Sunday, January 13, 2013


Hello family and loved ones!
So I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and congratulations on surviving the supposed "end of the world". 
And happy new year!!!!! So today is actually the equivalent of Christmas Eve in Russia. It was so weird because December 25th was just like a normal day for everyone here. and we actually have to be in our apartments by 6pm and we can't come back out until 4pm tomorrow afternoon for safety reasons. Tonight we're having F.H.E. despite it being their Christmas Eve, because we figured it would be a good alternative for our investigators than to go out and party and also to give some them an opportunity to celebrate with us if they don't have anyone else to celebrate with. And as usual, the Craythorns our cooking a ton of food for the occasion and have games planned. We're also going ice skating this afternoon with a few of our "friendestigators" Elena, Yulia and Medina. In the center of Voronezh they have a big walking square in between a bunch of really pretty government buildings and universities and the theater, where they have a big statue of Lenin. They put up a HUGE Christmas tree which is gorgeous and also have an outdoor skating rink, so that's where we plan on going today. So I can think of no better way to welcome the New Year!

This past week was wonderful but pretty slow as far as missionary work because we celebrated Christmas and then we actually had to go to Moscow for my second visa trip, which ended up being a three day ordeal because the train ride to Moscow is 12 hours there and 12 hours back. 

I've had a bit of a fear of flying here in Russia for some reason, so before we left for Moscow on Wednesday, I asked Elder Craythorn for a blessing of comfort. He gave me a beautiful blessing which just confirmed to me how inspired blessings are and how aware my Heavenly Father is of me. He told me that even though I am away from the comfort of my family and familiar surroundings, that my Heavenly Father is perfectly aware of and knows all of my surroundings and is always with me. And part of my mission and service to the Lord, includes taking these trips for our visas, but that I should always look for enjoyment in them. It was really neat because he said a lot of things which were exactly what I needed to hear and also a lot of other things that he couldn't have known, which was such a confirmation for both me and Sister McDaniel of the truthfulness and power of the priesthood. 

So Wednesday evening we walked to the train station and Elder Craythorn walked with us to help us with our bags. We had a pretty fun/crazy experience of almost missing our train! It was a thirty minute walk and we had to get out tickets once we got to the station and there were people in line ahead of us. We heard the loudspeaker announce that we had 5 minutes before our train left and we were like "uh oh!" This man was right in line before us trying to buy tickets and calling his wife to get her passport number and we told him our train was about to leave but he still was bent on buying his tickets. Honestly, it can be a bit infuriating sometimes how inconsiderate some people can be. So then we had to run down this tunnel with poor Elder Craythorn trying to keep up and when we got to the platform our train was already pulling away!
We didn't know what to do, but then some really nice people on the platform yelled for the train attendant woman to let down the stairs. So Elder Crayhthorn ran and threw our bag on and then me and Sister McDaneil both literally ran and hopped on the train!
It was hilarious and like something out of a movie! The train attendant lady jokingly asked us if we were trying to get ourselves killed, but was really nice because she knew we were foreigners and then she walked us through the length of the train to find our wagon.

The night-trains are really nice here and the church always buys us a private room to prevent any possible awkward situations. So it was one of my many crazy experiences I've had involving trains on my mission in Russia.

The visa trip itself went pretty smooth and it was great to see Sister Carver and all of my friends from the MTC. On our first flight to Riga, I sat next to this really sweet woman named Tanya who was flying with her husband and a group from her church to go to Riga and then on the Rome for the holidays! I was asking her about why they were spraying the wings of the plane and we ended up having a really awesome conversation and it turned out she spoke English because she writes textbooks for English classes in elementary schools. It was super nice to talk to her because it also helped to distract me from being nervous about flying and it turned out that she lives in Lipetsk, which is the city right next to Voronezh! When she left, I gave her a restoration pamphlet and church invitation and she was super nice. So that was an awesome tender mercy from the Lord, and one that almost didn't happen because I had considered changing my seat, but then I changed my mind because the thought came into my mind that I might need to sit there for a reason.
We were just in Riga for a few hours for a layover, so we ate at T.G.I. Fridays (which has never been so appealing in my entire life until I came to Russia!) and then we got back on a plane and came back to Moscow. We now have three year visas which is something that they just started providing for Americans, and is such a blessing because now we don't have to leave every 3 months and it will save the church a TON of money! So our next trip isn't until 6 months from now, when we have to get new immigration cards.
On the plane ride back I sat next to Sister Carver and I read Cinderella in Russian to her to keep me from getting nervous, which was perfect. It was funny because the only time when I did get nervous as we were taking off, Sister Carver pointed at the book and was like "Look at how cute those mice are!" to distract me! =D So this visa trip was much better than my last one, despite the fact that we missed our train coming back to Voronezh and ended up taking a midnight train.. We did end up having a really good missionary experience because we missed our train though. We had to go to a different train station in Moscow after the mission office but us new tickets and we didn't know how to get there or how to tell where to go for our train. So we asked this really nice girl and she ended up walking us to the station and explained where we needed to go. She was soooo sweet and her name was Anya and I had a really great conversation with her. She's actually Hari Krishna, but she really loved that we're here as missionaries, and afterwards Sister McDaneil gave her a Book of Mormon, which she was really excited about to get!

So the midnight train didn't get into Voronezh until 2pm on Saturday, and me and Sister McDaneil were both absolutely spent afterwards, but we were able to recover in time for English club on Friday, and then on Saturday we had a couple of lessons cancel on us, so we helped cook and prepare for the ward Christmas party (which was tons of fun). (Those are the pictures) They have a HUGE Christmas tree in the lobby of our branch building and they put on a musical play about Santa Clause (who is called Dyed Muhroz in Russian). Olga (not the mom with four kids) came and had a fun time and is also coming tonight to celebrate New Years with us!

This week we actually get to go BACK to Moscow on Friday for a mission-wide Christmas conference.

As far as Christmas went:

Christmas Eve was wonderful and we spent it at our senior couple's apartment with our district and a few of our investigators. We invited Elena and she absolutely loved it! It was a great evening and Elena was so appreciative of all the gifts we and the Craythorns gave her. She is truly such a special person and is so gracious and just appreciates and sees the beauty in everything that we share with her.

Actual Christmas day itself was a working day (despite getting to skype with family in the evening). We had a bit of a disappointing lesson with one of our "eternal" investigators Lyubov. We had Anya-who's a return missionary and served in temple square-help us on the lesson which was good because it helped Lyubov to see that we're not just a bunch of young American people trying to get her to join our church. She's a really nice lady who's in her sixties and one of her sons is actually a member, but she says that she can't believe the Joseph Smith story and doesn't seem to have much desire to find out if the Book of Mormon is true. So it was a bit frustrating and sad, but we've decided to drop her because there's nothing else we can do besides continuing to invite her. So we probably won't meet with her for a while unless she wants to.

So that was a bit of a bummer, and we weren't able to do a ton of teaching this past week because of Christmas and the visa trip, but yesterday (Sunday) we had 4 lessons and had a really awesome and productive day.

I love all of you and hope that you have a fantastic New Year and stay safe! Family-it was so wonderful and surreal getting to skype with you on Christmas! Cessily-Paxton is absolutely adorable and perfect! It made me so happy to hear little Dalles and Jaden! Thank you guys for giving me a tour of the house-that was super surreal and crazy!
I love you guys so much and miss you a ton, but I am loving my mission and so happy to be serving here in Voronezh!

Please keep praying for Elena! 

Also-mom and dad-I mailed my tax return to Austin a few weeks ago, so I don't know when you will get anything back, but I sent it so it should be fine.

I love you all! Please keep emailing and writing!
Love, Sister Schmidt

12/23/12 Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!!!!!!
I can't believe that it's Christmas! The first and only one of my mission and probably in Russia. IT'S COLD!!!!! Yesterday evening it was 15 below! I'm surviving though because I've got all of the winter gear I pretty much need.
So tonight we're having a big dinner with our senior couple the Craythorns and inviting our investigator Elena but tomorrow-Christmas Day-is actually a working day and we're supposed to go out and find a miracle!
Immediate family: I will be skyping you at 8pm our time which is 10am your time. Or I might be skying at 7pm our time, which is 9am your time (Christmas morning for you and Christmas evening for me). So please be ready!
We've been doing this twelve days of Christmas activity as a zone, where we have something special for every day of the twelve days of Christmas.
I'm excited because this is one of the few Christmases in my life where I can just give back to the Lord and focus on Jesus Christ, minus the commercial distractions.
We've had some changes in our district. Elder Winnegar finished his mission and left last Sunday and Elder Starr got trasnferred to Moscow. So we got two new elders this week and they're both greenies! So Elder Young (our new district leader who's awesome) and Elder Freyer who just finished being trained by Elder Starr are both training! Elder Duncan and Elder Edwards are both really nice and I can tell they're good missionaries. So it's good to have the "greeny fire" in our district because I'm sure it will help to re-energize us as a district (especially with speak your language, because they're both really excited to speak Russian!)
Me and Sister McDaniel had a really great week last week. It was a mixed bag though, because we have 6 cancellations, but the lessons we did have were really wonderful and then we had some great contacting experiences (we got 5 contacts this week!) and a good time doing the 12 days of Christmas activities. We had a really awesome contacting experience when we were district contacting a few days ago. We met this really sweet girl named Hilma who's African and from Namibia. She's in Voronezh studying at the university and speaks English and Russian! She was super sweet and was really interested in English club and we got her number to invite her to F.H.E. What was even cooler is that there's an African woman in our branch who I talked to yesterday at church. I invited her to go Christmas caroling with us and mentioned that our friend Hilma might be coming and she actually knows her! Small world!
So some highlights of the week:
We had an amazing lesson with Elena and Sister Craythorn helping. I got to extend the baptismal invitation to her with the date of January 26th. She said yes to being baptized but that she would have to pray about the 26th because she really wants to be prepared and ready. Elena is so amazing because she just gets it and knows that this is a lifechanging commitment and a promise that you're making with God. She's planning on moving to New York in a few months, and we just promised her that being baptized isn't just going to bless her eternally, but it's also going to make her move to New York that much easier because she'll always have a family and a support system in the church! She's so amazing and spiritually sensitive and said that when she was in New York a couple of years ago for 4 months, her mom was really worried and was always praying for her, and Elena felt like there was literally someone always next to her protecting her and guiding her.
So please pray for Elena and that she will be ready to be baptized on January 26th. We know she's ready-I constantly tell Sister McDaniel-if anybody is prepared it's Elena! She is seriously so special and has been such a blessing to meet and to teach and to have as a friend here in Voronezh. She's definitely been a tender mercy, to know that there are seekers of truth like here out in the world and to be blessed enough to really experience it on my mission. I know that through all of it though, it hasn't been anything me or Sister McDaniel or Sister Craythorn has done but the Lord and the Spirit. I'm just grateful that I have an opportunity to be an instrument in the Lord's hands to just bring her greater happiness in life!
So we had that lesson with Elena on Tuesday and then on Saturday night, Elena actually invited us over to have dinner with her and her mom! So we went over to their apartment and got to meet her mom who was sooooo nice and just an absolutely delightful person! She cooked us this HUGE meal of a dish called plov-(it's actually a middle-eastern dish that is common and popular in Russia) and it was delicious! She gave us a ton of food and was so sweet and hospitable and kept trying to feed us. Russians are supppper hospitable and love to feed people. It's funny because they'll keep telling you to eat "KYSHYET KYSHYET KYSHYET!" even when you're full and you feel like you're about to explode.
So we had a wonderful evening with her and her mom and also got to meet her dad that night after he came home from work. We gave them a spiritual thought about Christmas and Christ and it was so great, because her mom kept telling us how she was so grateful that her daughter had friends like us and knew nice girls like us. They are seriously just good people and generous people! Afterwards Elena told us that she felt like the happiest person in the world because when she first started coming to English club and taking the lessons, that her mom was really worried and that it had caused a lot of contention, but that her mom's heart softened after she saw how it was changing Elena and blessing her and their family and relationship. So that definitely made my week! Please pray for Elena!
It was hilarious because Elena has a cat that looks almost EXACTLY like our cat Toast! He's a siamese with blue eyes and the same coloring. Except her cat is fatter and he's nice I think, =D (don't tell Toast).
This week we also met with Olga (not the mom with four kids, but a different one). She's this really sweet and funny lady who comes to English club and is progressing but can't come to church on Sunday because she works as a stockbroker and Sunday is one of her most productive days. So we talked to her about the sabbath day and had a really good lesson with her and another less-active member. During the lesson I had this analogy just pop into my head that I used with her. We had set out a plate of cookies. I told her, so what if I gave you all these cookies and there are seven of them and you LOVE cookies. What if I asked for just one of them back? Would you give me just one back? And she said yes of course. So I compared that to the seven days of the week and how the Lord just asks for one of them back. So she definitely got the point.
We also met with an investigator named Yulia this week which was actually a bit of a miracle in and of itself! Yulia is 24 and awesome and comes to all of our activities-English club, F.H.E., sports nights, and actually comes to church almost every Sunday! But she doesn't have the desire to be baptized yet and she also hasn't been comfortable with formally taking the lessons. So we had a member meeting cancel on us and she happened to be at the branch building, so we asked her if she wanted a spiritual thought and she said yes!
So on Saturday I baked a bunch of sugar cookies to give to Elena and her mom, and also to give to a neighbor. One of our activities for the twleve days of Christmas was to bear glad tidings to a neighbor, so we took some cookies and a Finding Faith in Christ dvd to a woman who lives in our apartment stairwell who we always see outside walking her pug. She was super sweet and actually let us in and then we took pictures with her pug, who is the cutest ever! It was a really positive interaction and she apparently knows a woman from our branch here!
Yesterday Zina came back to church and we had a second lesson with her that went really well and then we might with sweet Larissa again after church with our ward mission leader Georgi and had a really great lesson about the Plan of Salvation.
Yesterday (Sunday evening) we also went and sang Christmas hymns together in Lenin square, where there's a huge statue of Lenin and they've put up a HUGE Christmas tree and they have a skating rink! It was super cold, but two of our investigators showed up, Olga and Yulia to sing with us while we handed out church invitations. Afterwards we all went over to the Craythorns apartment and had taco soup, which was delicious!
Seriously it has been such a wonderful week and I feel so incredibly blessed by the Lord to be able to serve here in Voronezh with Sister McDaniel! I'm so happy and it's nice because I really thought that I would be super homesick and be sad not to be at home this time of year, but I've felt perfectly fine because I'm staying busy with the Lord's work.
I'm almost done with the Book of Mormon for the second time on my mission!
Mom and Dad-I got my Christmas package! Thank you! I'll open it either tonight or tomorrow =)
Well that's it for now! I love all of you and Merry Christmas!!!!
Love, Sister Schmidt

12/17/12 Almost Christmas

Hello family and loved ones!
Oh my goodness, it is crazy to believe that Christmas is 8 days away! I remember it being July and getting ready to leave the Mtc for Russia! It's so crazy how time flies! Even crazier-January 25th will mark halfway through my mission!

So I found out that me and Sister McDaniel are going to be together for the next transfer which lasts until February 21st, so we're super happy!

It's starting to get cold-COLD here. It's been around 10 below 0 celcius, so about 22 farhenheit. It's funny because whenever I tell the members here that's it's cold, they tell me, "oh its just going to get even colder!".....great.....But it's really not too bad. I'm definitely missing Texas and the humidity and the heat!The coldest it will get is about 30 below 0 celcius. Me and Sister McDaniel still go running every morning in a park close by and whenever we tell our friends and investigators, they think we're absolutely crazy! I just put on two jackets, sweatpants, two pairs of gloves, warm socks, and a hat and I'm fine!

For some reason, Russia is the country where I fall ALL THE TIME! Seriously, I'm going to come home with a ton of battle scars on my knees. So I'm a little worried about winter and the combination of bad roads and ice. Last week I totally fell over and ended up taking Sister McDaneil down with me, which was hilarious!

So things are going great! I'm sad because all of our American friends, who are here in Voronezh teaching English are leaving tonight to go back to America =( It's cool though because all of our "friendestigators" are friends with the Americans here doing the i.l.p. program.
Including our friend Susie, who is awesome and has helped us on a bunch of our lessons with investigators. On Saturday we had our culture night and invited all of our investigators to the church to have a party and also because our American friends are leaving and two of the elders are leaving because one got transferred to Moscow and the other is done with his mission. So we all went ice skating together on Saturday night which was way fun and we all piled into the back of one of the little van-marschrutkas that everyone takes to get around here.

As far as things are going with our investigators, we had an AMAZING lesson with Elena, who's making so much progress and we're going to invite her to be baptized this week! The hard thing is that she works a lot, and here in Russia people will work for 24 hour shifts and then have 24 hours off, which is crazy! So a lot of times she has to work on Sundays, or she's exhausted from working 24 hrs on Saturday. So we met with her and had a really good lesson about keeping the sabbath day holy, and two of our friends-Susie and Amy-helped teach and it was amazing because they both shared experiences with her about saving up for Russia and not working on Sunday, and everything working out. So after the lesson Elena agreed to ask her boss for Sunday off and then she called us the next day saying that her boss gave her Sunday off, because she agreed to pick up someone else's shift! So that was awesome!

Another miracle this week-we got another new investigator-and this is our third week in a row getting a new investigator! A member named Gregory who's super solid and been a member since the 90's invited his neighbor to church. Her name is Zina and she's baptist and was interested in coming to church after having a conversation with him and she's already begun to read the Book of Mormon! So we met with her and had a really great, solid first lesson with her and Gregory helped us on the lesson. So we're excited for her and she's also planning on coming again next week.

Wet met with both Olgas, some less-active members, and Larissa again on Sunday and had a really good lesson about families and how we can be together forever. She's an eternal investigator who is pretty much a "dry" mormon and she's hasn't gotten baptized yet because her husband is against the church. We met with her after church Sunday and she brought a book with a bunch of her husbands paintings, and it turns out that he's this super famous painter! I told her the story about Grandma and Grandpa Schmidt, and how after years of praying and going to church by herself, Grandpa Schmidt finally got baptized when he was 85! So we're going to keep praying for her husband and that she has the courage to talk to him.

We also had a really amazing lesson with this really sweet 14 year-old girl named Paulina, who is fluent in English. We talked with her about God and we were so impressed with her because she's such a well-grounded, solid person and is wise beyond her years. So we're just taking things slowly with her step by step.

I'm almost done reading the Book of Mormon the second time through on my mission! It's so true when people say how every time you read, you can discover something new. It's helped me a lot, especially during the hard months that I spent trying to survive in my last area. Honestly, if anyone ever feels discourage or needs a boost in their faith, they just need to read about the sons of Helaman or about Nephi. I love it!

So as a zone, we're doing something called the 12 days of Christmas, where everyday we're doing something different to declare glad tidings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ! Today, we're going to call a less active member and a former investigator. So we have an assignment for each day, but on Christmas day it's up to us and up to the Lord and we're supposed to go out and find a miracle! It's really cool because I know that this is probably the only Christmas in my life, where I can just give back to God and be free from the commercial distractions and focus on what Christmas really means! 

Well I'm out of time and probably didn't say half of the things that I wanted to, but I love you all and always pray for all of you!
Heavenly Father loves us, the church is true, and Jesus Christ is our Savior!
Love, Sister Schmidt


Hello family and loved ones!

Another awesome week in Voronezh! Me and Sister McDaniel seriously feel so blessed to be here!

We have a lot of things going for us down here: slightly warmer weather, great senior couple who live right above our apartment, a beautiful and giant Branch building, awesome and supportive ward members, with a pretty well-functioning ward (not without its character though, if you will :D), a really successful English Club that allows the community to become acquainted with us in a comfortable and non-abrasive way and see for themselves that missionaries are cool and our church is not a cult, in actual fact (as the Russians would say), a gymnasium that allows us to have awesome activities with the community, investigators, friends of the church, and a super-solid FHE activity every Monday night at the Craythorn's (senior couple) in which we now have about 30 or so people in regular attendance. We've created a community within itself which has seemed to really start booming recently and is expanding larger and larger every week where our friends have become our investigators, but more often than not, our investigators have become our friends and they have in turn become friends with each other and they invite their otherfriends into the circle (inclusive circle to be sure!) and it's all fostered by activities that always include spiritual thoughts and our incessant themes of Jesus Christ and service and Gospel principles. 

So Sister McDaniel has coined the term "friendestigators"=an investigator who is a friend and a friend who is an investigator!

Because those are pretty much what all of our investigators are and it's awesome and really the best way to do missionary work that I've found so far.
Most of our investigators started meeting with us because they came to English club or volleyball or something else social that introduced them to the church.

I've learned that inviting young people to English club and other social events is usually the most effective window to introducing people to the church, and really much more effective than just trying to stop people on the street and talk to them about religion. Yes, there totally are people who are prepared for the gospel, but when it comes down to it those are miracles, and they are few and far in between hours spent (usually unsuccessfully) trying to contact people on the street. Because when it comes down to it, when you come up to people on the street and ask them if you can share a message about Jesus Christ or the gospel, they often times are wary of you and a bit weirded out because they think you are from some cult or something scary.

So it's been very interesting seeing the contrast between the work here in Voronezh and in my last area Podulsk. But even though me and my last companion didn't see much fruit of our labors and spent a lot of time contacting, we did still see little miracles everyday and we felt like we spent a lot of time planting seeds or even just towing the ground in Podulsk.

As for things with our investigators, they are going slow but steady. We met with Elena twice this past week and taught her about the law of chastity and about following the prophet. She is seriously so amazing and is so prepared and just eats up every lesson we give her! She is a very spiritual person and someone who hungers after righteousness! So we're excited for her and I can see her getting closer and closer to baptism. . She knows that the BOM is true, feels so good and happy every single time that we meet with her, or even just call on the phone.

Our prayers were answered this past week with our agnostic friendestigator  Medina, because she came to church on Sunday for the first time since I've been here and it seems that everything is back to normal!

We got another new investigator this past week! On Saturday, we met with this young girl named Paulina who knows English and who we met at our Thanksgiving celebration/English club a few weeks ago. She's very religious and just a sweet girl who's really morally grounded and has been raised right. So we're going to start meeting with her each week.

We also met with both of our Olgas this past week. Olga, who comes to English club, kept her commitment to read the Book of Mormon and we did a lesson with her about baptism and the importance of being baptized by someone holding the proper authority. She's progressing slowly but surely, but she feels like she needs to read the whole Book of Mormon before she can be baptized. We had a spectacular lesson on Tuesday that included our good American member friend, Sussy, the Spirit and was coupled with moments of hilarity. Seeing the pair of Sussy and Olga together is almost priceless. And hearing Olga saying "Sister Sussy!" in her cute little Russian accent is too cute and hysterical to describe adequately. 

We also met with Taya again and did an object lesson with her and a jar that we filled with rice and rocks to demonstrate the importance of putting the things of God first in life. 

On Sunday, we met with a woman named Larissa, who we've been meeting with every Sunday after church for the past three weeks. She's super sweet and has been coming to church for two years, but hasn't gotten baptized because her husband is against the church. We listened to President Monson's Sunday afternoon talk from conference and talked about how the Lord can bless our loved ones as we pray for them and for their hearts to change and soften. It was a great lesson and we had the perfect member present with a convert named Nastya who was baptized 4 years ago and whose mom was against the church at first, but softened her heart.

We had a bit of a frustrating lesson with an eternal investigator named Lyubov, who doesn't seem to be making much progress and doesn't seem to have much of a desire to know if the Book of Mormon is true. But we'll just have to keep praying for her.

Russian is still really hard, but I can see myself getting better as the time goes by. What's hard here in Voronezh is that we have a lot of investigators who speak English really well and then there's a lot of young Americans here who are members teaching English as part of I.L.P. But I always make it a point to try to speak Russian with the branch members and in public as much as possible. I know that the Lord and the Spirit always make up for the difference and for my inadequacies when it comes down to it! 

I'm in 3 Nephi 19 and on track for our mission goal to finish reading the Book of Mormon together before January 1st! I'm still trying to work on myself and become the type of missionary and person that the Lord knows I can be. I'm so grateful to have Sister McDaniel as my companion, because she is exactly the type of companion that I need at this point in my mission and is so loving and amazing!
That's it for now! I love all of you and hope you're getting in the christmas spirit!
Love <3
-Sister Schmidt

12/03/12 Its Beginning to Look alot like Christmas!

Hello family and dearest loved ones!

Hard to believe that it is already December! What the heck?! Where did the time go?!!! Even crazier, I've been on my mission for 7 months! I have less than a year left and am almost half way through....crazy....

Me and Sister McDaneil are already getting in the Christmas spirit. We have Christmas lights in our apartment, a baby Christmas tree, and we've been listening to motab Christmas songs. Good stuff.

So life is really good right now. Honestly, these past two weeks have been such a blessing and I know that Heavenly Father loves me! Voronezh is absolutely nothing like my last area. The branch members here are so amazing and loving and they really love the missionaries! It's almost like a ward in America! The church has been here in Voronezh for 20 years too, so it's really well established here. 
On Saturday, our relief society had a visiting teaching conference which was super fun and they had us sing at. 

So where to start with our investigators...I'll start with Elena. She's 22, is fluent in English, and is planning on moving to New York City in 4 months or so. She is such an amazing individual and so prepared! She's so sweet and just gets it! She also has a very profound understanding of spiritual things. We hadn't been able to meet with her because she's working a ton to save up for America, but we had a lesson with her on Saturday night and just kind of touched base with her. Even though I've only known her for two weeks, I feel like we've been friends for so much longer! She had a few questions about the plan of salvation which we helped answer, but she agrees with everything and knows that the Book of Mormon is true and has been reading it along with the Bible and praying! She is so amazing and I really feel like she is headed towards baptism, but me and Sister McDaneil want to help her become solid. Sister McDaniel is a convert, so she has really good perspective on wanting the investigator to understand the significance of the baptismal convenant.

We also met with another girl named Taya, who's 17 and really cute and always comes to F.H.E. and English club. She's really busy with university and her studies, but she has been taught everything but hasn't had a ton of time to read the Book of Mormon, so we committed her to read everyday.  We also met with Taya's room-mate Christina, so we now have a new investigator!

Not all of the week was perfect though. We had a lesson with an investigator who isn't sure if she believed in God, but cries at every lesson and is very sensitive to the Spirit. She seems to be scared or something else is holding her back, because she doesn't want to come to church because she's scared she's not worthy because she isn't sure God exists. That's hard, because we know she has the desire and has a good heart and that Heavenly Father wants her to come to church, but that Satan is just trying to make her feel like she can't! She was overwhelmed with school and work and our lesson with her went horribly because she was in a bad place and wasn't ready to talk about God. Afterwards, we were worried that we had maybe been insensitive or that we had made a mistake, because she seemed to be upset afterwards. So please pray for Medina.

So we had an amazing lesson this past week with a woman named Olga. She's a mom of 4 sons, and she originally just wanted to meet so that she could keep practicing her English, which is really good. But we always talk about God and religious things and give her spiritual thoughts when we visit. 
What's tough with Olga though, is that she is orthodox and is very loyal to her church because she felt like it saved her spiritually when she was a young woman. So she agrees to meet with us and talk about christ and read from the Bible, but she's not comfortable with us using the Book of Mormon. It's hard because she's not open to talking about the restored gospel, but she's still making progress and drawing closer to Christ and says that our meetings help her deal with challenges.
So we're hoping that over time and as we continue meeting, her heart will soften and open up to hearing about the restoration. 

Sister Craythorn, from our senior couple also comes with us because she's a mom and grandma and can relate to Olga and can empathize with a lot of the challenges of raising children and trying to discipline children, which me and Sister McDaniel don't have experience with yet.
When we met with Olga on Friday, she told us that her meetings with the missionaries had helped change her life. She has a son who is disabled and has autistic-like symptoms. They take him to a special school with special teachers, but he's 4 and still hasn't started talking. She said that meeting with the missionaries has helped her to change her attitude and has helped her to continue to have hope, despite worrying about her son.
When we met on Friday, we talked about how having a belief in God helps us and gives us comfort in trials, and she mentioned that she had no idea how people can survive without God. Sister Craythorn brought up the fact that people have to open their hearts and soften them if they want to know that God exists. I knew though, that Sister Craythorn also was indirectly referring to Olga needing to soften her heart to the restored gospel.

Right after Sister Craythorn mentioned that, the painting of Christ knocking at the door immediately popped into my head and I knew I needed to show it to Olga, because we have it on our itouch. I showed it to her and told Olga how the artist intentionally didn't paint the door handle to show how the door can only be opened from the inside, just like with our hearts. When I showed her that, she said it gave her chills and she told us how because of meeting with us, she had gone to confession for the first time in two years at her church. It is amazing, because despite the fact that she isn't open to talking about the Book of Mormon, she is still coming closer to Jesus Christ and changing her life.

She said that before she met with the missionaries, she had felt like she was on the verge of doing something desperate, but that the meetings had saved her because they provided the outlet that she needed and a catalyst for her to renew her faith and find more hope and peace in life, despite her challenges with her son.

The lesson went so well and it was so amazing because I knew I was inspired to show her that painting because it was perfect. 

Shout out to Emily and Julie Caron: I talked with Olga about you and shared your story with her. I told her about how despite the trial of Charles passing away and the struggles that Emily has had with her disability, the Lord has blessed you because of your faith and charity and positive attitude. Olga was so impressed and she agreed that trials help to refine us and make us stronger and that in the end, everything is going to be okay if we choose the right and love God, because he ultimately loves us and wants us to be happy!
So I just want you two to know that you are blessing lives and helping God's children here in Russia!

So we also had a lot of other amazing lessons and good things happen, but there's no way I can do justice to all of it. 
The work of the Lord is continuing here in Voronezh and I feel so blessed and humbled to be able to take part in it. It's incredible to see how people's lives can change because of Jesus Christ and the restored gospel.

I love all of you and continue to pray for all of you! I hope life is wonderful and that everyone is getting ready for Christmas!

Please pray for our investigators and especially for Elena, Taya, Medina, and Olga!

Love, Sister Schmidt

11/25/12 Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello to all!
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Me and Sister McDaniel definitely did! We had an AMAZING Thanksgiving dinner with our district and our senior couple, the Craythorns. Sister Craythorns made us a huge dinner, with homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, homemade rolls, and turkey, which is really, really hard to find in Russia!
I contributed by making green beans and peach cobbler. Our investigator Elena celebrated Thanksgiving with us which was wonderful. She was soooo excited to celebrate Thanksgiving with Americans! 

That night, we were also invited to a Thanksgiving event that another English club in town was having. They asked us to come because they had promised the people that Americans would be there to help explain Thanksgiving. It actually turned out to be a really great finding opportunity, because we handed out invitations to OUR English club while we were there, and Elena also came and we had a really awesome conversation! She said that she believes that the Book of Mormon is true! 

On Friday, we had English club and 47 people came! It was awesome! We had a potluck, and then we went around the room and had everyone say what they were grateful for. I was really impressed by what everyone said and there was definitely a good spirit there. 

Serving in Voronezh is so interesting because it feels so different from serving in Podulsk. It seems here, that people tend to have warmer feelings towards Americans and the church than in Moscow, since the church has been here in Voronezh for 20 years. I think having such a huge branch building is also helpful, because its also kind of a community, recreational center and the youth are attracted to it because they come to English club and play volleyball afterwards in the gym on Friday nights. There are a lot of great young people and teenagers who come and who love the missionaries and the church. A lot of people also come to family home evening. It's interesting though, because here in Voronezh there seems to be a lot of "eternal" investigators and people who enjoy the social aspect of the church, but haven't committed to joining the church and being baptized. There seems to be some complacency in that regard. But I really think that the church is strong in this city and is going to take off even more!

We had a lesson on Sunday with a really sweet woman named Larissa. She's apparently met with the sister missionaries for years, has a testimony of the Book of Mormon, comes to church every Sunday, and is even involved in family history, but she hasn't been baptized because her husband is opposed to it and doesn't want her to join the "American" church. We had a good lesson with her to help her understand the apostasy better and the importance of priesthood authority, and she seemed to get it afterwards. We challenged her to pray for her husband and for his heart to be softened. So we'll just have to keep meeting with her and trying to help her progress.

I really LOVE the branch here. I got to bear my testimony on Sunday and introduce myself, and everybody was super sweet and said that I speak good Russian, which is a surprise to me. Elena came to church and sacrament meeting on Sunday, which was awesome! She had to leave after the second hour, but we're meeting with her again this week.

As far as the weather goes, it snowed for the first time here in Voronezh yesterday! I wasn't too excited because it was snowing in October in Podulsk and Moscow, but it doesn't get quite as cold in southern Russia, which I'm grateful for!

So sorry this email isn't too exciting, but it's only been three days since our last p-day on Thanksgiving, so I don't have as many updates.
But everything is good. I'm loving Voronezh, my companion, and all of our investigators. I'm still very thankful that I have the chance to serve in such a wonderful city after serving in a really hard area before.

Love you all and I hope everyone is excited for Christmas! I'm sure all the stores back home are already decked out in Christmas decorations. The stores here also already have Christmas stuff up.

Family-please send me an email this week! I didn't get one last week =(
Love, Sister Schmidt



Hello family and loved ones!

So that's right, I'm being transferred to the city of Veronezh! It is 12 hours away from Moscow by night train and I will be companions with Sister McDaneil, who I actually knew in the MTC!  I have grown to love Podulsk and I'm REALLY going to miss the branch,  English club members, our investigators, and of course Sister Johnson, but I'm grateful for this new opportunity and season of my mission! Veronezh apparently has the biggest building in Russia and has a branch of over a 100 members, which is huge for here! Apparently it would be a ward, but its not in the boundaries of the Moscow stake. I don't know if any of you have heard, but there's also a stake now in St. Petersburg! Despite challenges, the church is still going strong and growing here in Russia! I'm also excited to see Veronezh because I've heard that its a really pretty city and a lot more like Nizhny Novgorod (the first city I was in that was gorgeous!) 

I'm super excited to serve with Sister McDaniel-me and her used to go running outside together at the MTC back in July and she's great so I can't wait! 
This past week was one of the best we've had in months here in Podulsk, so its a bit bittersweet to leave!
On Sunday, I bore my last testimony, and was happy to see that despite no investigators being there, we had two of the three of our less-active members there that we've been working with here in Podulsk! 
Sveta and Snezhana (mother and daughter who is married to a member who lives in Spain) were also there, which was their fourth Sunday in a row, so I'm happy to say they're back to being fully active! We met with them on Saturday, and did a little bit of English practice with Snezhana (who's the cutest!) and then a spiritual thought with them. Sveta is an AMAZING member and everytime we go over to give a spiritual thought, I feel like she ends up giving us one! She speaks English fluenty which also helps whenever we might stumble a bit with the language. Her and her husband have the goal of getting sealed together in the temple, which they're hoping to do in Spain in May. She said that she definitely wanted to be prepared, so we counseled her to talk to the branch president and to let him know that they're both working towards that goal and to keep going to church and staying active. So I'm super excited for her and her family and hope everything works out for them to finally be able to live together in the same country and to be able to go to the temple! I can't give myself any of the credit, but one of the things that I am happiest about my work here in Podulsk, is that Sveta and Snezhana are active and that their family is working to go to the temple together! 

On Friday, we met with Natasha who we've been doing 50/50 with for a month or so. We talked about the plan of salvation with her, and followed up with her reading of the Book of Mormon, and she'd actually read the second chapter! So we're considering her a progressing investigator, although we're still taking it slow and praying to know how to go forward at the right pace. We invited her to come to church on Sunday, but she couldn't because she would be out of town =/
But she did say the prayer at the end of the lesson which was her second time and this time she ended "in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen." So we're really happy with her and I'm going to miss her!

We also did a spiritual thought with a woman in the branch who recently had her second baby boy. She has a toddler named Ilya who's the cutest, so she's pretty busy and her husband seems to work a lot. She's a return missionary and actually served in the Moscow mission back in 2001 and is super stalwart! We talked to her about tithing and how it blesses her family. She has a very strong testimony of tithing. She told us that they're in a pretty tight financial situation and she seems to be a little frustrated because she doesn't seem to get much help around the house. So we offered to come over and help her clean, so we went over the next day and helped her wash toys and straighten up around the apartment. I was happy to see all four of them at church on Sunday, and apparently the elders did go over and do a lesson with them.

We also met with a less-active member, Laressa. She's the grandmother of the three generation family. We only met with her because the daughter and granddaughter were gone in Moscow, but we made borsch together and gave her a spiritual thought and invited her to church and were happy to see her there on Sunday!

The biggest miracle that happened this past week happened yesterday on Sunday evening! Me and Sister Johnson were out contacting around a sea of highrose apartment buildings which we call "the sea of domes" and I stopped to talked to a family. At first, we weren't sure if they were Muslim because they had darker features and the wife had a scarf wrapped around her head, but when I offered her the Family Proclamation she immediately took it and said "of course!". We talked to them for a little bit and found out they were very believing and were provoslavni. We told them that we weren't but that we were here as missionaries from our church and had a message about Jesus Christ. They immediately, without us even suggesting or asking, told us to come by anytime, told us which apartment number was theirs, and gave us their number! They were the nicest people and said they were very excited to meet people who believed in Christ! It was INCREDIBLE and the most amazing response we've ever gotten from a family while contacting! So we are planning on meeting with them on Tuesday. It was such a miracle too because Sister Johnson and I were walking and said that she had almost considered turning around and going in the other direction, but then changed her mind. So we are very excited and hope that they accept the gospel! 

This week we're also meeting with a very strong family in the branch, the Numerovwee. The wife, Marena is the relief society president, so we are going to meet with her and ask her if she'd like us to help teach in relief society. Their oldest daughter is also getting baptized this week which is very exciting for them! They have three beautiful children, and the husband, Yevgeni is a return missionary and used to be the branch president. He's very involved with missionary work and we've been trying to meet with a referral he gave us of a woman who works in his company and who's been coming to English club. 

On Sunday, I told Yevgeni that I'm being transferred to Veronezh and he told me that he's from Veronezh and that his mom is a member in the branch there! And his mom and dad are both coming to their daugther's baptism on Saturday! His dad isn't a member, so he was happy to hear that I'm being transferred there! 
I wish I could go to their daugther's baptism to meet his parents, but that will be after transfers. I'm sure I will meet his mother though while I'm in Veronezh and will try to see if the elders there can meet with his father!

This week I'm very excited for sister's conference that we're going to have in Moscow on Friday! Apparently I won't get to Veronezh until Sunday probably because Friday is Sister's conference and then on Saturday, my new companion will have her first visa trip. I'm very excited to get to work in Veronezh and will do my best to try to fulfill my purpose there as a missionary.

During my time in Podulsk, despite there being many trials and disappointments with invesitgators not progressing, me and Sister Johnson have been able to find a lot of joy and seen many small miracles happen! I know that the Lord truly does work by "small and simple means" which often confound the wise! During this time, I know that I've grown closer to Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father and have grown to understand the Atonement more. I know that Heavenly Father answers our prayers, even if its not always the timing or exactly how we want them answered. But he's blessed me with everything that I've needed during my time here. 

I know that me and Sister McDaniel are both in for a challenge, as we're both pretty new into our missions and don't know a ton of Russian, but I'm going to work and study hard and rely on the Spirit to guide us!

Love you all and hope all is well!
P.S. Bummer about Mitt Romney losing but I was happy to hear that he at least won the popular vote.
Love, Sister Schmidt