Monday, September 3, 2012

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

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