November 12, 2012

It has been missionary work per normalna, pronounced NOOORMAALNA. Also need to roll the R here like in Spanish.

An up and down week. We have two wonderful investigators. One told us she only wanted to be friends and gave back BofM and other info we had shared with her over the last month. This is Marina who started coming to help us translate our spiritual thoughts into Russian and then we began talking about the church. We were so hopeful. We know that is how missionary work goes, and it has happened before with us as people exercise their agency; but this one was a bit harder. On the upside, our other investigator is doing really well. It was interesting that as we closed the lesson, I made the mistake of asking Sister Peterson to say the closing prayer and she reminded me she had said the opening prayer (senior moment for me). Our investigator was sitting next to Sister P and I looked at her and then was going to ask an Elder to pray, but I had this thought enter my mind that said, “just ask her." We haven’t really taught her how to pray. We had talked about it, but not in detail as you usually would prior to asking a person. Sooo I looked at her and said “Suzy” and before I could ask her to pray, she raised her finger and said, ”I felt you were going to ask me." She offered a most wonderful prayer!

We also had less actives come to church who we visited and, of course, that is wonderful.

FHE was really good as we had several investigators and members present. Just before FHE we had lessons going on in our kitchen and the family room at the same time. We had 5 or 6 investigators at FHE and all are wonderful young people. We also had two of our priesthood brothers who don’t normally attend come as well. Just a good meeting all the way around.

Institute gets better. We studied the lesson before we went and were able to help direct questions that prompted more discussion for the class. Our instructor is learning and doing a better job every time he teaches.

So the work goes on out here in Russia. We love our members! I referred to a previous Branch President as an example during a lesson I was teaching and asked him in Russian if he knew i loved him. He said... not exactly. I then taught him how to know that I love him. If he did key things like prepare his lesson beforehand, relate it to personal things going on in the lives of his class, greet them warmly, etc., that his class would know that he loves them. He waited after meetings for me to say that now he knows for sure that I love him.

Last Monday was some sort of holiday here so one of the branches had a Family Home Evening activity for all of the branch members. In keeping with protocol here, we start every activity with a hymn and spiritual thought. The brother in charge asked Elder Peterson to give the spiritual thought on the spot, which he did--in Russian--and did a great job. We ate snacks and played table games, Uno (a great game because you don't need to talk!), memory, ping pong. We stayed for about an hour and then went to Komsomolski for FHE with President Zolotov and his family and President and Sister Kulikov.

Our investigator Suzy is engaged to a member in the New City branch as of two Sundays ago. We are very happy for them. He and Elder Peterson have become quite good buddies. A couple of weeks ago we had them over for dinner and watched the church DVD, "Together Forever." We debated what to talk to Suzy about. Elder Peterson thought it would be a good idea to show this movie, but I was hesitant because they weren't engaged at the time, and I thought a film about eternal marriage and families was a little presumptuous. We prayed about it and felt we should show it anyway. Eric and Suzy watched it, didn't have time afterwards to talk about it, and then left. We wondered if we had really made the best choice. So this last week we got together again, along with the elders, and Suzy asked if we had another film to watch. She had enjoyed "Together Forever;" while watching it, she had a warm feeling and knew she was on the right path. She also had all of her questions answered from watching it. We felt blessed that we had followed through on the prompting to watch that movie! We talked about expectations during our second meeting and then watched "The Restoration." She had favorable comments and felt that what she had seen was true. We are meeting again this week to talk about the Plan of Salvation. She has not been to church yet so we need to commit her to do that. She comes to FHE and Institute with Eric each week though. Oh, and they treated us to pizza that second night which even closely resembled American pizza. It was good!

Eric and Suzy

We had a fabulous Culture Night this week. Our district attended a sold-out performance of Slavic dancers from Novosibirsk. Honestly, I was skeptical about how enjoyable it would be, but it was absolutely fantastic! It was a very professional production--the costumes were perfect and the dancing was terrific. I can understand now why the show was sold out. Obviously, people knew what they were coming to see! The only way I can explain some of it is to have you think of the Russian dancers in The Nutcracker Ballet who do those crazy dances where the men have their arms folded and they kick their feet out while they are in a squatting position with their knees bent. Basically, it would take incredible strength and flexibility. All of the dancing was terrific. It was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, picture taking was forbidden. I can't get over how affordable theater tickets are here, $5-$15.

I am planning Thanksgiving dinner for our district next Friday. It's highly unlikely that I will find a turkey. Roasted chickens will probably be the next best thing. I'll have to see what else I can come up with. Definitely no pumpkin pie, but for sure there will be coconut cream pie! I may have to get brave and try homemade rolls; it's about time I pick up that skill! Hungry missionaries make for good "guinea pigs!"

Our district

Our branch building in Old City that was closed

November 5, 2012

We visited my favorite Sister Svetlana this Sunday. Elder Peterson and the missionaries administered the Sacrament to her. She is 86 years old and has many stories to tell. One of the stories she shared tonight was about when she was a teacher. She taught children many, many years ago during the Soviet Era. The teachers were instructed to tell their pupils that there was not a God. Sister Svetlana could never say that, so instead she said nothing. Her story, like many others', testifies of the light of Christ that is in all of us and that when we hear truth, that light is lit within us and will want to burn brighter as we open our hearts and minds to the truth. She met the missionaries and was baptized just 13 years ago. Even though she is unable to come to church most of the time, her testimony remains strong. There is always a spirit of love in her home.

I celebrated an enjoyable birthday on Saturday. We went out to dinner which was very nice. I had my eye on a restaurant near our home that we pass by routinely on the bus. It looked clean, casual and usually had people inside eating. So we tried it out, and it was actually very good. We ordered things on the menu according to what words we could recognize. Elder Peterson had soup and a chicken dish. I had a salad and pasta with vegetables. It was quite tasty and affordable. The dessert was good, too. I had cheesecake and Elder Peterson had something similar to a frozen Mounds bar. He recognized the word "coconut" on the menu and figured no matter what it was, if it was coconut it would be good, and he was right! It's funny how the word traveled around the zone that "The Peterson's went out on a date tonight":) What can I say...the perks of being a senior missionary couple:) Our district leader baked me a cake and brought it to district meeting on Thursday. It was delicious! They had even decorated it with frosting flowers and wrote Happy Birthday on it. Impressive! And I was also able to enjoy some delicious pumpkin waffles for breakfast, compliments of all our kids who sent me Trader Joe's pumpkin mix in the mail.
Sister Peterson's birthday cake
Sister Peterson, Elder Long (the cake chef), Elder Hangen (the cake scribe)
The district singing Happy Birthday
Sister Peterson's birthday dinner salad
We visited a member family Wednesday night, shared our spiritual thought and played General Conference Bingo. They had fixed us dinner which was so nice of them; it was our second dinner of the day. We never plan on the members feeding us, but sometimes we are pleasantly surprised. Sister Looba knows of Elder Peterson's sweet tooth, and sent us home with handfuls of candy. He thought that was particularly awesome because he actually got candy on Halloween!

We watched the church video called, "The Mediator," for our YSA Family Home Evening this week. It is from the Book of Mormon seminary video series and is narrated by President Packer. It tells a story of a man who is unable to pay a debt, is subsequently thrown in jail, but then has a friend who pays his debt for him and he is freed. The story is a good analogy of Christ's merciful atonement. We had three key investigators come so that was good. Then our game was the brown paper bag game. You put a paper bag on the ground and have to pick it up with your teeth without using your hands and no other part of your body besides your feet can touch the ground. It was pretty crazy watching some of these limber people succeed as the paper bag was cut lower and lower to the ground. In fact, the bag ended up as a flat piece of paper on the floor, and there were two people who were still able to pick it up--one of our investigators, as well as Elder Glavatsky. It was crazy!
Family Home Evening activity - The last two "contestants" picking up the flat paper bag off the floor.  "Look, mom, no hands!"

The Komsomolski RS sisters organized an activity to teach me how to make Russian pies. I went early to learn how to make the dough from one of the sisters and then the rest of the sisters came and helped assemble the pies. Piroshkis are the smaller pies, about the size of an egg roll, and you can stuff them with anything you want. Typically, they use cabbage; or mashed potatoes with onion; or hard-boiled eggs, green onions and dill; or jam; or I brought apple bits with cinnamon and sugar. Pirogs are larger pies, and plyooshka are similar to a cinnamon roll but in the shape of a pretzel. After the pies are filled, you fry them in sunflower oil. We made enough dough for an army and everyone went home with leftovers. It was very touching to me that they would take the time to help me learn about one of their traditions.
Paulina, Rada, Tamara, Alena
Some of my Relief Society Friends
Nastia, Alena, Ludmila
Alena, Tamara, Larisa
Today was our first teacher development class. We have spent a couple of weeks prayerfully putting together two meaningful teacher classes from the entire "Teaching, No Greater Call" manual. The course is intended to be a 12-week class, but we only have two classes. Needless to say, we have tried to focus on what we see the greatest needs to be and hope they are able to take something from what we teach and incorporate it into their lessons. We had eight people attend the class so we were encouraged by that. As always, the time goes by too quickly when we have to take into account translation time.

It snowed on our way to church today. Didn't last long--just long enough to get us wet. I guess it's inevitable--snow, that is. The forest is in its ugly stage right now. The trees are bare, the leaves on the ground are brown, and the foliage is wilted. It has been interesting to notice the metamorphosis of the forest throughout the seasons. People have already started hanging the bird feeders.

We are saddened to hear about the devastating Sandy hurricane in the Eastern States. It is the headline news in Russia, too! Our hearts go out to all who have had their lives put into shambles.

Our nephew entered the MTC this week on his way to Frankfurt, Germany, and our niece is submitting her mission papers in the next couple of weeks. We are so proud of them and know they will find the same joy we have in serving the Lord. Our son had a baptism this last week and 14 investigators at church on Sunday! Way to go, Elder Brent! The church is true, and the Lord is hastening His work!