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