Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Hello one and all!

Well I'm not sure when I will be heading back to Russia but I think I will still be here through the week so we will see.

A lot has happened this week. We found out Monday morning from our zone leaders that President Hinckley had passed away the day before. We of course were in shock because over here we don't really hear anything leading up to what happens, just when the big stuff happens but it sounds like it was a shock for everyone. It really doesn't feel real...its easy to feel so disconnected over here and it prolly won't feel real til I go home and not see him in conference like usual. I will miss his smile, humor and constant concern and love for the youth of the church-he is really the only prophet that I remember and have grown up with so he will always have a special place in my heart.

The work continues to move forward here despite one of my companions has gotten bronchitis from an investigator which we just found out had it when we taught her. No worries mom, its been over a week and I am fine-no symptoms etc. So I guess we will have a member come over to be with her and then we will go out to work (one of the blessings of a threesome). There is a doctor (well actually a brain surgeon) in the branch and he wouldn't give her antibiotics-they are very strong naturalists here, would rather take herbal supplements etc. because antibiotics aren't that good for your system etc. I'm just glad I already have my antibiotics with me in case something happens.

We have a really hard lesson coming up with an investigator today-we learned a big issue-concern that she has yesterday so please be praying for us that we can help her and she can have the desire, faith, and strength to overcome it-she really is amazing but for all intents and purposes her baptismal date is postponed for sure. I hate feeling so helpless-like I want to fix everything for people and just do it for them but in the end it is up to them and there is nothing we can do but testify and sit back and watch if they will walk away from the most important message they will ever here. We will see though.

Also through talking to people sometimes I feel so inexperienced. I'm starting to realize just how much of an amazing and easy life I have led. Sure I've had my struggles like everyone else but really...when it comes down to it-nothing really earth-shattering or hard as far as mistakes-sins-etc. which is good....but I'm sure people just think: what does she know? She's never experienced this, just a blessed girl from America etc...that's why I'm so glad that I can testify of Christ who HAS felt and experienced everything that we have and if anyone is important to have on our side it's Him.

Anywho...on a little lighter side, apparently I've been mumbling in my sleep lately. And last night sister Whitehead said that I was saying (Oy) which is just a filler in Russian a lot and then sister Hansen asked something in Russian and I responded in Russian and then said oy again-she doesn't remember what we said exactly but she was really confused and tried asking us (pocheemoo mwee gavareem parooskee?) (why are we speaking Russian). I thought it was pretty funny and I want to know what I said....I can't speak Russian well while I'm awake but apparently I can when I'm asleep, haha.

Today we are going to old town which is a cool part of the city that is really old fashioned-cobblestone streets and a lil tower-castle type thing with lots of stores and even a McDonald's (guess their old town was very advanced for the time). I need to buy a new journal-I really need to write smaller and less or all I'll have room for is my journals.

I'm grateful to be here and to be around such great examples and will be sure to let you know when I head back to Russia etc.

I love you all and hope that all is well with you and your busy schedules. Thank you for all your letters and news from home. (Hopefully when I go back I will have a bunch of packages from home waiting).

I just have to say what a comfort it is that this is Christ's church and that our leader never will change, only the earthly representative.

Cectpa Richards

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tehray (spelled phonetically in Estonian)

Hey family!

Well my first week here in Estonia has brought a lot of good. The companionship I am in is amazing and they are such good examples to me. We do a lot more street contacting which I had not done a lot of before with my trainer etc, and am really trying to use every minute.

I am trying to think of mom’s questions....our apartment is really nice, they even have a real washer and I have my own will be hard to go back, haha. Um, the ride over in the train had four bunk beds in a lil compartment, two on each side-thus the crampedness. The food here is def more Americanized...Europeanized....esp. since I have two American companions so we aren’t exactly eating borsht a whole ton. got a lil colder here and started snowing the past few days but really it just doesn’t seem that bad to me...don’t know...I haven’t hurt yet from the cold like I would in Russia. It is definitely more Europeanized than Russia and is WAY clean-it is kinda crazy to get used to. Did I already write about our falk experience? If not let me know and I will tell you, haha. I am duffle bagging it right now-def not traveling with all my stuff. I am mostly over my cold thing-didn’t effect my ears (woohoo!)

Today was our culture day. We went to Rokvere castle-def check it out on google or something. It was really cool and we got some pictures but all of them are on others cameras- mine is still in the mission office I think...pretty sure it is. But yea, it was really exciting for me tho they had added cheesy type things to it-not exactly in its pure ruined state. They had a scary lil ride thing to walk through and in one room there was cheesy torture chamber type things, but still cool, though it was all in Russian-didn’t really understand the cool history stuff. Hmmm what else...

I am honestly really grateful for this experience to be here and see how other missions work. In the future every three months I should have to come here but it should only be for a couple days at most, and in response to dads inquiry-I am already hoping and planning on extending so no worries-it seems our president is open to sisters extending (he asked if my trainer would extend).
Anywho...its funny cause we actually heard about Heath Ledger today, because some of the missionaries already emailed and heard from their families. It is so sad what happens to all of the young rich celebrities-what a waste, and I remember he was doing a movie-wonder if he finished it or not.

We also heard from someone that America is having an economical crisis? Something about inflation or small businesses or something? Hopefully it won’t be too bad...also we randomly heard that Mitt Romney had the most votes or something for the Republican Party candidate? Anywho...Life is good here and I’m glad to be serving the Lord wherever it happens to be for the week.

Eric, I am so excited that you are sort of coming over to my part of the world-come on over the water is fine 8) I am sure you are way excited and nervous but know you will do great and hope that you will keep in touch better once you get over here-I’ll be really interested to hear how the work is going-however much you can tell me about it that is.

Steve, so the movie almost made you throw up?? Why, was it really gross???? or crazy dizzying chase scenes or something?

Mike Jess and kids, hope all is going well with you guys and that you are enjoying good ol Oklahoma. Send me some pics of the kids! I am sure they already are bigger from the last pictures I got from Christmas 8)

Well I love you all and am so grateful for this amazing opportunity that I have been given to work with amazing missionaries and see a new part of the world all while serving the Lord. O by the way, tell our neighbors that I say `preevet´ (phonetic of course)

Cectpa Richards

For my lil bloggers:

CONGRATS to KYLE and BECCA!!!!!!!! I was SOOOO happy and excited to hear the great news!!!!!!!! You just make me all happy and warm inside 8) Also, of course congrats to my Sara and Justin-woohoo!!!!! are just droppin like flies, look at ya! It is only a matter of time before I hear about Chels and Amanda...tho to be perfectly honest I secretly hope not 8)
Well I luv ya all, can you believe I’m in Estonia?! ...and I saw a cool castle?! Anywho.....keep on keepin´on

Friday, January 18, 2008

From Krasnodar to Taganrog then on to Estonia ...what???


Haha, bet you would want to know that huh? Well as it turns out my transfer was to Taganrog, a smaller town on the Aziak...something sea. For the first week it was me and Cectpa Burnett and even though it is naturally challenging with two fresh greenies together-it has been good and we were learning a lot. The branch is amazing and has a lot of cool strong youth. we taught a golden investigator that came to church all on her own and apparently they had taught her the first lesson before I came and then we taught her the second lesson and got a baptismal date by the end of it! It was really cool though we have since learned that her husband is not really her husband, just have lived together for a long time but we are confident that she will make the appropriate changes-prolly get married so we will see!

Though....I have sort of gotten a new transfer since last writing that happened just a few days ago. I am sort of in Tallin, Estonia right now. As it turns out our visas ran out and they were late with our paper work so a bunch of us got sent to the Baltics (in the case of the sisters) or Ukraine-mainly elders for the next couple of weeks.

So a few days ago we took a bus to Rostov where I met up with Cectpa King and Taylor from the MTC! and then the mission president drove us to the airport and we flew to Moscow and from there somehow (honestly thanks to Cectpa Taylor) we found our way through the metro under Moscow-honestly sooo cool and complex! we got to our train station and me and Cectpa King went to Estonia and Cectpa Taylor went to Latvia. our train ride was pretty cool- like Harry Potter only with bunkbeds and it was very squished. It was us and two other ladies and was obviously over night and they didn't feed us! but of course they offered tea and coffee, oh well.

We arrived in Tallinn, Estonia eight o'clock yesterday morning and were met by the mission president, his wife and Cectpa Witehead and Hanson-Witehead was in the MTC with us so we were really excited to see her. We went straight to their branch building which was very nice for their zone conference-cool timing huh?

Honestly, me and Cectpa King both feel like we came here for a reason-not just because of our visas but because we needed to learn from these missionaries in the Baltics and get the real training we needed and come back and whip the sisters into shape. I am REALLY excited to be here. Naturally the city is far more western-European and is right on the black sea. It is pretty cool. Most people speak Estonian, some Russian, and generally the Estonian youth know English so it is always fun to figure out if you can communicate with them or not. I am here in Tallin and Cectpa King is east in Narva. I am in a threesome with Cectpa Whitehead and Hanson-seriously they are amazing sister missionaries! They really are great examples to me. They have great goals in their mission- 20 contacts a day, 140 a week, 20 lessons a week etc, really impressive. And just before we came to the Internet cafe I talked with a girl on the bus in English cause she was Estonian and got her number-they make it so easy, how it should be.

Yesterday after zone conference we were on the bus-it works a bit differently here, there is not a conductor who goes to each person and makes them pay. You buy a ticket or have a pass and then randomly without warning little rent-a-cops called falks come on and check everyone and if you did not pay they pull you off into a van and apparently if you do not have a good excuse you go to jail-crazy huh?!

Um....what hard to remember cause so much has happened....

So we think we will be here for 3 weeks or so but who knows...maybe more. On p-day we will have culture day and go see a castle. THAT IS RIGHT, A CASTLE!!!! I am SOOO excited! Also, they have what they call old town which is like a fairytale-hundreds of years old that we can see while I am here. It is a really clean city and feels a bit different from Russia. I am excited for our time here and can feel I will learn a lot and will have to bring all I learned back to Russia-I am tired of making excuses for myself (oh, it is Russia, that is why it is hard to contact etc-the people are cold etc- why should that affect me right?)

I was way excited to hear about all that is going on in your lives. I was excited to hear about Kyle and Becca-congrats!!! and also Chelsea Burkinshaw congrats!

I do not know anything about our branch here because i have not been to church but I am sure it will be great too. I just can not describe how great this mission feels-not that ours feels bad but I just can tell I will learn so much that can help us improve our mission in Rostov so I am taking notes and will now write my mission president a letter about what I have seen.

I love you all and will write next Wednesday-we have the same p-day here in Estonia, and I should be able to send pictures next week cause my comps have a chord and we will take pictures at the castle etc 8)

Also, congrats to Eric-I am sure you are excited to finish your training and finally do what you have been training so hard for. I will pray for you as I know you are praying for me- love ya, you will do great! I am proud to tell people what you are doing and the service you are giving.

Well I love you all and I am sure you will write with a million questions next week, but I am sure you will get on Google and look up stuff about this town-please do it is really cool looking!

Cectpa Richards

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Where in the world is Whiteroo?

We didn't get an email from Whitney today like we usually do. There's a chance we might hear something from her tomorrow. Looking at her last email she was sick last week so hopefully things haven't gotten worse and she's down in bed and unable to go out. I will post something as soon as we hear from her. Let's all keep her in our prayers.

Monday, January 14, 2008

From Krasnodar to Taganrog

Whitney's first area was in Krasnadar which is the 3rd largest city in her mission with a population exceeding 750 thousand people. It is located on the Kubar river where all of the best fruits, vegetables and dairy products come from. It has two branches and they also enjoy attending meetings in the most beautiful branch building in the entire mission.

Whitney is now in her second area Taganrog which is located a couple of hours west of Rostov. It is on the sea of Azole. It has a population of 300 thousand people. The Branch membership in Taganrog exceeds 150 members. They also enjoy having the most active Branch in the mission with 60% attendance.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I've been transferred

Hey everyone!

Yea, that's right I'm in Rostov right now. I got a transfer to Tagonrog (no idea how to spell that) and I'll be in a companionship with two other sisters. One is a girl who was in the older group just before ours. The other is a native who's been out since summer. It should be interesting since they said that she's had a bit of a problem functioning as a missionary but had been companions with Sister Taylor-one of my roommates in the MTC and as straight an arrow as you can get- I think she helped her a lot so hopefully it won't be soo hard getting her back on track.

Though the native sister Grachishneekoff (phonetically of course) won't be coming for two weeks so it will be me and Sister Burnett. I'm excited though, I think it will really push me with the language etc. I loved my trainer but I'm excited for this change and the opportunity to really step it up.

Also, I got mom's package today with the skorper and pepparkakor (which everyone in the office loved) thanks so much! I was so excited and hopefully the others will make it through too-nothin' like a Christmas tree for valentines! 8) Thanks so much mom for all the gifts waiting for me, sigh, I feel loved. Thank you all for your help and support-seriously it means so much and I'm so glad to have all your prayers. On the slightly down side I have a cold. Nothing too major just a sore throat and sinuses acting up-woohoo, but o well shall work through it of course and reap the blessings for it-I've been promised health in multiple blessings so I have the faith nothing of real significance will happen, the Lord is preserving me.

So we got in last night by train-we rode third class which wasn't exactly ideal but it was cool-never ridden on a train before and some members of the branch and our old comps saw us off at the platform and ran along the train waving and holding a sign saying: We're happy now! hahaha, it was pretty funny.

Haha, it's funny about your reactions to the movies we watched-yea I know...I thought it was pretty weird too. We've only seen Hoodwinked and the Bourne movie-though if you have a t.v. etc and it's approved you can see one movie every P-day if you want. Every once in awhile it will be fun but I dunno...I don't' think I wanna make a habit of it-easier to just be fully in the work, hard to put your foot back and forth here and home. Eh, they were good though.

I was excited to hear about how everyone's doing and hope you had great holidays. Well I better go-I love you all!

Cectpa Richards

p.s. of course I'm not mad at Heather-I know it takes an eternity for stuff to make its way to us out here plus I can understand being busy etc with her new hubby-heck I was never good at writing Mike or Eric, just ask them 8)

o yea, I forgot to mention we saw the nutcracker and it was soooo cool! The music, dancing, gorgeous/ornate theatre, it was amazing! Hopefully I can get a few more in before leaving.

luv ya
Cectpa Richards

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Health, happiness and stuff like that

Happy New Year one and all!

2008 looks like it'll be a great year for me and I hope it will be for you too! I have to say Russians really know how to do the New Years-it's the one holiday that they really celebrate and go all out for (not really big on Christmas like us).

So yesterday we met with a few referrals and sang them a christmas song and gave them a gift of a book of Mormon and some pictures of Christ etc. and got a return appointment. It was cool cause you could tell the lady really appreciated it because she got a lil' emotional-always happy to cheer someone for the holidays. Then we tried to buy some food etc. for our night since we got to stay up til 12:30 am and it was like a natural disaster had occurred. The reenok was a mess, people buying everything that wasn't tied down-mass chaos. Then we went home, changed into street clothes and tagless (for obvious reasons) and went over to the Elders. We had pizza, cookies and got to watch a movie. We saw the Bourne Ultimatum which I was REALLY excited for since I hadn't gotten to see it before I left and it was approved so we watched that. It was pretty cool though I'm not sure if I liked the style they shot it in as much. I think the elders found my excitement and enthusiasm for it funny: "Most girls aren't like that..." What can I say, I like action.

Then at 8:30 pm me and my companion had to go home. We ate, and watched finding Nemo and.....colored my hair 8) (I know-you're all freaking out now and worrying, what color?! why?!) It's a dark-chocolate brown- type color and it turned out really well. Who knows, if I like it enough maybe you'll see it when you come to get me. I'd show you a picture but I didn't bring my chord to my camera so you'll just have to use your wild imaginations.

Then five minutes to midnight Putin did his traditional five minute speech to the Russian people. I didn't really understand what he said but he did say "Dear friends.....Happy New" stuff like that. Then they showed the Russian equivalent of Big Ben in Moscow chime midnight and started singing the Russian hymn and we went out on our balcony. It's pretty cool here because there aren't laws about fireworks so EVERYONE buys them and not just lil' sissy kinds that go off in the streets but the big kinds too. I think every rooftop in the city was shooting them off so it was like the whole horizon and everywhere around you was fireworks-pretty cool. I guess traditionally at midnight you shake in your hand or have whatever you want to happen the following year for ex: it's common for people to shake coins/money in their hands meaning they'll get money in the coming year or...whatever you want. They also think of a wish/desire and then at midnight toast and it will come true.

Walking to the Internet cafe was interesting today-it's like a ghost town practically. Today is our P-day and by 5:00 pm we need to be in our apartments but then it's back to work tomorrow. I'm excited for this week because me and my companion decided it's consecration week meaning we follow every single rule exactly-regarding times, speak your language etc, and we leave every morning a lil' early and don't come back til 9:00- so we work ALL day and just bring something we can snack on throughout the day etc. I'm really excited for this because I know it will help me become a better missionary and we can do it every week. Also, this Friday for our culture night which we haven't done yet since coming (we get one a month if we want) all of the missionaries in Krasnodar are going to see the Nutcracker ballet. I'm REALLY excited because if you go to Russia, you HAVE to see a ballet and I haven't seen this ballet since I was 10 when the Bartlesville community center put it on.

Hey mom, where was your email to me huh?? and I STILL haven't "opened" the supposed gift that you got me for Christmas. Still no packages but hey, what can ya do.

Something kinda funny just happened. A drunk guy came up to me and asked me something but I didn't understand and my comp is on the next computer and she let him start using her computer for something.

Anywho, possible things of note that could be happening in the near future for me: It turns out that there was a new visa law made right when we came. If we had come a day earlier into Russia our visas would have been good for a year, but now they're only good for 3 months so sometime in January all of us who came in October will have to go to Histonia for a short lil' trip to renew our visas. It's a hassle and gets in the way of the flow of the work but it will be interesting to see I'm sure.

You'll have to write me and tell me what all Santa brought you for Christmas-anything exciting etc. Also, to Sara: congratulations on your engagement!!!! That's so CRAZY that Karin sat right by you on the plane and you both realized that you knew me-yup that's me, touching lives everywhere, haha. I'm so excited for you, especially since we're more connected through Houston 8)

Well I love you all and know that as we make resolutions to become better and improve ourselves and how we are living our lives, the Lord will bless and consecrate our efforts and help us find more happiness and a stronger resolve to live His gospel and continue enduring to the end. I want to challenge you all to make it a family goal to pray for, look for, and accomplish at least one missionary-type experience each week and then report to each other for family night. It could be as simple as sharing what you believe through natural conversation to a stranger, friend, inviting people to some type of function, or giving referrals to the elders in the area,pass-along cards, but something. I know the Lord needs as many instruments as he can find and will be more than happy to bless you with opportunities and the sensitivity and courage to meet them.

I love you all soooooooooooooooooo much! And am grateful for your prayers and continual thoughts and well wishing. Keep me informed in all of the developments in your lives and have a Happy New Year!

Cectpa Richards