Monday, September 3, 2012

Getting cold......

Hello family and loved ones!
It's the 3rd of September and it feels like JANUARY does in Houston! Seriously, we're already wearing tights and coats and its COLD! I'm slightly terrified to see how things will look in 2 months...We have heaters in our apartment but I'm not totally sure how they work, but we do also have a space heater, and our senior couple is going to get one of our windows fixed which has a whole in it.
This past week things started picking up a whole bunch more and we were actually able to meet with four of our investigators.

We met with Rosa on Thursday, and a member (Irina) helped on the lesson. Rosa had agreed to get baptized but she hadn't committed to a date, so we extended the invitation to be baptized on August 29th. We taught her the Plan of Salvation because she's been taught the first 3 lessons, but that was two years ago. She said that she would be baptized on that date if she doesn't have to work, so we are excited for her. Irina was helpful on the lesson and for resolving concerns of Rosa, since she's a peer, but it was hard to get them to focus and to keep Irina from trying to take over. We've decided this week that we're going to try to do a drop by to visit Rosa, so we can teach her and talk to her without Irina there, in order to strengthen our relationship with her and our role as the missionaries, because we don't want her to become too dependant or converted to just one member. She wasn't able to come to church yesterday because she had to watch her grandchildren while her son worked. We also committed her to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. She still seems scared because her family is very against her joining the church, but we've promised her that the Lord will provide a way, and fasted for her yesterday.

We also met with anoter investigator, a mother in her 30's, named Kosenya. She's only had the first lesson and hasn't met with the missionaries in a long time because her father was sick, but she was finally able to meet with us and we taught her the Plan of Salvation. Kosenya is a really amazing woman because she grew up Orthodox, her husband is African and a Jehovah's Witness, but she's decided to investigate the church because she wants to find the right path for her. We were worried that maybe there might be problems since her husband is a Jehovah's Witness and is currently away in Africa getting his papers sorted out, but she said that he's okay with her investigating because he respects her freedom of belief. She hadn't kept her commitment to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, so Sister Johnson re-extended that commitment. The lesson went well, but she seems skeptical and she thought the idea of missionary work in the Spirit World was an extreme idea that was hard for her to believe, but we stressed to her that God loves all of His children, and that He tries to provide a way for those who didn't have a chance in this life, to choose to return to Him and take the steps they need. She was very respectful and listened and didn't go off for 30 minute tangents, which was a breath of fresh air, and she also wrote down all of the scripture references. She had a question about when we are resurrected, so we found her some scriptures in the Book of Mormon that explain the first and second resurrection. She seems promising, but just needs to keep her commitments and grow and exercise her faith. We've invited her to church, but she hasn't come yet but said she would try.

This upcoming Saturday, our branch is having a picnic, so we will definitely be inviting her and her son, as well as the rest of our investigators.

We also made a lot of headway with an investigator named Zhenya (she prefers to go by Jane) who had all the lessons before with the other sisters but stopped because she likes Hari Krishna and started going to their temple. She was away for the summer, but came back about 2 weeks ago and comes to English club each week. She's 20 and really loves the missionaries and English, so me and Sister Johnson have been working on befriending her. She actually knows the Book of Mormon is true and still reads and prayed and received an answer. She is confused though, because she has bought into Hari Krishna's liberal ideas that all religion come from God and that there are many ways to God and has been reading their "holy writings". I had an opportunity to talk and become better friends with her after English club, and told her we'd love to meet with her or go to F.H.E., since she knows and loves the Palmers. She told me that she knows the Book of Mormon is true, but that she doesn't see how Hari Krishna conflicts with Christ and that they believe the same things, about serving others, etc. I tried to explain to her that if she knows the Book of Mormon is true, then she knows that there are covenants we have to make to return to live with Heavenly Father and to follow Christ, and gave her an assignment to read Alma 32, when she mentioned that she felt her faith was weak. Sister Hebybulona who was here before invited her to the baptism this past Saturday and Zhenya actually called us Friday and asked to go with her on Saturday. We went and she loved it and has actually been to other baptisms before, and then that night we all went to F.H.E. together and she actually invited the woman, Tanya who was baptized that day, to F.H.E. At F.H.E., we talked to her some more and she told me that she couldn't be baptized because she believes in reincarnation. So she's got some things mixed up, but after we spent time with her, she's agreed to meet with us some time this week for a lesson. I really, really love her and she is wonderful, but we are going to keep being her friend and try to reteach her some of the lessons and help her understand that this is the set way we receive salvation.
We also fasted for her yesterday as well.

Yesterday, we had a woman come to church named Evgenya, who came last week and whose contact we received from a member. She has an ill son and came to church last week but left after Sacrament meeting when she found out the branch president wasn't there, but she talked to him yesterday. We are in a very awkward situation, because she seems to be under the impression that if she gets baptized, that the branch president will give her money for her son's operation. I'm not sure of her intention, but I never thought I'd have such mixed feelings after someone told me they wanted to be baptized. The branch president apparently told her that her life would be helped if she was baptized, but I think she interpreted that incorrectly....He did explain to her that its a big decision and that she'll have to have the lessons with us. A member of the branch said that she might be a gypsy, and that we're not supposed to teach them because they just want money. No matter what her intentions are though, we will go forward and teach her and sit down with her and explain just how important of a commitment baptism is. Who knows, if maybe even her son being sick might be the Lord's way of bringing her into the church, and even if she's not intereted in the gospel now, she has the opportunity to listen and hopefully the Holy Ghost will work and she will have a mighty change of heart.

That's if for investigators right now. We met with the branch President to discuss how we can help strengthen the ward yesterday and he mentioned some inactives who we've already been visiting and working with and then we've also been working on gaining the trust of members.

We also met with this really awesome family, the Numberovs, that are in our branch. The husbad, Evgeny, actually served a mission in Romania, and his wife learned about the church when she was an exchange student in high school. So they both actually speak fluent English and have three beautiful, adorable children. They're a really great family and they go to America a lot for vacations. Evgeny told us about a woman in his company who's not a member who has some bad health problems right now and just recently had a break up, so we fasted for her yesterday and he's going to talk to her about meeting with us.

I really, really LOVE our branch here. The members are soooo strong, even tough they're small in number. Sometime I worry that they might not think we've competent because we don't know the language very well. But we're working hard and doing our best to go around and visit and strengthen them.

Something funny happened on Friday when we were contacting. This old man saw us and stopped us and pulled out a Book of Mormon that he already had and then told us "I love America! I love you!" He was really excited, spit shook hands with us, and kissed both of our hands (which is always really awkward and hard to avoid). He actually gave us his number and wrote it in my planner with a heart and an arrow through it and then said "goodbye America!" when we left. Needless to say, he was drunk, but hey! we got a number out of it! Since being here in Russia, I always have at least one scary or awkward, or funny encounter witha drunk person once a week.

Love all of you and PLEASE email!

An investigator commits to baptism!!!

Hello family and loved ones!!!!
I'm happy to say that things have started to pick up quite a bit for me and Sister Johnson this past week!
I'll start with the biggest news first. Yesterday, we had two investigators at sacrament meeting, and one of them stayed for all three hours and we had a lesson with her and a member after church and she committed to be baptized when she receives an answer about the Book of Mormon!!!!
It was a much needed answer to our prayers and we are very excited and have another lesson scheduled for Thursday with her and the member again.
Her name is Rosa, an older woman, and she was a former investigator who had been taught all three lessons and she actually knew a lot of the members of the branch and was already friends with them. She had been to church but dropped off about two years ago because her family was against her getting baptized.
She hadn't met with the missionaries since but had been contacted and invited to church but hadn't come, so Sister Johnson decided to call her on Saturday and Rosa answered, asked what time, and showed up on Sunday morning!

Irina was the member who was on the lesson and they were already friends and remembered each other. We had visited Irina earlier this week because she had been sick and wasn't at church last week. We had also visited her a couple of weeks ago and she was still holding a grudge against the branch president who had offened her months ago. We had challenged Irina to study the atonement and to pray for the Branch President, and when we visited her this past week she said she had received an answer and that she realized that the church is perfect, but sometimes leaders make mistakes because they're not perfect. I think she might still have some pride issues, but we felt like things are much better with her, and we were very happy that she was so excited to help us with missionary work because she really is a strong, long-term member, who has a very sound understanding of doctrine and a strong testimony. She helped us reteach Rosa the restoration and she was very helpful, even when she went off on tangents. She asked Rosa what she had against baptism and what was holding her back, and Rosa said that she was worried about family. Irina was really wonderful and shared her own conversion story, and definitely helped Rosa. Irina also mentioned that she had prayed that she would be able to help teach a lesson that morning, so we were grateful for her help and that it also was an answer to her own prayer. Rosa in the end agreed to be baptized when she's ready and receives an answer, so we are very excited for her and know that she can be ready because she has a good heart and a true desire to follow Christ.

Originally, we asked Irina if she would help with a lesson after church with the other investigator who came, Evgenya, whose contact we received and contacted last week. Evgenya had been told about the church by a member and came by train over an hour to get to church Sunday. However, she has a three year old son who is sick and needs some sort of operation or medical care, and she came to church thinking that we would give her money for her son. She stayed for sacrament meeting, but once she found out the branch president wasn't there, she seemed to lose interest and left. She did agree to come next week when the Branch President Kazikov will be back, but I'm afraid that she isn't interested in the gospel but may just be desperate to find help for her son. We feel bad and are praying that everything will work out for her though, but also hope that she will be interested in the church. She did say that she enjoyed sacrament meeting though. We will keep contacting her and pray that things will work out.

This past week we also had success with English club and were able to meet with two young women, Lena and Katya, who came and wanted some individual English practice. We did 50/50 with them on Thursday, and after English we watched the Finding Happiness video and bore testimony of the Plan of Salvation and the Spirit was very strong. They seemed very receptive and respectful, but may not be immediately intested. They did agree to come back next week and meet with us again, so we are praying that they'll remember how they felt and want to know more.

This past week we also met with a less active family and challenged them to eat together and pray together, and we also met with two active members in the branch. 
This past week we did a lot of contacting and were able to get a contact and hand out quite a few Book of Mormons, even after a couple of Jehovah's witnesses started trying to Bible bash with us. We told them we didn't want to fight, and in the process it caught the attention of a young woman walking by who noticed us talking and she ended up taking a Book of Mormon, and a restoration pamphlet. And I wouldn't be completely honest if I didn't say that it gave me immense satisfaction that it happened right in front of the Jehovah's witness who had been trying to provoke us. 
This past week we actually had a lot of really intesting encounters with other religious groups. Something that I love about the church and that I've really grown to appreciate since being here, is that we don't bash on other people's religions or bully them into believing ours. We saw two Jehovah's witnesses in one day on Friday. They have their own version of the Bible and put the name Jehovah in place of anywhere that says God. So they're a little confused. The guy who was there when the lady took a Book of Mormon saw and asked if we were Mormon and immediately started going, well in Timothy it says blah blah blah. He was extremely rude and condescending and so Sister Jonhson just started testifying to him about the Book of Mormon, but he wouldn't listen. I know we're not supposed to Bible bash, but I quoted Amos 3:7 and had him read 2nd Nephi 29:5-7, which afterwards said he agreed with but clearly didn't understand, because it talks about the testimony of two nations supporting Christ and why should anyone have anything against receiving more of God's word?! Clearly, they don't have a true understanding of charity if they just go around trying to fight with people over the Bible and trying to make people feel stupid and tear down their religion.

Last night, though we met these other missionaries from another church that were reformed drug addicts and actually had some good beliefs, but weren't open to the idea of the restoration and the Book of Mormon which is a shame.

Me and Sister Johnson have been continuing to do all of our studying and striving to be completely obedient to all of the mission rules and schedule, and even though it's been a challenge, yesterday was truly an answer to my prayers. Things are going well in our companionship and Sister Johnson is very disciplined and focused and a hard-working trainer.

I hope that all is well and was very excited to hear about the new stake in St. Petersburg.
Love you all and please keep writing and emailing!
Sincerely, Sister Schmidt

Greetings from Russia

Hello family and loved ones!
Right now it's really rainy and the days are starting to get shorter already =( It's actually been pretty cool out, but it hasn't been too bad to stop me and Sister Johnson from running in the morning.

This past week me and Sister Johnson have been working really hard to find new people to teach and to try to get in touch with our investigators. I wouldn't be completely honest if I didn't say, its been a bit discouraging. But I know that we need to be patient and if we are faithful and working our hardest the Lord will bless us!

The hard thing is, the only people who want to talk to us are old babyshki (grandmas), but once we start talking to them they just go off and start talking because they're really lonely and just want someone to talk to. It's really funny and really challenging. Sometimes, I feel like Anna should've served here because she's always been the more talkative one of the family. We're still making the effort to open our mouths though. What's hard also, is everyone here is Orthodox and if they're elderly, they're stuck in their ways and they don't want to change. We always have to explain to people that we're not Jehovah's Witnesses and that we're not paid for what we do. 

Right now, we're just looking for somebody, ANYBODY to teach and have been doing a LOT of contacting.

We tried to get in touch with Albena, who had come to English club the previous week and who we taught to pray and said a kneeling prayer of her own. We called her almost everyday but have not been able to get in touch with her, so we're hoping and praying that she's just busy and that she will call us back.

We did have an investigator named Zhenya come to English club on Wednesday. We're in a bit of an awkward position because me and Sister Johnson are both new to the area and so we don't know her very well and she really loved Sister Peterson, but had stopped investigating before we arrived because she's starting believing in Hari Krishna. She is friends with the Palmers though and at district meeting, Elder Palmer had mentioned that she'd come to f.h.e. before and had a good discussion with him. So we tried inviting her to that on Saturday, which she was unable to attend, and we tried to invite her to church as well with no success. She is coming to Engish club though so we're going to try to talk to her afterwards and befriend her some more and try to get her to meet with us. She did come to English club this week though and seemed very receptive to the spiritual thought afterwards. She's told the missionaries in the past that she has a testimony of the Book of Mormon, but she talked to another convert who took two years to get baptized, so she's in the mindset that it's okay to take a while, but has slipped off the right path and started following Hari Krishna. So we want to try to get her back on track, but are also in the difficult position of not knowing her very well. We're praying for her though and will continue to invite her.

We were able to get in touch with our other investigator Kocenya, who's busy with her ill fathe in the hospital, so we're praying for him and for her and she is open to meeting with us again soon.

Tomorrow we will be calling a number of people, to try to arrange to meet with invesitgators who have been out of town but are now back in Podulsk.

We also received a contact from the elders yesterday that we're calling today.

We have been doing A LOT of contacting, and have been doing our best to be perfectly obedient, studying all four hours, and doing our best to call on the Lord to guide us and give us courage. We were able to hand out a few Book of Mormons and church invitations as well as English invitations. We had a very good discussion with a baptist woman and gave her an invitation with the church website to clear up any false ideas she might have. 

We're just working really hard to try to have more faith and not be discouraged about being turned down. It's very hard culturally as well, because the people who do talk to us are usually elderly and start talking without letting us speak and it's very hard to get them to stop and listen, especially when neither of us are native speakers.

On Friday, we had a culture night where we went and walked around Arbastsky in Moscow and also around Red Square. We were going to go see the house of Tolstoy, but we couldn't find it, so we just walked around and took pictures of the kremlin and spent time talking with the senior couple, the Palmers, who are super sweet. We got Frosty's from Wendy's which was funny. Russia really is pretty first world, and you can find a lot of American restaurants in Moscow like Chili's and TGIF. We ate at a Russian restaurant though, that definitely didn't have the same standard of customer service. While I was waiting to go to the bathroom this man started talking to me because he saw my nametag and he told me to be careful because a Muslim holiday starts next week. He didn't seem threatening, but another girl saw me talking and she said (in fluent English) that I didn't have a license to be there preaching. I told her that we were eating and then she talked to Sister Jonhson a bit and said that she was orthodox and said that we have our own faith and she has hers. It was really interesting because without us even saying anything, she said that she knows she shouldn't drink and smoke, but she knows that she can pray to God and that He'll forgive her when she does. It was really interesting because she almost started getting emotional, and I could tell that she felt guilty about it, but she doesn't understand repetance. We didn't get to talk to her though, because she went to the restroom and we went back to our table. It's interesting though, how just seeing us obviously pricked something in her heart that made her get defensive when we were only being friendly. 

Yesterday evening, we went over to a really strong family in our branch to visit them. The mom, Luba, works for the registration for the missionary department and gets all the missionaries registered to live at their Russian addresses (In Russia, you have to have documents for pretty much everything on you at all times to be considered legal. They are way more uptight about it than in America, and they're not opposed to racial profiling and asking minorities on the streets for their documents because there are a lot of people from Stanian countries here). They have two kids, a daughter who's 25 and awesome, and a son who's married and served a mission. They really LOVE the missionaries, and fed us this huge meal and they told us about how they joined the church in Vladivostock, Russia and there were only 5 members in their branch. The members who are strong here and REALLYstrong, and it's grreat but we also feel a lot of pressure to be really good missionaries and to strengthen our branch. We're working hard though, but its' just taking time. 

Well I'm about out of time! I love you all and please write and email and pray for us that we'll find someone to teach and that our investigators will be able to meet with us!
Love, Sister Schmidt

Another week in Russia

Hello family and loved ones! 
This past week me and Sister Jonhson have seen the hand of the Lord and I've felt very blessed as I've made the transition to a new area and new trainer.

This past week we had some new developments. We were able to meet with our investigator, Albena, after English club on Wednesday. She came to church last Sunday and agreed during that time to take lessons from us. After English club on Wednesday, we met with her briefly, gave her a little bit of extra individual English practice, and then had a short lesson on prayer. She had lots of questions about the Book of Mormon, about who Moroni was, etc, which we answered but she said that she needed to finish reading it. So we were very impressed by her desire to learn more and to read the Book of Mormon of her own free will. She had questions about how we pray, after being a little confused at church, so we taught her how to pray, and afterwards she said a kneeling prayer of her own, that was very heartfelt and sincere. She agreed to meet with us again, and we are very excited for her! She was unable to attend church yesterday because she had guests and because of bad weather, but she does plan on coming to English club again, and a member named Katya has agreed to help us with the first lesson.

This past week we've continued to be diligent in our studies-all 4 hours, and to be perfectly obedient so that the Lord will bless us and help to better do His work. 
We spent quite a bit of time contacting and exploring our area, and had some amazing things happen.
Just an interesting note: we live in Podulsk-a big suburb of about 200.000, but our area covers other neighborhoods closer to Moscow that we travel to by an electric train. These neighborhoods are so intersting though, because they consist of high-rise apartment buildings and there are tons of them-so many that you're surrounded by them! What's weird though, is that they look like they belong in a city surrounded by other buildings and busy streets, but they're not! We contact a lot during the day, so even though we're surrounded by these high-rise apartments, it's really quiet and eery and there' tons of playgrounds in between. People usually take the train to commute to work and leave behind their cars, but there's not much else in these neighborhoods besides a couple of convenient stores or salons. It almost has a post-apocalyptic feel to it sometimes.

 We found a family in Silikatnaya, a husband, wife, and baby, and they were very open and friendly. The husband was very interested in coming to English club and said that he might also come to church if english club seemed normal. He had some weird beliefs about our church and polyghamy, so I took out my family photo album to clarify any misunderstandings and show him-I have one mom and one dad- and they seemed to warm up after that. The wife took a Book of Mormon as well as a family proclamation and seemed very interested. They are getting their baby baptized soon, so we are hoping and praying that they will read the Book of Mormon together and recognize the truth. 
We also found a man on the street who stopped us because he saw our name tags and that we were smiling. He was very impressed with our beliefs and took a Book of Mormon and promised to read it. Another man also agreed to take a Book of Mormon, and promied to read it as well.
The Lord really blessed us on Saturday, with a miracle during contacting! The weather was horrible and storming and raining, but we went out anyways and took a bus to a stop and got off and decided to just start walking. During this time, I had the strangest feeling that we needed to be going to the left, and as we walked down the sidewalk in the pouring rain, Sister Johnson spotted a young woman running in high heels and a dress without an umbrella. We ran to help her with our umbrellas, which she accepted, and we ran over to where her mom worked. We started talking to her and found out that she speaks pretty good English, and she was very interested in English club. She commented on how she had seen our missionaries around and that they were always smiling and happy looking and she was very impressed with our faith and willingness to come here to Russia to be missionaries. Her mother was also very appreciative of our help and that we helped her daughter, that she invited us over to their house to give us treats and visit with us and helped to dry us off from the rain, which we accepted. They were sooo hospitable and friendly and wonderful! I've been so amazed at how kind and amazing a lot of the people here are!  At their home, they were interested to hear about how we don't drink tea, and we very respectful, including her father who is an atheist but was very friendly and respectful. The dad is a retired cop, but the mom works as a cosmetologist and was really funny and kept telling us about how we HAVE to go to St. Petersburg and showed us a family photo album of a vacation they took there. The dad gave us a Russian nesting doll of Vladimir Putin, which was hilarious and super sweet, and told us to come back and visit them any time! When we left, we were able to get the young woman, Vika's number, and she agreed to go to English club and to take a pamplet on the Plan of Salvation. I know that she has been prepared by the Lord, and that she has a heart that is prepared to hear our message. She works as an engineer in oil and gas, and is getting married in September. We also found out that their cat was named by her old boyfriend who passed away in a carwreck. She was so sweet and wonderful and was fascinated with our lives and willingness to serve as missionaries and that our faith was so impot The experience also impressed me as to how missionary work really comes when you gain access to people's hearts and get to know them as people and allow them to know that you are a real person as well.

So the work is getting better and better each day, and we are hoping that we will be able to meet with two investigators this week as well as with the people we have contacted for English club.

We met with a member last night, who has been struggling to forgive the Branch President who offended her. We did our best to help her realize that she needs to forgive him and taught her about charity and committed her to study the Atonement every day for the next month, and to learn more about Christ and  how He can help her with her trials and struggles and help her to forgive the branch president. I also promised her that I would do the same, and that when we met next time we can share together what we learned.

I've been making an effort to read from the Book of Mormon as well as the New Testament every day, because I am trying to study more the life of Christ and to study the Atonement as well. 
I know that the Lord has been answering my prayers and shown His love through the little miracles that have occurred over the past week. I've also felt that me and Sister Johnson have grown closer as a companionship this past week as well.

Language note-I still only understand about 40% of what's being said, when people don't talk too fast. I've been feeling much better though now that I have an American companion, because people talk much slower for us, that it's easier to be a part of the conversation.

Mom-thank you for sending a birthday package! I still haven't gotten it, but we're going to our senior couples house in Moscow for district meeting tomorrow, so we'll be able to stop at the central building and check the mail! I love you all and continue to pray for all of you! Cessilly-I'm so excited that the baby is doing well! I love you!
Please continue to pray for me and write me! 
Packages are always welcome as well =)

4th week in russia

Hello family and loved ones! the beginning of my time here out in the field has been WAAAY different than I expected it to be. Being out in the field is much harder than you'd ever even imagine.
So here's an update on life: after 3 tough weeks in Nizhny Novgorod, I was transfered to Pololsk and a new trainer because Sister Polyshuck is ending her mission on August 11th. I love her dearly and I treasure the time I had with her even though it was really hard at times.
But I was grateful for a loving and caring mission president and things are already much better here in Podulsk! It's a smaller suburb about 20 minutes south of Moscow. Our district took a night train from Nizhny Novgorod to Moscow last Wednesday, had zone conference which was great and I got to see Sister Carver, and then I headed off with my new trainer Sister Johnson to Podulsk that evening.

So Sister Johnson actually just ended her own training in Moscow, so she's only been in Russia for about 4 months. She's great though and is very hardworking and focused and disciplined! So things are much more structured now and better now that I have a companion and trainer who wants to do all of our studying and is very obedient about the schedule. We've been getting up and running in the morming which has been great. I know the Lord will bless us for it! It's hard though, because she''s still learning the language herself, so we're a little more on a level playing field. It does have it's advantages though. Something that's a HUGE cultural difference here is that Russians LOVE to talk....seriously.....once they start going you can end up listening to them for 30 minutes. I'm not sure if its because they were oppressed for so long and didn't really have a voice of their own, but it can be really hard because a lot of people, especially the elderly, feel like they need to teach you and lecture you and it's hard to establish that relationship that we are here as representatives and missionaries. I've realized people in America, when it comes to home teaching or whatever else, are much more business-like and formal when you meet with them and it's much easier for people to listen to you and wait. Here, which I really think is just the cultural mentality, don't have the same manners and formalities and its not impolite to interrupt or to talk over people or go on forever. So we're going to have to work hard on that.
Our apartment in Podulsk is really nice, obviously not as nice as the one I had, but I'm still vey grateful for it. Podulsk isn't quite as picturesque as Nizhny and doesn't have all of the beautiful churches, because its more of a suburb and neighborhood setup, but the ward here is absolutely fantastic and super strong! The branch president seems really nice and the families are all really strong and a lot of the younger adults have served missions and speak English. Our first couple of days were a little rough because we're still adjusting to each other and neither of us know the language perfectly, so we spent a lot of time contacting, which is much harder since we're not native speakers. But we did have a potential investigator named Albena come to church on Sunday. She's a middle-aged woman who has some ideas that she needs to straighten out (like Russia being the holy land), but she has a Book of Mormon that she has wrapped in a book cover and took notes over everything during church-even the names of the hymns we sang! There's a young member named Katya who was really helpful and another convert, a middle-aged woman named Nadyezhda who talked to her and they got her to agree to meet with us after English club on Wednesday. It was so helpful, because she's interested in the church and the word of wisdom and is reading the Book of Mormon, but didn't know why she needed to meet with us for discussions. So please pray for us that that will go well! Right now the work is really slow because during the summer, most Russians go away to their dachas or summer homes or to the sea, so its hard for both the wards and the work, but things should hopefully pick up. 

Yesterday was my 23rd birthday (How is that possible?!!!) but it was interesting how I didn't really seem to care of even mind. It's true that when you're set apart, you really are set apart to a higher plane of thought, because I've been amazed and so grateful that I haven't really missed any of the worldly distractions like music and movies or wanting a birthday party. It's a little hard sometimes out in public though, because they do play a lot of American music in malls and on the bus. By the way....the public transportation in Russia is pretty much the most hilarious thing to get adjusted to. I've spent the past three weeks holding on for dear life in crowded buses with crazy drivers and people staring at you like an alien. But I've learned to laugh at it and just enjoy the experience. Anyways, so my companion was super sweet and made a really nice chicken dinner and brownies for my birthday yesterday and sang happy birthday to me. Then Sister Carver called me from where she is in Moscow and sang me happy birthday. So I was happy with my birthday.

At zone conference on Wednesday, I got a TON of letters-from grandma Azbill, from Julie and Emily, and from family! Thank you sooo much and please keep writing! I'll write some letters today and since its pday see if I can find any postcards. 

Anyways, I'm glad everything at home sounds good! You are all always in my prayers! Please pray for me and Sister Johnson that we will be able to understand people and talk to them. I've had a bit of a rough beginning to my mission....I want from being with a native speaker but in a very unstable situation due to health issues, and now I'm in a very structured hard-working situation, but neither of us know the language very well. I'm grateful that I was on the 3 month program at the MTC, because Sister Jonhson was on the pilot program, and we both realized that those last couple of weeks were really important, because I spent that time actually learning a lot about the cases and things we zipped through, because the language really doesn't come along that quick like people say because people talk SO fast, so it's really up to you to learn the grammar because it is SO important in Russian in order for people to understand you! And once people understand you better, they can focus more on our message. But I know that the Spirit is really what teaches people in the end and the Lord will bless us. I'm trying to maintain a positive outlook on everything.
Please pray for me! By the way, your letters all actually got to me very quickly! I think it took about 15 days or so!
Love you and please write more!
-Sister Schmidt