We have been disappointed this week to learn that Suzy doesn't want to meet with us any more...for missionary lessons anyway. Her fiance told us she wants to learn more but in her own time, and she doesn't want to be told what to do. Elder Peterson had already spent a good deal of time putting together a list of the highlights we had taught, which are the key doctrines of the church, in order to encourage Eric and Suzy to discuss them together. So we were worried about when we would be able to see her one last time in order to give this material to her. We were excited to see her at Institute on Friday night, an answer to our prayer. We had the opportunity to speak just with her, expressing our desires for her to continue learning and our appreciation for letting us teach her. She was very grateful and we were able to feel like our friendship had not been adversely affected at all. Her fiance is the Institute instructor and bore such a strong testimony in his lesson. We are hoping and praying that they will continue to learn and progress together so that she will have a desire to join the church some day.
On the upside, we had a great day Saturday at the baptism of an eight-year old girl in our Komsomolski Branch. She is part of a family who we have spent considerable time with because they invite us to their home often. We had to start the meeting a little late because the first try at filling up the font was with weird-colored water so they had to let it drain out and then refill it. I can't quite figure out why it was filled so full with dirty water? The missionaries were able to use the spare time to practice a hymn for the musical number. There were many branch members who came, including a family who we haven't seen in church for several weeks, and the family was very grateful for everyone's support. Two investigators came as well; that is always a plus!
After the baptism, we went to the family's home for a traditional Russian dinner of Plov (rice and chicken dish) that they cooked in a dutch oven over a wood fire. As usual, it was very delicious. One of the missionary companionships in the branch came with us, and another family from the branch came who are close friends with the family whose daughter was baptized. In fact, they are Suzy's future in-laws. We feel very comfortable in their home and are always treated like family when we are there. Elder Peterson helped the oldest daughter with her English reading homework while the missionaries played checkers with the other two daughters and I did the dishes. We shared a spiritual thought and played Conference Bingo again, a requested favorite.
Our FHE group was on the "famine" side of attendance this week. It seems to go in patterns--many, few, etc. Unfortunately, we had an investigator who was there by himself with the missionaries before only two other young adults came. We still had fun but always like it when more people come. Just leaves plenty of room for improvement next week!
Our district had our culture night for this cycle the other night. We went to hear a men's vocal quartet from the Kazan monastery. The first half of the concert they sang traditional "Christmas" hymns and were dressed in their priestly robes. We were sufficiently bored and thought we'd leave at intermission, but our Ukrainian sister missionary talked us into staying, saying that the second half would be traditional Russian songs, not religious hymns, and so it would be much more enjoyable. Well, after intermission, the monks came out in black shirts and pants instead of their robes so that was our first clue that the mood of the program was going to be different. As they announced each song, the audience would Ooo and Ahhh, recognizing the song as one of their favorites. Russians really do appreciate their cultural music! We haven't learned to appreciate it quite as much as they do, but we definitely had a cultural experience! We even knew one of the songs! Silent Night, sung in English!
There was a marked difference in the feeling at church on Sunday, the first Sunday we have been back to that branch since our special Fast. Meetings were well attended, members participated respectfully during the lessons, and there was a good spirit there. Of course, we don't see everything that goes on behind the scenes, but all in all it is good to see improvement.
January 19, 2013: Leeza Izmalkova