Monday, November 5, 2012

new pics from Russia

Happy belated Halloween!!

Hello family and loved ones and happy (belated) Halloween!
Austin and Cessily: congratulations on your new baby boy! Love you guys and miss you and please send pictures!

So as you've all probably heard, this past week in Mocow, there were protests against the church.
Finding people to teach is always a strugge but those protests actually didn't seem to be a big deal. In Russia, organizations will actually pay people money to hold signs and picket. One of the members told us that on tv a reporter asked the group of people that were protesting in Moscow what they were protesting and they said "I don't know..."
How ridiculous is that?!!
Podulsk, the city I'm in has always been pretty hard though. We've been doing a lot of work with the members and inactive members, working to strengthen them and help them get active again. Tonight, we're going to visit a less active family of three generations of women, and they're showing us how to prepare borsch, which we're super pumped about! The youngest, Veronika is super sweet and is pretty active and usually comes to church. Her mom has epilepsy and can't work, so she takes care of their great grandma who is in the hopspital so she can't come to church on Sunday. Then the grandma has to work on Sunday to support the family. So they have a really hard situation, but they're the sweetest family and they have this really cute dog that gets excited every time we come over! 

Finding new people in Podulsk is pretty hard. When people hear that you're not orthodox they think you're a cult and that you were for money or something. But not everyone. Usually younger or more progressive people are more open and interested. We've actually had a lot of people ask us questions when they find out we're mormon. A lot of them say, "Hey mitt romney, who might be your president, is mormon!"
So that's actually been a good thing.

So we actually have a couple of really good potential investigators that we're working with. One of them is a fourteen year old girl named Natasha, who is really shy and sweet. We've been meeting with her every week for a little over a month and doing 30 minutes of English practice, and then 30 minutes of a spiritual thought or short lesson. Her dad is also meeting with the elder and comes to english club every week. I'm not sure how happy of a home situation they have though. We actually gave Natasha a Book of Mormon last time we met with her and she actually read the introduction and the testimonies of the witnesses! She actually seems to have a fairly good understanding, and actually prayed with us the last time we met with her! We've been taking things slow with her since she's so young and shy and we don't want to overwhelm her, but she seems pretty open to everything we've taught her so far! 
So we're actually planning on inviting her to church this next week, because transfers are the week after and we're pretty sure it will be either me or sister Johnson's last Sunday, since we've both been here for about three months.

How are things going with the election?!!!! When is the actual day that it's decided?

I love you guys and I'm glad to hear that you're all doing well!

This past week was Halloween and it was COLD-below freezing-and it snowed and there was about an inch sticking to the ground! People here don't celebrate Halloween. But they all know about it. Halloween was Wednesday, the night we have English club, so our senior couple the cooks brought candy and decorations and we talked with them about what we do on Halloween and it was fun. Apparently in Russia, they celebrate Christmas on January 7th, according to the orthodox calendar, and they actually call it "New Years". So they celebrate Christmas and New Years on the same day. They have a santa clause and Christmas trees also, but the kids will actually go around and knock on people's doors and sing Christmas carols and then people will give them candy. So its almost like News Years is a three in one holiday kind of thing.

During English club on Halloween Wednesday, we actually had three new girls come to English club and they all stayed for the spiritual thought. 2 of them were teenage girls, and one of them was really sweet and polite but her friend kept coming and going during the spiritual thought. We got the nice one, Tanya's number. There was also a woman named Liliya who came because she found the English club invite at her work. She's 24, an engineer, and seems to be looking for friends because she only moved to the area two months ago. She can speak a little bit of English because she has American friends, and she wants to travel. She was super sweet and I got her number and she also stayed for the spiritual thought! She ended up texting  us on Saturday and we met with her to do 30 minutes of English practice and 30 minutes of a spiritual thought. The 50/50 deal is a really good way to ease people into investigator status because it helps you to befriend them and meet with them and then over time they can become more interested in the gospel. We felt so bad, because she was thinking that we could maybe go into Moscow, but we had to explain to her that we can't leave our area and go to Moscow unless we have special missionary conferences or are getting mail. We talked a little about movies, and I felt so bad because she said "Maybe we can go see the new Twilight together!" So we also had to explain about how as missionaries we only watch church movies and only use the internet to email our family once a week so we can stay focused on the work. We actually found out that she's Muslim, but she's not very devout. We gave her a brief overview of the restoration and she actually asked us how we pray, so we got to explain to her how we pray directly to Heavenly Father using our own words and in the name of Jesus Christ. She's planning on continuing to come to English club and hopeully meet with us. We're thinking of asking one of our young-single adult members Katya, who also comes to English club, to invite Liliya to F.H.E. in Moscow and to other young single adult activities so she can make friends.
Love you all!
-Sister Schmidt

Mission President emails family

Dear Parents of our wonderful Moscow Mission sisters and elders, 

You may have picked up some mention in news media of an organized protest against the Church in Moscow today (November 1) at 11:00 a.m. local time.  This will occur in Moscow and some of the other large cities, although none in any of the other cities in our mission. 

It isn't known how many will participate, and this will likely not present any major concern, but in an abundance of caution, the Area Presidency has directed that we have our missionaries in Moscow stay indoors tomorrow. We wanted to let you know that all of our missionaries are safe and sound, and that there is no cause for worry in the event that you hear of the protests. 

We love our missionaries, and thank you sincerely for raising such a daughter or son. They serve nobly and faithfully. We wish that you could see them in action. 

If you ever have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us. May the Lord continue to bless you in every endeavor. 

Stephen and Corinne Sorenson 
Russia Moscow Mission

Oct 22, 2012

Hello to all!
I'm sorry I didn't send an email last week! Everything is fine, I just ran out of time! But, the weekend before this past, we got to watch general conference in English up in Moscow at the central building. Was conference amazing or what?!!!! I'm pretty sure it was the best conference I've ever listened to. I loved how many speakers talked about Christ and his apostles, especially Elder Holland's talk. I loved how he talked about how Christ asked Peter three times if he loved him. After Christ's death, Peter and the apostles had no idea what to do, so they just simply went back to fishing because it's what they were doing before. It made me think about the things in life that aren't important or other silly distractions or "nets" that I don't want to return to after I get back from my mission. So conference was amazing.

Can you believe it's almost Halloween?!!! Crazy! We're planning on having a Halloween party for district meeting next week with our senior couple, and we're planning on talking about Halloween during English club. Russians don't really celebrate it here, so it will be fun to try to explain it to them!

So yesterday I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting on the Atonement! I got through it and everyone told me I did a good job afterwards. The hardest thing about Russian (besides the cases) is trying to make sure when you speak that you put the right stresses on the right syllable, and without an American accent. If you don't put the stresses in the right place, then people don't understand you. Which can be frustrating, especially when you feel like you can understand a lot more than you can say. But the language is coming along.

This past week me and Sister Johnson actually had a lot of success with handing out Book of Mormons. We found a woman while contacting yesterday who told us that she had heard that Mormons live a clean and pure life and that she didn't know we were in Podulsk. She accepted a Book of Mormon, and I tried to get her contact, but she said she only had her husband's number. She was completely lucid and seemed very open-minded and reasonable and actually had a conversation with us instead of lecturing us on why Pravoslavni is better. I have faith and hope that she will call us and we'll pray that we run into her again! 

Me and Sister Johnson got to go on a split this past week with Sokolniki sisters in Moscow. I was able to help Sister Savchuk (she trained my MTC companion Sister Carver) teach a lesson to their progressing investigator Liliya, who has a baptismal date! She's apparently known about the church for years but thought that you had to be BORN to Mormon parents in order to be Mormon! So she's amazing and soooo prepared! We taught the Word of Wisdom and some other commandments and me and Sister Savchuck were suprised when we found out that she doesn't drink any coffee or tea and that she only drinks water! She is super prepared and it was such a tender mercy to have a lesson with an investigator who is progressing, especially considering how slow things have been in Podulsk.

Me and Sister Johnson had another little miracle this past week. We went into Moscow on Monday to listen to Sister Lawrence (she's the wife of area President Lawrence and was giving a talk on the godhead) . While we were at the train station waiting for our train, we ended up running into Jane (Zhenya), one of our old investigators who has been busy with school and hasn't been able to meet with us or even come to English club! We were able to talk to her for a bit and just let her know that we love and miss her and would love to visit with her whenever she has time. So that was a pretty neat litte experience.

Me and Sister Johnson met with Natasha to do 50/50 again on Friday. For the spiritual thought, we watched the Restoration film. The elders also met with her dad in a different room and gave him a Book of Mormon. When they were getting ready to go, she saw the Book of Mormon and picked it up! So she is definitely curious and a very sweet girl. We're going to try this next week to talk more about the Book of Mormon and see if she would be interested in meeting with us as an investigator for a lesson.

We also met with some less-actives, a young mother and her daughter-Sveta and Snyezhana. Sveta has been a member for 10 years and has a very strong testimony and a sound understanding of the doctrine. Her husband is also a member who's from Spain, but right now he has to live in Spain to get his documents sorted out and to learn Russian. So right now they have to live apart and it's a HUGE trial for them, but they're very committed and have a goal of getting sealed in the temple despite their obstacles. Sveta is wonderful and speaks English and wants us to try to help her daughter with English as well. We met Saturday and talked about the importance of keeping convenants and to talk about General Conference.
She has to work some Sundays, but was going to church while she was in Spain with her husband. Apparently she's been offended by some of the members here in Podulsk who have said some things to her that she found hurtful and insensitive when she said she couldn't clean the branch. We told her in a very loving way though that it's more important to keep her convenants and that she can remember the goal she and her husband have of going to the temple and that she needs to be going to church and taking the sacrament. She ended up coming on Sunday, which was wonderful and even participate in relief society. We're going to continue trying to meet with them each week!

So apparently the church has the addiction and recovery program here in Russia, but there's only a meeting up in northern ward in Moscow. But it's been successful and you can actually use it as a contacting method by asking people if they want to quite smoking or drinking. I've been thinking about it a lot, considering how alcoholism is RAMPANT in Russia, and especially in Podulsk where I'm serving. Me and Sister Johnson are going to try to call the Bices (the senior couple that runs the program up in Moscow) sometime this week and also talk to our ward during ward council about the possibility of having a night where Sister Bices comes and talks about the addiction recovery program.That way we can get the branch involved and try to do as much advertising for it as possible. I was also able to get a couple of service activity ideas from Sister Storm who I talked with while I was on a split in Kahovsky. There is an retirement home nearby the branch where the Storms have done service projects, so we're going to try to talk to our branch about possibly doing a project there.

We're trying to get creative and see different ways to get people to know about the church. Podulsk has certainly been a refining fire experience, but I'm grateful for this opportunity, a wonderful companion, and an amazing branch. This week Sister Johnson has the idea of possibly doing a standing finding activity geared towards families.

Shout out to Cessily-have you had the baby yet? Have you guys found out if its a boy or a girl yet? I've been praying for you guys!

Thank you Grandma Azbill for your letter and THANK YOU TONS to Mom, Dad, Anna, and Johnny for all of your letters! I always feel so spoiled because you guys send me so many letters! 

I love you all and pray for all of you! Please keep me updated on how things are back in America and with what's going on with the Romeny campaign!
Love, Sister Schmidt

Oct 8, 2012

Hey family! Sorry if my emails are ever a little weird. Sometimes I actually just copy and paste parts of my letter to President Sorenson and then edit and add bits in when I do my mass email, but I think sometimes I forget to take things out.
So this past week was my first visa trip and a bit of a slow week but still full of some neat little miracles regardless! 

We had a pretty slow week and tried calling all of our investigators as well as our inactives, but nobody was able to arrange anything. So we did lots of contacting. On Monday, we had a pretty neat experience in the evening. As we were walking around a sea of high-rise apartment buildings trying to find people, a man started talking to us from his window on the second story. We ended up talking to him for about 10 minutes which was funny because we were just standing looking up and he was talking from outside his window. He was wondering what we were doing wondering around and if we were new neighbor because apparently all of the apartment buildings in that area are brand-new and he's the only one in his podyezd. He ended up coming down into the street and talked to us for a long time because he was interested in talking to Americans. We talked to him about the Book of Mormon and English club, but he said he wasn't a believing person but was very kind and said he didn't want to offend us. He has a wife and family, but they haven't moved into the apartment yet, so he seeme to just be a lonely guy but wasn't being creepy or anything bad. He ended up calling us and we tried to arrange for the elders to visit him but they weren't able to reach him. But we're going to try checking back again when his wife has moved there.

On Thursday before the visa trip we had some cool experiences while we were contacting at Seelekatnaya, the station before Podulsk. We ended up running into a babyshka who was very friendly and very believing and it turns out her son was meeting with the missionaries. She ended up taking a church pamphlet but didn't want to come to church because it was "too far". 

I really enjoyed the visa trip and getting to see all of the Sisters and Elders I came in with and my old companion and district. We spent the night at President Sorenson's home which was fun because it was like a big slumber party with all of my friends from the MTC and Sister Sorenson had peanut butter for us which doesn't exist in Russia!

For some reason, since coming to Russia I've developed a bit of anxiety when it comes to flying which never bothered me back home in America. I think because my first experience going to Kiev was a little scary and my first companion told me that Russians use expired airplanes. I know now that this isn't true though, because Sister Cook (from our Senior couple) told me after district meeting that Aeroflot (the Russian airline) is actually owned and a part of Delta and that they have the least crashes of any airline in Russia.

 Our flight into Riga was a little scary though. We were on air baltic and a boeing which made me feel safe, but the landing coming in was REALLY REALLY scary because it was raining and cloudy. Instead of the plane slowly descending or circling around, the pilot literally shot STRAIGHT through the clouds and turbulence and landed really roughly and abruptly on the runway. I was shocked by how close we were to the ground when he was still going very fast and w as on the very on a panic attack. It was the worst landing I have ever been on and pretty scary, but I was grateful to be sitting next to Sister Welch from my MTC district because she held my hand and told me everything would be okay and it was. I also got a blessing from my district leader before leaving for the trip. So besides a bit of a harrowing first landing everything was fine. So I know that the Lord was protecting us and guiding us . The second flight was on an aeroflot plane and the landing was perfectly smooth and safe. So I joked after the fact that the second landing was like a landing from President Uchtdorf and the first landing was like a landing from Satan! HAhahaha! =D We got to spend two hours in the Riga, Latvia airport whcih was SO nice because I felt like I was in Western Europe and everybody was nice and spoke English. Russia really is WAY different from Western Europe, but I still love it.

On Friday, on the way back to Podulsk after the visa trip we talked to a really nice older gentleman who was with his grandson. I gave him a family proclamation and we ended up talking for a long time. I thought it was funny when I told him that I'm from Texas and he mentioned that he gets his steak imported from Texas and I told him that we have the best! =D
He was very nice and actually spoke some English and was very interested in the church because of the election and he knows that Mitt Romney is LDS. We mentioned that we can't talk about politics but he did take a Book of Mormon and we invited him to church. So that was another tender mercy.

We've noticed that more people have seemed pretty interested and been mentioning things about Mitt Romney. So it will be exciting to see how the election effects missionary work here in Russia. I was very excited to hear the announcement that sisters can now serve at 19 and it's crazy to know that I might be serving with some 19 year olds, but also exciting.

Things are still really slow. We found out from Sister Cook in our senior couple that pparently there's some stuff that's been going on in Russia with protests against Putin and stuff. Apparently this popular band went into a huge church in Moscow back in August and started playing music and said a "prayer" for God to save Russia from Putin. They ended up getting sent to jail and will be in jail for two years. Some time after that, Madonna came to Russia for a concert and at some point she had something written on her that said "Free this band!" with their name on her. So she ended up getting escorted out of the country. It was interesting to learn that because when me and Sister Johnson first got here back in August, I felt like people were more friendly and open to talking to us, but then when it got into September things started slowing down and people seemed to get a lot meaner. It might also be because the school year started and the summer is ending. It's crazy because now the sun goes down at like 7 and it wouldn't go down until after 9pm when I first got here! The sun also would rise at around 5 in the summer and now doesn't come up until about 7 or 8. 

It's been pretty rainy and gloomy here and has been pretty chilly-probably in the 40's and 30's. Nothing  crazy yet though. I still haven't gotten my winter coat but probably will sometime this month because that's when things start to get pretty cold apparently.

We also explored our area this past week and went to a station called "Chexob" which we hadn't visited yet. We went on Saturday with the elders and the assistants were with us. It was really great to have the assistants with us and really helped having their examples to push ourselves to talk to everyone. We ended up getting a number of a woman named Valya and giving her a Book of Mormon and invited her to church.
Other than that, this past week was pretty slow and it's been a struggle to find people and to arrange appointments. Yesterday me and Sister Johnson fasted to find new people to teach, so we really want to work hard to devoting our efforts this next week to finding new people.

Love you all and please keep writing and sending letters and emails!
Love, Sister Schmidt

Oct 1, 2012

Hello loved ones! I can hardly believe its alrady October!
So this is officially the last week of my second transfer in the fireld and the last week of my training, meaning that I've been in Russia for 3 months! Crazy! 
I found out from President Sorenson that me and Sister Johnson will be staying here in Podulsk for another transfer, which is a relief because I get to stay in the same area and I'm not training, which gives me more time to learn the language.

This week I also have my first visa trip. Our visas are only good for three months, so every three months they fly us to Latvia and back to Russia and have us swap our passports and get a new immigration card. I'm a little nervous about the trip because I remember how nervous I was when I flew to Kiev and back with my last companion. The first plane we took was a Russian plane that wasn't a Boeing and it seemed a little shaky and creeky. Please pray that we will be safe and that the plane and the pilot will be safe and guided! I know that I just need to have faith and that the Lord protects his missionaries, but it still makes me a little nervous...

On Saturday when we were out contacting, we went across a bridge here in Podulsk to this area that looked like a park, which actually turned out to be where Lenin's summer cottage is. So that was an interesting surprise. 

Our zone leaders came down to Podulsk on Thursday and helped our district with contacting and It ended up being a very effective finding activity and Sister Johnson was able to get a contact from a woman named Lena, and we also were able to give the elders a contact we received from a man.

This past week we've been trying to get in touch with all of our investigators to meet with them, and we called and got in touch with a couple of them. Our investigator Zhenya-Jane-who used to come to English club but is very much into Hari Krishna is busy right now with univesity, but we've been trying to call her regularly to let her know that we love her and haven't forgotten about her.

We were able to meet with a girl named Natasha again this week, who's the daughter of one of our English club attendees-Vassilly. We did 50/50 with her again and had a short spiritual thought with her. She is orthodox and very sweet but shy, but we're working on befriending her and having her become more comfortable with me and Sister Johnson and easing her into hearing about the gospel. So time will just have to tell.

This past week we also were able to meet with one of our inactives named Sasha. We were alarmed when she called us and told us that she couldn't go to church because she didn't have lots of money, so we met with her Thursday night to help clear up her concern and help her understand a little bit better about tithing and the other commandments and that she doesn't have to pay to come to church. We had a member, Irina, come with us and she was super helpful because they're friends and have both been members for years. So we were able to clear up her concern and she said afterwards that she was happy we came over and that she felt better. We're really happy with Sasha because each time we meet with her, our lessons have gotten better and better and she seems to understand more and more. We just have to keep visiting her and inviting her to come to church on Sunday and still plan on reteaching her the lessons and getting her active again.

On Sunday we had branch council and after church we were able to meet with Irina for a spiritual thought and to discuss some of our investigators who she's helped us with on lessons. She's very stalwart and very enthusiastic about missionary work and we're very happy that she seems to have finally forgiven the branch president for something that offended her, because she came to branch council and has been coming to church every week and been more involved. We are planning this week on phoning an old investigator named Alexandra, who met with the missionaries a couple of times and is a Jehovah's Witness, but seems open to hearing about the gospel.

We also have this really young single adult named Katya who's really awesome and always wants to help us on lessons. She's one of the members who knows English, and she actually stayed with us after church on Sunday to help us with Russian and pronounciation, which was suuuuper helpful!

I feel like I have developed a lot of good friendships and relationships with the branch members and love our little branch here in Podulsk. This upcoming Sunday I'll be teaching gospel principles and the branch president has also asked me to speak in church on October 21, which I am more than happy to do, but please pray for me that I will be able to have the gift of tongues!

On Saturday night I had a really amazing experience while we were traveling on the bus. I was sitting and a man noticed my name tag and read it out loud to a woman who he was with. I said hello to them and he started asking me and my faith and what we believed. It turns out that he is actually a pastor or priest of some sort and we ended up talking for about 20 minutes! I gave him a restoration pamphlet and talked to him about the Book of Mormon, and he actually has a friend who is LDS and serving a mission in Ukraine! We had a really amazing conversation and he said that he respected that we were out preaching the gospel. I explained the apostasy to him, which he agreed with, and then he asked me some questions about the godhead and about when I think the second coming will be. I had him read Moroni 10:3-5 and tried to give him the Book of Mormon, but he is convinced that you only need to read the Bible. I told him about the church website and about how through Joseph Smith and living prophets we have continued revelation, which he was interested to hear.

 His name was Nikolai and he was with his sister named Nona, and they were both very nice and friendly. It was a miracle because I felt completely comfortable and literally felt like my tongue was loosed and that I was able to talk to him in understandable Russian. Sister Johnson was nearby listening and said afterwards that she was praying the whole time that he wasn't a creep and that I would feel comfortable and have the gift of tongues. 

I invited them to church as well as to English club, but didn't get his number before we got off the bus, so we're hoping and praying that they will call us.

So I was very grateful for that experience and tender mercy.

. Even though things have been pretty slow in Podulsk, I have been feeling pretty happy lately and know that the medicine has been helping. I'm still working on developing the faith to work miracles and to notice all of the blessings I am surrounded with, and me and Sister Johnson are definitely unified in wanting to be perfectly obedient and to work hard.

Thank you for everything that you do for us as always and for taking the time to read every letter.

Sincerely, Sister Schmidt

Sept 24, 2012

Hello family and loved ones!

So it's never a dull week in Russia let me tell you....

As you may have heard from Luba....we had a slight incident with the police on Saturday while we were district contacting. The four of us decided to do district contacting by singing hymns and handing out invitations and Book of Mormons. Well apparently in Russia it's illegal for more than two people to sing in public because it's considered a "performance" and they're currently having lots of protests in Moscow against Putin and some other stuff going on.
We had a box set up with some Book of Mormons and just me and Sister Johnson and Elder Everrett were singing while Elder Lyons was passing out invitations, which a lot of people were taking. After about twenty minutes though, two policemen showed up and asked us for documentation that we could sing in public.
In Russia as missionaries, you always have to have your passport and immigration card carried on you, but we have pouches that we carry hidden around our waists. If the police ask for your passport though, we're only supposed to give them a copy of a scan we have of it along with our visa and we all have a little booklet that we carry that has a copy of their law saying we can proselyte in their country. So we each gave them our copies. At first I was freaking out, and was on the verge of REALLY freaking out when they asked us to get in the back of their car to go to the station with them. Luckily for us though, the woman who is in charge of our registration and all of the legal stuff is in our ward and lives on the station where we were contacting. Her name is Luba and her and her family LOVE the missionaries, so she's basically like a momma hen and takes care of us if the police or drunk people or anybody else tries to mess with the missionaries or if anybody knocks on your door.

 So we called Luba first and Elder Everrett had to make sure to get the cops' badge numbers before we would go with them. They were actually really nice cops though and weren't super scary. They just didn't know what the heck we were doing. So the four of us squeezed into the back of the cop car, which was hilarious. We ended up just waiting in the lobby of the station for two hours while Luba talked to them and explained that we didn't know it wasn't allowed. She ended up signing some papers for us, which she did because she said you have to be careful and not sign anything they try to get you to sign because you could incriminate yourself or someone else or something else really corrupt....While we were at the station, they just made us wait in the lobby but there was a man in the back in a cell who kept yelling at the police to let him out, so they sprayed some weird gas that made all of start having coughing fits to try to make hit be quiet. So that was pretty much the scariest part of it. It was an interesting experience and everything turned out fine thanks to Luba and I know that the Lord wouldn't let anything bad happen to us. And afterwards Luba took us all over to her house and fed us, which was super nice of her.

As far as the work goes, things in Podulsk have been quite a challenge for me and Sister Johnson as we are both very new in our missions and both struggle to understand the language. I love Sister Johnson and we're both committed to being 100% obedient and to work hard, but it's definitely a challenge to find new people in Podulsk to teach.

This past week we tried calling all of our investigators multiple times but none of them called us back. We had a lesson with a member present set up with our investigator Rosa, who had agreed to be baptized last month, but she didn't show up or answer when we called to touch base with her.

We did however, receive a contact on Saturday from a woman who the Palmers referred to us. Her name is Sonya and she works at a sharma stand at Tsareestana and has been reading the Book of Mormon. We also gave her a restoration DVD and I asked her for her number, which she gave us. So we will be calling her this week to try to set something up with her. We also visited a woman who works at a drycleaners that the Palmers also told us about and she has actually read the entire Book of Mormon. We stopped by and also gave her a restoration DVD, but weren't able to get her number because she had customers. But we will stop by again this week.

Another promising development is that we got a referral from a member. She's a young woman named Luba who is his employee and has struggled with health problems recently. She's interestested in English, so we called her after he gave us her number yesterday and she's coming to English club, so we'll try talking to and befriending her then and help ease her into possibly meeting with us.

Despite other cancellations, this week me and Sister Johnson had a really good lesson with an inactive named Sasha. It's usually a challenge to get her to listen, but she was very receptive and we reviewed the plan of Salvation with her.

I'm pretty much out of time but I love all of you and pray for all of you! Please pray that me and Sister Johnson will find someone new to teach this week!
Love, Sister Schmidt

Sept 17 10`2

Hey loved ones!
So it's crazy to believe I've been in Russia for almost 3 months! In three weeks I'll be done with my training, which is crazy. I'm not sure if I'm going to stay here in Podulsk with Sister Johnson or if I'm going to get transferred somewhere else. Right now it is fall/autumn in Podulsk and it is absolutely beautiful because the leaves on the trees have changed colors and are red and orange. Podulsk is actually really a cute little suburb and has a lot of old, European looking buildings and nice parks with families, where we usually walk to to contact.

This past week me and Sister Johnson had a new development. We were finally able to meet with an investigator named Cbetlana who has been away at her dacha during the summer and who we've tried calling and to drop by before. We were able to meet with her last Monday and she ended up being the sweetest lady. She had met with the missionaries and had been a regular at English club. She's in her 30's, has two really cute sons, and her husband is Muslim and from Kazhackstan.
Apparently she was progressing slowly before when she was meeting with the sisters.
She invited us over to her apartment and we visited and asked her why she initially started investigating the church and she said that it was because she knew that we were good people and that she wanted to be like us.

She said that she hadn't been reading any of the Book of Mormon, so we read 1st Nephi together and then retaught her most of the Restoration. We helped clear up a concern that she had about the church being established, because we helped clarify for her that Joseph Smith restored the same church that existed when Christ was on the earth. She agreed to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, and we should be meeting with her again this week.

She was super sweet and gave us herbal tea and cookies and I also got to try cow tongue which was actually didn't taste too bad, pretty much like roast beef, but the texture was kind of funky. I ate a couple of bites so it wouldn't offend her.

We also had a meeting with our investigator Kosenya, which was very interesting because she's Russian, but her husband is Nigerian and a Jehovah's Witness. He just got back to Russia last week from being gone in Nigeria for months, and when we called to meet with her, she said that he also wanted to meet with us and "discuss" more about the Bible. Me and Sister Johnson were both a little worried that he was just going to want to Bible bash, so we prayed about it a lot as the days approached. We wanted to meet with them at the Podulsk branch, but her husband didn't want to, so we ended up meeting on Saturday night on a park bench.
He was very nice and actually speaks perfect English as his first language, so we actually got to teach and speak in English which was really nice because our heads weren't spinning are hurting at the end of it. We didn't end up having a formal lesson but more of a discussion. He didn't try to fight or argue, but he said that he was raised as a Jehovah's Witness and that he is very strong in his faith, and that his family is upset with him for marrying someone outside of his faith.
We discussed the Bible and Christ a bit, and agreed on the role of Christ, but like all the other Jehovah Witnesses, he was very insist that Heavenly Father's name is actually Jehovah.

We showed him the Book of Mormon, talked about the apostasy, and then talked about Joseph Smith and the first vision as well as the history of the Book of Mormon. He was very disturbed when we said that the Bible did not contain the fullness of the gospel. In the end, he didn't agree to take a Book of Mormon, but we did invite them to church and he wants to meet again with us and Kosenya. It was very friendly and not hostile like we were worried it might be, but I'm not sure how well this bodes for us meeting with Kosenya by herself again. It seems that he's trying to get her to become a Jehovah's Witness and that if she meets with us, he wants to come as well. He also wants to  come to English club with her as well. He said that he was very happy that we are out preaching the gospel and the word of God, and we feel that if he softens his heart, that he could potentially be a very strong member. So we will just have to see.

This past week we also met with two inactive members. One was Sasha, who we've met with twice but who hasn't been to church in a while. We watched the Restoration film together and committed her to come to church and continue reading the Book of Mormon every day. We were very happy when she ended up coming to church yesterday, stayed for all 3 hours, paid tithing, and then even stayed for a family history class after church was over. We are going to continue meeting with her and try to use family history as a way to help reactivate her and give her a goal of going to the temple, when we meet with her this week.

We were also able to meet with another inactive mother and daughter who have been gone in Spain for the summer. The wife remarried a Spanish member who is active, but right now they are having to live in seperate countries until their papers get sorted out, which is really hard and a big trial for her. We met with her and listened to part of President Uchtdof's talk "Forget me Not" and also asked her to come to church on Sunday with her daughter, who we are going to continue to meet with to help prepare to get baptized since she is 8. The mom, Sveta, feels forgotten and unsupported by the ward and was offended when the branch president forgot that she got remarried. So we are trying to help her come back to church and to strengthen her relationship with Christ through prayer.

Me and Sister Johnson also received a very promising contact from a woman named Valentina on the street, who took a restoration DVD as well as a Book of Mormon and wants to come to English club. We've called her and should hopefully be able to meet with her again this week.

Things overall are going pretty good here in Podulsk. We're still trying to meet with Rosa, who had a baptismal date and continue to call her and invite her to church each week. We continue to pray for all of our investigators, do all of our studying, and are working hard to try to strengthen our branch and find new people!

Oh, something HILARIOUS that happened yesterday: this woman came to the branch during sacrament meeting and asked if we had an "holy water" because her hair is going grey and she wants it be the horrible orange that apparently is in fashion here with all the other grandmas. One of the members had to explain to her that we don't have any and that we don't give our consecrated oil. Apparently she's asked the elders before for a blessing for her greying hair and she also asked them one time to kill her cat because she's not allowed to have it in her apartment. But they said no of course. 
I thought I reached the point where nothing really shocks me here any more, but I guess I was wrong!
Cultural note: Russia is the land of BAD haircuts. Seriously, the mullet is still going strong here and the gradmas love carrot red hair and purple.

I love and pray for you all! Thank you for your letters and emails and support!
Love, Sister Schmidt

Sept 10 2012

Hello family and loved ones!
Me and Sister Johnson are doing well, despite having 4 cancellations within the past 3 days. We continue to strive to be perfectly obedient and to remain focused. We were grateful for zone conference Friday and that it helped to spiritually recharge our batteries. Mission conference was great and I got to see Sister Carver and Sister Welch from my MTC district as well as the Sisters from Nizhny. President Sorenson challenged us to read the Book of Mormon together as a mission starting on September 17th and to focus on faith to perform miracles. I finished the Book of Mormon in the MTC and am in Alma 43 and trying to finish it again, so I'm going to try to see if I can finish it before we start again, but that would require me to read 30 pages a day and I don't think I have time, besides personal study and occasionally on the train traveling. But we'll see.

We did have a couple of little miracles that happened. We always take this train called the Electrishka from Podulsk to Moscow, where we take the Metro to the Central Building. The electrishka is always interesting because you see all sorts of people and people try to go in between the carts selling stuff, and there are always people that run whenever they come to check tickets, even though it only costs half a dollar. On the train ride home from conference back down to Podulsk, the train was literally JAMMED PACK full of people, which I couldn't help but to laugh at how ridiculous it was. I'm pretty sure it probably would be breaking about 10 different laws and fire codes in America to allow that many people shoved up against each other in a train. I just started laughing because of how ridiculous it was and every once in a while I have those moments where I have to go..."Yup....this is Russia....."

I had my package (thanks mom!) as well as my purse and a Book of Mormon. I put the Book of Mormon on top of my package face-up as we were waiting for a stop. A girl saw the BOM and asked me if she could buy it, so I proceeded to tell her it was free and bore my testimony and gave her a little bit of background information. She was very curious about when it was written, so I told her. Before I could ask her for her phone number though, it was our stop and we had to leave, but there's one more Book of Mormon out in the world and she has our number. It was really cool though so pray that she'll read it and call us! 
Me and Sister Johnson were also able to get in touch with an investigator who was gone the whole summer but was progressing before, and she called us three times on Friday and we should be meeting with her hopefully tonight. So we were very excited that she was so eager to get in touch with us.

Another story about the electrishka: I had a bit of a scare on Saturday night. When we were about to get onto the train, I stepped with my right foot onto the train, but my left foot missed and I fell in between the space between the train and the platform. Luckily, a man helped me back up and there wasn't any damage done besides a big bruise on my thigh, but I'm grateful to the Lord that nothing worse happened and know that He is protecting me. Never a dull ride on the electrishka though! One of the Elders here in Podulsk who's really thin actually fell underneath a train in Nizhny, my last area, and he pulled himself back out before it took off. So I was grateful that didn't happen to me and never thought I would be grateful for the fact that I'm not thin.

On Saturday we had a ward picnic out in the Russian woods which were BEAUTIFUL and our branch had Russian shish kabobs which are delicious! Sometimes I just have to laugh at how crazy life is, because we go from being in Podulsk, to being out in these beautiful woods, and then later were in Moscow, the biggest city in Europe. We invited a lot of people and all of our investigators to the picnic, but it was mostly just our branch, and then a friend of Irina's came, who's a non-member but not interested in the church. I tried to show her a Book of Mormon during the spiritual thought, but she very kindly turned me down. But she knows that the church members are friendly and normal and she had a really good time and helped out with the barbecue.

This past week things were a bit slower with our investigators. We've been trying to call and meet with our investigator Rosa, who had agreed to be baptized on September 29th. We called her throughout the week as well as yesterday, and then we found out from a ward member, Irina, who is her friend and who helped on the lesson, that apparently she doesn't want to meet with us because she's heard from people in the Orthodox church or wherever else that the church is just out to get her apartment....EVEN THOUGH SHE'S FRIENDS WITH IRINA, WHO OBVIOUSLY STILL HAS HER APARTMENT AND BOTH OF HER DACHAS.....Honestly, it's so infuriating sometimes that people here think crazy things about us because the Orthodox church or the J.W.'s are spreading false rumors! So that's a bit disheartening and may just be an excuse she was looking for, but we will continue to try to pray for her and call her and meet with her. So we'll just have to see.

The woman, Evgenya, who needed money for her son's operation, didn't end up coming to church yesterday because it was raining, but we will continue to try to call her and invite her next week. 

We did have a lesson with a member present this past Wednesday, before English club with our investigator Zhenya (Jane), who was progressing with previous sisters but then started going to the Hari Krishna temple and was gone during the summer. She comes to English club and is really good friends with a strong, young single adult named Katya, so we met with both of them and retaught the Plan of Salvation and the Restoration with her. She knows the Book of Mormon is true, but only believes in the Plan of Salvation up until the Spirit World, because she believes in reincarnation. So  we challenged her to pray about the Plan of Salvation and to know that there's one, specific plan that God has for all of us. So we will just keep trying to meet with her again this week and follow up with her after English club Wednesday.

Thank you for all of the letters and emails and your love and support! I love you all! Please pray that me and Sister Johnson will be able to find a new investigator and people to teach! This week we're going to have to do a lot of contacting and talk to as many people as possible to find people who are prepared.
Love, Sister Schmidt