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