We decided to brave the mosquitoes and walk through the forest. We bought some Deep Woods Off at the store last week and put it to the test. I only have two new bites so that's pretty good. We went right instead of left into the forest and after 30 minutes decided to keep going straight thinking we'd eventually run into our street again. We did run into a street eventually, but after a couple of miles on the street, realized it wasn't the street we thought it was. Evidently, the path in the forest really went in an unknown diagonal direction and spit us out on the complete other side of town. Two hours later we were safe at home with tired legs and very dirty feet. "Adventure!"
We have had an interesting week. We have been able to teach with the missionaries on several occasions with very different experiences. We met with one 19-year old girl and watched the "Together Forever" DVD. She was very touched. We asked her if she would say the closing prayer, and she was too emotional to respond. It's interesting to see how things affect people differently. Families are evidently very important to her. We have actually met with her on several occasions, but this is the first time she has shown any emotion. We'll have to see how her interest continues. Another meeting we had was with a 27-year old man who is the only surviving member of his family. Sadly, this is not an uncommon thing here. He has desires for a family so that his ancestral line continues but is afraid that he is getting used to being alone. He has definite philosophies about God, and if we can get him to recognize the truth of the restored gospel, he would be a firm believer. He is the first person we have ever met with who doesn't believe he needs God's mercy or forgiveness. He takes complete responsibility for his actions and doesn't want God to forgive him. What do you say to that? He continues to come to church and to meet with the missionaries. Another of our investigators has never prayed in his life and rejects our invitations to pray. He wants to wait until he knows in his mind and his heart together that God is real. He has met with missionaries off and on for five years, and we think the reason he doesn't want to pray is that he's afraid he'll learn what he's been taught is true and that he will have to change his life which he is not wanting to do yet. We continually pray that the Lord will help us to invite the Spirit into these people's lives. Our mission president reminds us that our success is not through baptisms; it is helping people to feel the Spirit. We definitely can see the wisdom in that and have felt the Spirit witness itself on many occasions.
As for our cultural tidbits of the week, it is getting light around 4 a.m. now. I haven't got to the point of wearing night goggles yet, but I definitely am using earplugs to try and drown out the birds chirping. We survived our week without hot water. Apparently, in the Spring and just before Fall, they do something to maintain the water pipes which results in a loss of hot water. Our friends said there was a notice posted outside the building...a lot of good that's going to do us!! Needless to say, our showers were very fast and involved some whooping and hollering! I heated water on the stove to do dishes and to wash my hair. Just like camping!! But we can't complain knowing there are missionaries around the world who probably never have hot water.
The Relief Society planned to have an "academia" at our house this week. That's what they call their monthly activity. We were going to make a traditional Russian calzone-type recipe, and each sister was assigned to bring an ingredient. Elder Peterson went to Sports Night, and I stayed home to host the sisters. Our English-speaking members (a mom and her daughter) came and brought their boiled potatoes, another sister came with makings for a Russian salad, and one other sister came and left within the first 30 minutes because she had to go home to take her medicine. After an hour had passed and no one else showed up, we decided to eat what we had. Sister Valyentina made her salad, I had made a fruit salad and brownies, the investigator who came mixed the potatoes with an egg, dipped it in flour, and fried them into potato pancakes. The five of us enjoyed our little feast:)
We continue to learn and grow. Some days we wonder if we learn anything or are just withering away, but we recognize the Lord's blessings every day and know he is blessing us, our family, those with whom we serve, and others beyond our reach whom we might not even be aware of.
1. Toliatti Zone Conference
2. Toliatti District Conference