Monday, June 25, 2012

June 25, 2012

So. Things that I've learned this week.
  • The trains on weekdays have this super obnoxious lunch break that's like 2 hours long, right when I need to use it half the time. i.e. come email, go to district meeting, etc.
  • I can feel my body starting to give out. I've just been so tired and emotionally unstable half the time. I think it's just a training thing, though, because I was like this with Sister X2 too.
  • There was a lot of really cool stuff that I did at the beginning of my mission that made more of an impact than I thought it did--with investigators, or projects like my musical fireside with Sister Mordwinow, or things like that.
  • Half the elders in my zone are scared of spiders.
  • I don't know what I'm going to do when I'm a real mom, because just being a trainer I feel like I do everything (mostly just because I'm the one who speaks Russian and knows how everything is supposed to work) and I don't have enough time. However, as a real mom I won't be a missionary, so maybe it will balance out a little bit.
So there was quite a bit of cool stuff that happened this week, even though I've been exhausted. I have yet to have gotten lost or have gotten on the wrong train (well, we did once, but I realized it before it was too late, and we got off at the next station and waited for the real train). That's a big deal. Visited a less-active woman. She said that she was lucky, because we called like the day before she was going to leave for the summer, so if we had called just a few days later, she wouldn't have answered and we wouldn't have been able to see/meet her. It's really funny though, a lot of the members and investigators are leaving for the summer, and since I just got here, they don't realize that I'll probably be gone by the time that they get back. haha. But we did service as a zone this week, which was pretty cool and a lot of fun. Got to spend some time with some missionaries that I haven't really been around in a really, really long time.
We've gone singing contacting twice this week. That is probably my favorite way to contact. It attracts attention, brings the Spirit, and you get to build district unity, all at the same time! Plus, I love to watch "my" Elders contact--like, the ones I've been with since the MTC, or that I served with when they were brand new, because I can see how much they've grown. I mean, I was with them when they didn't know any Russian at all, or when they didn't feel like they could talk to people, and now here they are, doing it, talking to people in Russian on the street and getting contacts and stuff. We had backpacks dropped on us as we were walking in the metro, I'm not sure whether it was on purpose on an accident, but it was funny. Talked to some super super crazy people. One guy told us that we have to read in libraries more, that Columbus opened America with help from the Russians, and that we're practically related, because all my ancestors were Pravoslanie Russians. Oh boy... There was this guy from Vietnam who started videoing us singing "I Need Thee Every Hour/Ti nuzhen mne Gospod" and then he told us that he knows the Church in Vietnam. He barely spoke RUssian or English, but he was super nice. My favorite part though was how one day there was this obnoxious Subway ad guy who we see quite a bit, and he came up to me and thrust a prig into my hand for subway, and I thought, okay, now you take mine. And he wouldn't, because he was like, "I already know your religion, something something blah blah blah." I was kind of mad. I was like, "No, you come take this prig and you like it! At least beacuse I took yours!" Well, about 45 minutes later, he comes back up to us and asks what it is, because as we were singing he realized it wasn't what he thought it was, and he took a prig. I was like, "Ha! Victory. I win." People have also started just talking to me themselves a lot this week, like the ticket checker on the train who asked if we were sectanti, the lady who told me that I forgot to take my nametag off when I left work, and a lady who asked for directions on a train platform.
Sad news: Olga is going out of town for at least a month. She might not even be back before I head out. :( But that's okay, I guess, because I met Nactia this week!
Who is Nactia? Well, we had gone to see this other Olga (a dropped investigator who I don't think understands that the Sisters dropped her and invited us over, and we decided to go to meet her...or to meet Nactia and we just didn't know it), who lives super far away. And we were waiting on the train platform for the train. And this girl comes and sits next to us. I'm thinking, No one sits next to missionaries. I want to talk to her. And then she pulls out a Bible and starts reading! I asked her where she was reading--James 4. So we start talking, and we end up talking for 15 minutes waiting for our train. We get on the train together and keep talking for another hour until it's her stop. She was awesome! At first I thought she was about my age, but it turns out she's married with a kid in 2nd grade, so she's probably a little older. But she was super nice and open, I felt like I could just talk to her for forever. She believes that different churches are true for different people, and that as long as you believe in Christ and do good, you're good to go. Her husband is studying to be a pastor, and she invited us to their churches services. But she was also really excited just to talk about what we believe. She was sooooooo interested in the BoM and kept coming back to it, asking why she had never heard that Christ appeared in the Americas before (she said it like it was true already), and things. She already lives the Word of Wisdom, doesn't even drink tea or coffee! I mentioned that our calls are assigned by revelation and she said, "Well, yeah, that's probably why you learn the language so fast. God knows it's already a part of you somewhere." AHHHHH. She is just so prepared and open and awesome! I'm hoping that we can definitely meet this week. When I called on Saturday she was so excited that it was me. I can't even describe. I know that I shouldn't get my hopes up, because I have so many times and nothing has come of it, and even if that is the only time things work out to see her or if nothing serious happens with her and her family, I won't be disappointed, but oh man. I finished that conversation, and I just kind of sat there in this super happy shock. That was by far one of the best things of my mission. And I just feel so different about her. I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch or anything, but maybe she and her family are who I've been looking for, yearning for, wanting to teach my entire mission. She was just super great. I don't even know what else to say about her. Pray for her and for us that we can meet up soon and that they'll be interested and that things will work out. She is just so happy and open and good already, and I just know that the gospel can add so much more to that.
That's about it for this week. You all are great. Enjoy your theme days. Those sound...either fun or...I'm not sure. Also, I watched the Christmas Pageant last night. I love the part where Elizabeth/Mary (who is a virgin and hasn't even been appeared to by the angel yet) walks in with her big balloon belly. And Rebecca saying, "DAD! I didn't have my part!" Cracks me up every time. Love you all.
Sister Ashby

Monday, June 18, 2012

June 18, 2012

Hey hey hey everyone. Looks like it's about time for the update from Moscow! This is the best place in the world, no matter what Matt says about Argentina. ;) So it's been a pretty crazy week, full of good stuff and not so good stuff. Monday we had an adventure when the International Ward Elders accidentally stole our phone! Luckily they were able to find the phone number of a member that they knew we were with to call her right before we left her, so we knew that they had it, but it did make things interesting for the next day until we could get it back. Luckily, we're one of the only apartments in the mission that still has a house phone.

I also had to get my "new" shoes remonted last P-Day. They were getting a hole in the heel, but the guy did a really good job and it only cost 100 publes (like 3 dollars)! My other shoes would be way too much of a hassle though...they're thrashed, and even though I tried to fix them, they are still kind of difficult to wear...oh well. It was actually super cool though because at our combined mission conference on Thursday, Sister Stevenson (wife of the new Presiding Bishop) told a story of missionary shoes when she and her husband were serving in Japan as the mission president. There was a pair of brand new shoes and a pair of old, thrashed shoes sitting in the doorway of the mission home--belonging to an Elder who had just come in the day before, and an Elder who was leaving the next day. It was super cool, because Sister Frolova and I were crying, because that's us right now. Our shoes are so thrashed, and Sister Maxwell's are brand new.

Mission Conference as a whole was just awesome! We had Elder Rasband and his wife, Bishop Stevenson and his wife, two mission presidents, our entire Area Presidency and Elder and Sister Christofferson. Plus so many missionaries. It was great, especially to meet some of the missionaries who will be joining our mission in just about 2 weeks. Of course, I probably won't get to know many of them, but it was a really great feeling. I got to sing in a special musical number where about 7 sisters from both missions and maybe 12 Elders or something sang "Army of Helaman" in Russian. After the meeting, when we got to go up through the line and shake everyone's hand, Sister Rasband said, "And THIS is the Sister with the beautiful voice!" We were sitting on the 2nd row right in front of the Rasbands and she could tell that it had been me singing. :) She was really nice. And Elder Christofferson said that he recognized a few of us from our application pictures, which is way cool, because I know through some events (Lisa meeting Elder Christofferson the weekend after my call was assigned) that he assigned my call, and we were also sitting right in front of the Christoffersons. :) Basically, it was just a really cool day. I can't even describe the Spirit that I felt at that meeting. I just wanted to beam and sing and be a missionary my entire life.

The rest of the week was basically Sister Frolova packing (she left Thursday right after Conference), and Sister Maxwell and I going through the Area Book and trying to learn the area a bit. Luckily, Sister Frolova was able to teach us a little bit, but hardly anything considering that there are 2 train lines and a couple outer cities and a lot of forbidden-to-American area in our area. But no big deal. We also met our landlord who is HILARIOUS, broke our couch (NOT my fault), went to see Olga without getting lost (she is so great, she couldn't come to conference, but I really just want her to keep progressing, she is amazing) was a pretty good week.

Then we had Stake Conference. What a great opportunity. This one was just with Elder Christofferson, but still, hey, it was AWESOME! I really loved just seeing people though. I got to see a lot of people from my first area who I hadn't seen in soooo long and love so much. They were all surprised that I go home so soon...they said it felt like I just go here. Yeah, you're telling me! And I got to see a lot of people from ZGrad too. It was just so wonderful to be around people that I love, at stake conference of the best stake in the world. The rest of Sunday went kind of crazy though. And when I mean crazy, I mean maybe the creepiest, craziest thing that has ever happened to me. NOT JOKING.

So, on Saturday we got this contact from the office from a lady who ordered a BoM from the church website and had emailed the office a few times. Elder Ayers warned me that she might be kind of crazy because she said something like, "I speak really slowly and keep all the commandments." in her email, but long-story short (I won't go into a lot of detail because I'm serious when I say this next part, and I really don't like talking about it), I swear this lady was possessed. She talked at about 1 syllable per second in this creepy voice, said there was a poltergeist in her appartment, looked kind of like Professor Trewlany from HP (not the movies/Emma Thompson...creepier) and accused us of not living the Bible for multiple reasons. After the first 3 minutes I wanted to leave, but unfortunately, I couldn't find a way to for much longer. And so I'm just siting there talking to this woman, and Sister Maxwell has no idea what is going on, and the weird feeling that was there in the apartment when we first got there just kept getting weirder and eviler. Finally, I was able to just be like, "Oh! Nam pora! (It's time for us to go)" and we told her she could keep in contact with the office through email if she wanted to meet again and ran out. Sister Maxwell still had no idea what was going on, and I was like, "I am NEVER going back there again." I couldn't shake the bad feeling, so I even called the Elders and they gave me a blessing and offered to be angels and sometime through the office go back over to rescue Sister Maxwell's English scriptures because later we realized that SHE LEFT THEM THERE. She was like, "I thought you were going to kill me." And I said, "No, I won't kill you. You just won't have scriptures unless your family sends you new ones." Now it's starting to be funnier, but it was horrible. But thank goodness for the power of the Lord and the priesthood. The Elders met us right away and we went to the branch building and I got a blessing. And felt a lot better. He is always nearby to help us, and we have power over anything evil through Him.

Well, on that...insert adjective of your choice here...note, I think that's about it for this week. Despite meetings with possessed women, I really do love being a missionary. I love Russia. I love these people. And most of all I love this Gospel. It is so true, and it has changed me inside and out. I've heard multiple people say that their mission wasn't the best 2 years of their life, but rather the best 2 years FOR their life. Well, I think it's both. Despite the hard times, the crazy times, and everything, the really awesome days (like Thursday or Sunday morning), the really awesome people (like missionaries, President Sorenson, church members and investigators and friends), and the Spirit and everything makes it the best 2 years in every sense of the word. To be honest, I'm scared out of my wits to come home, but luckily, I still have plenty of time to hopefully be the Lord's hands in His work here in the Russia Moscow Mission. The Church is true, and Jesus is the Christ.

Sister Ashby

Monday, June 11, 2012

June 11, 2012

Another crazy week. It's always crazy, but this past week and next week are especially crazy and then things will kind of get back to as normal as you can get on a mission...besides the fact that it will just be the 2 of us and I still don't really know our area. Oh well. Shto delat? Snimat shtani e beget. hahahaha... (translation: What to do?--like in the meaning, We can't do anything, that's the way it is...I can't remember exactly how we would say that in english... and then the answer: take off pants and run. It's super funny).

So this week, Sister Maxwell got better, Sister Frolova and I both took days kind of feeling sick/tired, I went on a visa trip to Riga, and we got to know some more people in the branch/area. Due to sickness and visa trip though, there were a few days where I felt like I hadn't done work in a long time, so I'm super excited for when everything settles down and we can have normal study and I can train normally and we can just work. Here's the run down:
  • So, yeah. Riga. That's in Latvia, if you don't know.Things changed and we can't go to Kiev anymore (bummer, no temple). So we basically just fly to Riga and then eat in the airport and then fly back. I was super bummed we didn't have time to leave the airport, but I already have plans to go actually see Riga someday soon because that's where Sister Frolova is from and even before we were comps we had plans that I was going to go see her. It was a pretty crazy day, involving one of our Elders not being able to come with us due to a passport problem (LONG STORY), everyone being super happy and smiley and serviceable in Latvia, and a lot of running back and forth through various airport security and passport control. It didn't seem like so much when we were in Kiev, because we had longer in between and go to do something else, but it was still fun to be together as missionaries.
  • The other main event was church. There were hardly any people there yesterday, and it was actually a really interesting Sunday. President came to do interviews, so we had those instead of going to Sunday School. Just for the record, I have the best mission president in the world. And then we helped in Primary instead of going to RS. There were only 2 kids there, but I was playing piano and the Elders were teaching a lesson or something...I'm actually not sure why we were all there, but the lone Primary leader really appreciated it. And on Sundays, our branch feeds us. They are so awesome. They tell us that it's their service and every Sunday after church, some ward members either take us to their house for lunch, or make us some food at the branch. Our branch is really small and spread out, so it's hard for them to feed us on other days, and so they do this for us. Man, this branch is so great. There are so many powerful, funny, wonderful members of the church here, and because it's so small, it's a lot like a family.
  • Music lessons. I guess right before I got here, President gave Sister Horspool permission to teach piano and things, and so I kind of continued that and we've had some interesting things this week. There is an older lady in our ward who, bless her heart, really really really wants to learn how to sing. But she is pretty much tone deaf. Not completely, but almost. So I got to spend about 40 minutes playing notes and trying to help her hit them. It was kind of funny. But she is a sweetheart and we had a great spiritual thought with her afterwards. She's less-active and I guess in the past year has started to become more active, so it's really great that we can help her. I also got to help an inactive girl about my age with piano. She used to go to a different branch and then stopped going all together, but hopefully she will start to come, especially if she realizes that the best time for me to help her with piano is right after church. ;) And there's another awesome girl in our ward who wants to start learning piano and it's just going to be awesome to help this small branch actually have more people who can play, and also try to reactivate some people through it as well.
  • Anyway, our branch is awesome. Have I said that already? Our branch president and his wife are super funny, and I just really love all our members. It's just such a fun, happy, strong branch, even if it's small. I'm happy that I've been able to get to know some people and already start to build relationships quickly, since I only have so little time to be here in this branch. okay, moving on...
  • Lastly, there is Olga. Olga is our main investigator right now, who is slowly progressing, and she is a sweetheart! One of our super-missionary ward members (she served a mission in New York and is now married with 2 kids, who are 8 and 5?) lives in the building next to hers and they met each other on the train. Olga was interested in learning English, so the member gave her number to the sisters for English Club, and more. They started meeting with her twice a week, once for English, and once in Russian for the Gospel. She is already so full of light and so bright and happy and loving. I loved her the minute that I met her. Wednesday before English club we were supposed to have a meeting with her, but she hit traffic, so we were just able to get to know her. And then we went out to her place (about a 30-45 minute train ride) on Saturday to actually have a lesson. Her prayer was so wonderful. She has so much potential, and she is just so wonderful. Hopefully we can start to see her progress even more than she already is.
  • This week will be full of awesomeness. On Thursday we have a mission conference (actually, 2 mission conference, our mission and the West mission, which will be our mission in...3ish weeks) with Presiding Bishop Stevensen, Elder Rasband, and Elder Christofferson, who are all coming for Area Review and Stake Conference, which will be this weekend. Right after that we say goodbye to Sister Frolova, who goes home on Friday. :( I will miss her a lot. We have been together since the MTC, and we can just talk about anything. I am just very grateful that I got to serve with her for at least 2 weeks. And then Sister Maxwell and I are on our own. Time to whip her into shape! Just kidding, she's already doing great. I just hope that I don't hop on the wrong train with her or something and take her to nilsya-area that is off-limits to Americans without permission or something (a lot of our area is closed to Americans). It will be awesome. I have no worries. And I have big plans.
Well, the church is true! Read the KM every day. Say your prayers. Be good. Don't die.
Love you lots,

Sister Ashby

Monday, June 4, 2012

June 4, 2012

Hey all! Greetings from Moscow! It's been quite the adventure with transfers and things, but things are going great, and I love Perovo so far. It's great!

So we spent the last few days in ZGrad (Mon-Wed) meeting with people--it's so funny, people are so much more willing to take time to meet with you if they know that you are leaving. On Wednesday, it poured rain, and the Suttons (our senior couple in Z) took me and Sister Thrall out to dinner before English Club, since it was the last time we would be together. :) It was also kind of sad saying bye to my English Clubbers. My two favorites have actually started staying for the spiritual thought and asking questions about the church! I will miss them, but I got their email so that I can write them when I go home. They even invited me to come stay at their house if I'm ever in ZGrad again. :)

The day of transfers was crazy. The office called and said on Wednesday that we'd have a car Thursday morning to take us all down to Moscow, and that it would be there at 7:30. Well...the driver called us at 6:55 and said that he was already almost at our apartment! Luckily he understood that he was 30 minutes early. We then were all over the place picking up missionaries and luggage and we had transfer meeting and I met Sister Maxwell. It should be really fun. Interesting--she is a lot different than any of my other companions, and this training experience will be so much different than my last one--1) it will be in English, and 2) I will need to help her with Russian. That is not even considering that they are two different people, who came here for completely different reasons and have completely different personalities and goals and the like. I guess it's kind of really what having kids is like...since everyone is different, you kind of have to do everything just a little bit different every time. Anyway, The two of us have a lot of work to do, and it will be an interesting few transfers. But it should be fun. I hope it will be awesome. Sister Maxwell actually knows a lot of the same people I do, and went on study abroad to Berlin with my roommate Michele! Poor Sister Maxwell though got sick right away and was wiped out all Saturday and Sunday. :( We're hoping she gets better and adjusts well soon. And I just love love love being with Sister Frolova. Just speaking in Russian with her the past few days and laughing...we're already great friends and it's just so fun to build our comp relationship (however short) on that friendship and on our mutual "mothership" of Sister Maxwell. :) It's been a lot of fun so far. And actually, on Thursday night we had Sister Martyanova with us too, because Friday she was going home and since Sister Sorenson will be out of town when Sister Frolova goes home in 2 weeks, they combined the last dinner at the mission home with the both of them, and so we got to go too. It was really fun to be with Sister Marty--I love her a lot, and she is so funny. We had a lot of fun talking and things And so Friday we spent most of our day after study at the mission home with President and Sister Sorenson eating good food and sharing testimonies. It was just really weird, realizing that soon it will be my turn. But it was a great night.

Oh, by the way, I got my package! Thanks so much! Just for the record, the powder foundation is the one that I wanted right from the start, but thanks for your care for sending me like 3 other kinds too. And I love the flowers and the outfit. I really loved it. ANd the album is great, even if you put some really horrible pictures of me in there. ;) Everything was great. Thanks! I love you too!

Well, due to crazy things like spending days at the mission home across Moscow and Sister Maxwell getting sick and needing to rest, we really haven't done all that much work-wise, but we've had a few meetings, and of course, we got to go to the branch yesterday! I LOVED it. I was kind of nervous going into it a bit, since ZGrad was sooo great and I had been there for so long. But we had a great meeting with our ward mission leader before the meetings, which was AWESOME. He is great. And then just the Spirit in Sacrament meeting was so strong. It was like I was already home. There are a lot of really cute recently returned Sister missionaries in our ward--one trained Sister Clark (my MTC comp) in Ukraine, another I think is the sister you met on temple square...and there are so many great people. Another YSA girl played tennis for BYU and joined the church after she graduated there. It is a super small branch, but our area is huge and...the members here are just great, and I love it so much already. I am really really excited to be here.

Well. I am not quite sure what else to say. I love my new area, I love my new companions (I kind of wish we could stay in a 3some for forever, but Sister Frolova unfortunately needs to go's just a lot of fun). I love being a missionary, I love the Gospel, and I love you all!

С любовью,
Sister Ashby