Monday, September 3, 2012
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!