December 31, 2011 from Ken

As for us here in Russia.  We are getting along nicely.  It is a very different world than we are used to.  So many different ways to get things done.  We feel as if we have stepped back in time.  We have stayed warm in our big coats and comfy boots.  We walk about 5-8 miles a day.  It is solid ice everywhere we go.  I took my first tumble yesterday but bounced back up.  We also ride a Marshutka (little yellow bus) each day to one of our outlying cities we work.  Not many speak English so we are using the few words we know and desperate to continue to learn more.  Sometimes it is quite a comedy of errors.

Every day we meet with people on street and try to share something of the gospel.  We do have to be careful though because of such strict government rules and regulations to follow.    Most nights we work with full time Elders and Sisters.  We are getting better at testifying and teaching small concepts in Russian.  We let the Elders help with interrupting for us the more difficult points we need to get across.  Last night was a good example of what makes it all worth while.

One of the Elders was teaching about Plan of Salvation.  The discussion was not really progressing and he pressed her for a baptismal commitment.  She told him "no" several times.  I felt impressed to talk to her about her family.  Told her that they needed her to be the example and also to bring them into the gospel.  Her leadership would be very important.  I also felt impressed to sincerely complement her on a few things about her effort and give her some honest praise.  She warmed right up and the spirit became very intense.  Stacy said prayer (in Russian) and when this good woman got up she informed us that she had been praying that morning and wants to be baptized.  The Elders were stunned as they had kind of given up hope on her.  I told this good sister that we need to involve her husband.  Just ten minutes ago I got a call saying her and her husband will come to dinner at our house next week.  It is fun to see the little miracles occur.

Yesterday I gave a B of M to the grandson of our landlord who is studying in London but home on a holiday.  I asked him to help me figure out how we can get more young people into our church.  Told him we are a small congregation and needed his help.  It was a blast.  We exchanged email and phone numbers.  Now the Lord needs to work on him.  I talked to him again today and I believe he will read book.  He wants to stay in touch.

Stacy went to hospital with Elders to give a blessing while I went to a members home to deliver a family message.  A grandmother had called Elders because her grandson had fallen and split open his face.  By the way you do not want to go to a hospital here unless there is no other choice (very bad).  Anyway the grandmother is an inactive member who had been given a blessing some time back and was miraculously healed.  Her daughter who is boys mom was so impressed from the blessing and good spirit that was present asked if she could have missionaries come over and learn more about the church.  She and her husband are truly interested.   

I am helping with the District President put his goals and plans together for next year.  He loves young adults.  I am helping one of them currently to prepare to go serve mission.  He also wants us to work with them so we are putting a council together and will have the core group to our home next week.  There is much training to do with Branch and District Presidents.  We are coaching Branch and District Presidents and having a good time seeing opportunities for change.  The progress is very different from one Branch to the next.  We have already had to begin prioritizing what is most important.

We will continue skyping our Russian lessons with MTC for another 2 months.  I don’t know how you can survive over here without the language skills needed to communicate.  They say it can be done but you would be entirely dependent upon the Elders and they have a lot to do without hanging with us all day.

The gospel is indeed growing and is evident when you see it from another far away land.  We want all to know that our testimonies are growing and the study time together is a real treat!  We know God lives and truly wants all of his children to know of him and find the happiness that we all know.  Almost everyday we are blessed to be apart of such experiences.  It makes up for the other stuff like living in a secure cell block, and the freezing weather.  We are truly happy!

We love the people here is Russia.

 Getting ready to go out and brave the weather
 Warm day in Tolliatti, Stacy bought her hair dryer here at our shopping mall
 Branch president Klimov at his home
 First member we visited - Nitalia, Oleg, & Maxime
 Sisters Ahstopchuke and Callister
 First trip to McDonalds
 First baptism in Kolmskamoslski (Sahsha)
 Natasha was our helper with interpreting English to Russian
 Saint Nicolie and his Snow Granddaughter
 District party

 District meeting at our home every Friday
 View from our apartment window

Opening the Mission Call

Surprise, we're going to Samara, Russia!

Rachael and Kallie taking part via Skype

We dropped Brent off at the MTC for his mission to Iowa on the same day