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 immersion...it'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,