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