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 interesting....it 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