sounds weird. I translated all the talks in my head. It was also fun, because one of the baptisms had to be done like 7 times. And that's not really an exaggeration. The poor guys--first, it was super cool. The guy baptizing his friend was only baptized a few months ago. I actually went to his baptism. But he was kind of nervous I think, and in addition, the guy was super tall and there wasn't all that much water in the font. And he kept popping his elbows up. It was kind of funny, but also super cool, because the look on his face when he realized that he had done it right and that he really was officially baptized was so special.
Well, the only other news this week is more sad. So last Monday, we call Yulia to ask when we can meet, and she is in the hospital with bronchitis. :( We called her one other time in the week to ask how she was. But then when I was in Moscow, I guess Sister Thrall got a call from some random person (a doctor, or someone, we're not sure who it was), who asked for me (I have no idea how they know my name) and then told us that Yulia's mom doesn't want her talking with us or meeting with us and that we shouldn't call her or anything. Weird, because we have a signed note from Yulia's mom saying that it's okay to meet with her. But...yeah. :( That was really disappointing. She was doing so well, and I've worked with her for...well, for my whole time here in ZGrad, and I love her a lot. And now we're not even sure what all happened. But that is what happens when people have baptismal dates. Satan works super hard. But so does God, so maybe we'll see a miracle.
And that's about it for this week. The Church is true!
Sister Ashby

Monday, April 16, 2012

April 16, 2012

So you are probably a bit confused as to why Easter is this week and not last week. Well, for the Russian Orthodox Church, Easter was yesterday, this Sunday. It was really funny. A lot of inactive people showed up to church yesterday, not realizing that it's General Conference, because it was Easter. So here, all the Pravoslavni people line up in front of the churches all night, to get their eggs and cakes "baptized." (okay, not baptized, but they sprinkle holy water on them, and since that's like they baptize--some Pravoslavni sprinkle, some do's weird, we decided to call it baptism). Sister Thrall and I actually bought one of these cakes from a stand near the train station the other day. They're not that good. But anyway. Everyone walks around saying "Иисус воскрес" (Christ was resurrected) and then "Воистину воскрес!" (Truly (he was) resurrected). So Easter here is actually super cool. I like it because it's not really commercialized like it is in America with the Easter bunny and stuff, except for the fact that you probably have to pay to do everything in the church. Sister Thrall and I were actually reading a pamphlet that we got with our Easter cakes (it's like dried bread with a few raisins in it) and we were surprised at how much truth they actually have. But then they also just do a lot of weird stuff too. But there are a lot of good Pravoslavni people, and like President Sorenson always says, even if they're church is not true and really hinders the work sometimes, we have to honor them for holding this Christian belief here in Russia through centuries of oppression and communism and very very difficult times. Man, I love Russia.

And it seems like Spring is finally here. It's been super warm--more than 10 degrees for 3 days in a row now! And in the past week almost all the snow has melted. It is such a miracle to see green. Things look so different--I don't even remember ZGrad without all the snow, it feels like so long ago. It is just great. I love the sun, I love the warm, and I love how everything is coming to life.
This week has been super long and crazy though. On Tuesday we had specialized training in Moscow, for our zone. We've had so many mission conferences with all 50 missionaries lately, that when there were only like 20 of us there it felt so small. But it was great to see people. Often I forget that everyone else sees each other all the time down in Moscow, and we're just the ones who no one sees. But it's fine. I love ZGrad. AND I get to stay here for one last transfer this time. Yeah, a number 6 here. We met with President a lot on Tuesday and in my last talk with him, he told me that I would stay in Zelenograd one more with Sister Thrall and then he'd give me a change of scenery for the last transfer and a half of my mission. (Note: it's super weird that I only have 2 1/2 transfers left). So I'll be here until the May 31, and then will take off somewhere else, almost 100%. By the time I leave here, I'll have served half my mission, almost 9 months in Zelenograd. Not that I'm complaining. This is the best ward/area in the mission. :) While Sister Thrall was making a phone call though, I was just kind of hanging around waiting for her outside the office she was in, and President invited me to look at floor plans of the mission office with him and one of the leaders of the church here (President described him as "the president of the church here in Russia"). They're remodeling the mission office when the mission expands in July, so they were discussing that. It reminded me of the talk President Eyring gave last conference or the one before (maybe in Priesthood session, but I read all the talks anyway, so...) of when his leaders gave him opportunities to serve and do things and helped him feel useful and important, even if he couldn't contribute anything. President was like, "Sister Ashby, come look at these floor plans with us, I need your common sense." And then asked me some questions about what I thought. So I didn't do much, but it was a super cool experience for me. President Sorenson really is the best, the best, the best.
A lot of meeting with the members this week--we are trying to meet with members that I haven't met with yet, and it is so great to just get to know these great members. And we finally saw an investigator who started working constantly right around Christmas. She was doing so great, and just started working all the time. She finally got a job where she's still working all day, every day, but we can stop by. So we can't do lessons, but at least it's easier to keep contact, and we can see her. She is sooo sweet, too, so it was great just to see her. I'm trying not to get frustrated with some other people, but Yulia is slowly progressing. Satan is just working really hard to throw a lot of important business at her--like weddings and emergencies and things that come up and change her plans.
But the best part of everything was GENERAL CONFERENCE! Oh man, I wish conference was more than just 2 times a year. Of course, it wouldn't be as special if it was more often, but I just love it so much. What was super depressing was that this is my last conference on the mission, but I'm already determined to be on Temple Square all of October conference. First, Ksusha will hopefully be in Utah visiting then, and I want to go to Conference with her. Second, I will spend every minute I can talking with all the Russian sisters there. But anyway. I loved loved conference. We had kind of an interesting experience. On Saturday, we get to the church, and turns out that we cannot get a broadcast in English! They were watching it by disk in Russian, and not satellite, so it screwed things up a bit. We could not for the life of us get it working in English. So we turned on the computer to watch it online, but it was super quiet. So we ended up watching it on the computer in the Bishop's office, but that room has absolutely NO ventillation and the heater was going and it was like a fiery furnace. The Elders just decided to watch it in Russian, and although I could understand it in Russian if I wanted to, Sister Thrall and I really wanted and needed to get everything we could out of Conference and had been looking forward to it for so long, so we went for the burning, but more revelation, for our native tongue. Miraculously, it hardly froze up at all. We enjoyed the MTC choir on Saturday, especially seeing David Archuleta and looking for Russian nametags. We found a couple, even a sister! :) On Sunday, President and Sister Sorenson were going to come up and bring and English disk, but they couldn't get a hold of one, so we watched it on the internet again--until halfway through the morning session when the Elders got it working on the TV via satellite and we could watch it in a normal-temperature environment on a bigger screen. It was great. I received so many answers to specific questions that I had, plus a lot of comfort and inspiration generally, especially during the Sunday sessions. I loved the morning session especially, because it had all of my favorites, minus Elder Holland, and Elder Nielson prayed, and the last song was "Come Thou Fount." But I loved Pres. Eyring's and Uchtdorf's talks, and Elders Holland, Scottt, Nelson, Christofferson, Anderson's, and then Elder Haleck of the 70s. Basically conference is awesome. Love love love love love conference.
Anyway, I've written a lot today. But it sounds like everything at home is going well. Things here are great. I am tired, but happy. The usual missionary life. The Church is true!
From Russia, With Love,
Sister Ashby

Sunday, April 8, 2012

April 8, 2012

Well, famdam (There's Mother dam and Father dam, the dam kids 1 2 3..."I can't see the dam lights!"), I don't have an email from you yet. In your defense, we are emailing earlier today cause we need to head down to Moscow, but still.
Anyway. Another week has come and gone, and once again I'm not sure what to say. There have been a lot of crazy, hard, fun, random things that have happened this week.
Wednesday we were out contacting. I come up to this lady who was walking in front of us and offer her a BoM and she just whirls on me and starts yelling. I could tell that she swore at me, mostly because I didn't understand. The really funny thing was, she started yelling before she even looked at me, so how in the world did she know that I was a missionary? What kind of person just swears at people on the street? Weird. English Club that day was super great. There have been lots of people at English Club lately, even in my group, which is usually the smallest. It's been a lot of fun to have some new people.
We've been really trying to work with the ward members a lot more. One great, great woman (one of my favorite people in ZGrad) has invited us over to meet with a new friend every week for the past 3 weeks. Nothing has come of it yet, but she is just great. This week, we wanted to go see this woman in our ward--she's a babushka and hadn't come to church in a while, but I figured it was just because she gets sick a lot, and I hadn't really talked to her before even though I know who she is, and Sister Thrall is still kind of new. It turns out that she hasn't really seen anyone in so long because she's been sick, so she hasn't come to church. Her visiting teacher/good friend calls her all the time, but it's just not the same. She was so happy that we went to see her, and just talked to us for a long time about how she met the church and her life and everything. She is so great and lonely. We have wonderful members here, especially in Z. It always makes me so happy when we can go lift the members.
This weekend we had the great opportunity to go down to Moscow for a baptism! A girl that Sister Thrall had been working with in her last area spur of the moment decided to get baptized, so we got to go down and see it. It was beautiful. She has been investigating for a long time and her aunt is a member and you could just tell from the spirit that was there at the baptism that she is a very special girl.
Other fun things. Since Sister Thrall and I both have great camping memories, we decided to go camping one night. We made tinfoil dinners in our oven. It was great. And, faithful to Ashby family tradition, it was raining as we were "camping." And last night, during dinner, we dyed eggs with the Elders. It was a lot of fun. I really love the missionaries that I serve with. They are the greatest.
Love you all,
Sister Ashby

Monday, April 2, 2012

April 2, 2012

Вперёд, Святые‏
(That is the title of Come, Come Ye Saints in Russian: Forward, Saints. You can say it v-pe-riod svia-ti-yeh. Kinda. Just go learn the Cyrilic alphabet? I can't transliterate worth beans.)

Well, well, another week has come and gone. I really don't have all that much to report on this week. It's been a pretty normal week. Things are starting to pick up. More meetings, etc. Still not really any new investigators. Mostly people have just been saying "ne nado" (Not needed). So the usual. But we have a few promising potential investigators from members. Yulia is frustrating me, but that's just me and my low patience (can you believe that after 22 years of practice, and a lot of trying to improve and get better and studying it countless times on my mission that patience is STILL my worst Christ-like attribute when I do the little assessment in PMG? Every time patience has been my worst. At least it's gotten better...) and I just need to look at how far she has come in the past few months. English Club was GREAT this week. I had 5 people in my beginning group (usually I have 1-2) and they were all great, some even new. And we had 11 new people total. It was the biggest English Club that I can ever remember. We are really trying to work with the members, and I really really really love our ward here in Zelenograd. I have been reading Conference talks from the past 2 Conferences to get ready for conference and I love it. I love General Conference. I can't wait until we get it here. I love my companion, and I love Russian. The weather has been beautiful the past 2 days, but it was pretty gross all week long. I'm hoping it stays beautiful, but I don't really have a lot of faith that that will be the case. I remember how the weather was last year. But at least right now the sun is shining, it's not too cold and the pavement is actually DRY in some places (not many, but at least some. :) President gave me permission to register for classes, and they opened up on Tuesday, so I've been spending time doing that. It's super super weird. Being on a mission is like an eternity, but it goes by so fast at the same time. I can't believe that it's been a year since I got to Russia, and that I only have such a short time left. We had district dinner last night, and we all were looking at each other's pictures, and it is weird to think that most of my roommates and friends are either home from their own missions or married--or both.

Anyway, that's about it, I guess. Sorry that nothing really exciting happened this week. Just the same old, same old. It is such a honor to be a part of the Lord's work, especially here, even if sometimes it feels like I'm not really doing anything successful. The Church is true! President Monson is a prophet! Russia is the best! Иисус воскрес!

Sister Ashby