Oh my goodness I'm stressing so much right now with only having 30 minutes to type everything!
First off, I love you all so very much!
Wow! I can't believe I've already been here for a whole week! It has gone by SO FAST!!!!
So it was so cool when mom dropped me off and Elder Turner and his companion were the ones that helped me with my bags! Even cooler, that first night we had a workshop about meeting your investigators. We went around to three different rooms and saw three different people as the missionaries would come "knock" on their door and meet them. And guess who the missionaries were? Elder Turner and his companion!
It was so amazing because we got to realize during this workshop that this missionary work is not about us but about the people! You can't just go knock on somebody's door and start spouting out stuff about them about the gospel! You have to get to know them and their lives and love them the way our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ would! One of the investigators said something really interesting to one of the missionaries. He said...you're talking from your head up, not from your heart up. It really made an impression on me and I hope that when I get to Russia I will be able to teach people from my heart and learn to love these amazing people!
So our teacher's are amazing! I actually really love the structure and the schedule here. The days are long but they're full so they go by SOOO fast! We spend about half the time learning the language, the other half learning about the gospel and being better missionaries, and then the rest with meals, gym, etc. The first couple of days were a little tough because we're all getting to know each other and then having to adjust to not having as much time to get ready as I'd like. But the early mornings really haven't been too bad! I'm so grateful I had a job where I had to get up early as well as the prior experience learning foreign languages at BYU.
Sometimes, I feel a little bit like I'm at Hogwarts, except instead of magic we have the gospel! So my companion's name is Sister Carver. She's 21, from San Francisco, and we hit it off from the start. It's weird b/c we both have a lot in common its almost kind of freaky! She's so sweet and loving and it's crazy how much we've learned and how much closer we've grown just in this past week alone. She's so loving and supportive of me and we've already taught three lessons to our "investigator" Zoya. What they do now is they have people who are either return missionaries or native speakers from the country who they have come and have us teach. It's a little stressful because we're like: "how on earth are we supposed to teach someone about the gospel the second day we've been here and when we can hardly say anything!" But we have really amazing teachers and excellent tools and resources. When it comes down to it, our teacher told us that even if you're not "fluent" or can't speak the language, if you know how to testify from your heart, the Spirit will be the real teacher and the Spirit is a universal language that everyone can understand! He told us that he knew that we've been reserved at this time to go and teach the people of Russia!
Our teachers are sooo amazing! Brother Savage has taught for 3 years here and he loves the Russian people, culture, language soooo much! He told us that we're goinig to Russia at a very exciting time because the country is changing and the people are changing! He makes learning the language so much fun and makes our three hour classes go by so fast! Our other teacher Brother Adams told us that he's never had a district that has worked as hard as we do! But why else would you come here if you're not ready to work hard? That's why we're here!
So in my district there at 4 elders and two other sisters besides me and my companion. Our district leader is named Elder Fralof and he had the most amazing story! He's lived a very hard life and spent the past two years nursing his mother who had terminal cancer. He wanted to serve a mission because he wanted to follow her Christlike example because she would feed him when they were homeless and made sure he had food while she went hungry. It's amazing how many wonderful examples I'm surrounded by. Everyone here has made a sacrifice to come here but only because we know that this is where God wants us to be and so that we can go serve him and serve the people of Russia!
So our mission is splitting so we don't know if we're going to be absorbed by some of the other missions. We might either go to the Moscow mission, the Baltic mission, or to Novosibirsk, a.k.a. SIBERIA! I'm not too worried about it though because I know that no matter what, we will end up being where the Lord wants us to be and I have faith that it will be where we're supposed to be!
The first couple of days I was feeling a little discouraged...I was like....how can I learn to love a people that I've never met? Will I really be able to teach by the Spirit and can have the confidence to speak boldly and courageously? Because I often have a hard time talking to people because I feel timid or uncomfortable at first in new situations. But I know that the Lord will enable me to do His work and that this is an experience where I will be stretched and tried and hopefully be made better as I learn to rely on the Lord more.
And when I think about it...we've already made the effort to learn to love the people! Because we're learning their language!
One of my favorite experiences since I've been here was when all of us who are going to Russia got together on Saturday night to sing hymns in Russian. We stumbled on the words as we tried to recognize these new symbols and the sounds they make, but there was a really special spirit as I looked up from my hymn book and saw all of us together singing. There was such a feeling of love and unity.
This is a very special place. It is a sanctuary. Where else is everyone this loving and selfless? Where else do you find 19 year old boys giving up two years of their life, education, their family, friends, and all worldly pursuits to go and serve the Lord and try to bring others unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel?
I know that I'm not entirely the person who I want to be yet. I know that I have many flaws. We listened to this really amazing talk by Elder Bednar on Sunday (he didn't come, it was just a rerun) but he talked about the character of Christ and how we can achieve that by turning outwards instead of fulfilling our own selfish desires. I really loved relief society on Sunday. Since I've been here I've been a lot more in touch with my emotions. I started crying because I was just overcome by how amazing all of the sisters here are. Some girls got up and shared their conversion stories and it's amazing how the gospel helps everyone! No matter what your pains are, the Savoir and His atonement can heal you!
I've been praying harder here than I have in a long time. I'm praying that I can understand the gospel and that I will be prepared to help the people I will teach! It's crazy that we're still going to be here for another 11 weeks but I know that time will go by fast and I want to make the most of it!
Thank you family for all of the packages and letters and treats! I've realized that I've had an easier life than most and that's why I want to be here to try to give back to the Lord for what He's given me.
Also: I don't have pictures yet b/c I didn't have enough time but I promise to send you lots and I have 11 weeks!
Love you all!