Thursday, March 27, 2008

Miracles happen

Howdy Ya'll!

Greetings from Rostov-no I didn't receive a transfer (at least not yet-we find out next week). Me and Cectpa G decided to come out to Rostov (2 hour "electreechka" or electric train-type-thing ride). We want to go with Cectpa M to the zoo here-apparently it's really big and nice but it's raining today so we'll see....we might just go back to T-rog and get our shopping done. Speaking of shopping 8) somehow I lost my tennis shoes....not quite sure how you do that as a missionary seeing as we NEVER wear them, but yea...not to worry-I've had them since 9th grade and they've been through 4 years of marching band so I prolly needed new ones just....well....the thing about buying things is you sorta need money. Anywho, I was wondering if maybe I could tell you how much they were and you could put the money in my account-as sort of a bday present maybe? Don't worry-I'll go cheap, go to the reenok. I really wanna get them cause it's warming up as I'm sure you know and I want to start running in the mornings.

So the work is going really well-Cectpa G is really improving at opening her mouth, contacting and helping in teaching situations. I feel like we're both really growing and learning from one another and I'm excited to be working together-hopefully we will still be together at least one more transfer.

So a 16 year old boy that we knocked into months ago is getting baptized this Sunday here in Rostov (the elders taught him) and he's pretty golden (at every church meeting, FHE, English,etc). And we found out a really cool twist to the story that I will now share with all of you:

So apparently this kid (Deema-short for Vladeek I think) has been a really good kid his whole life-never drank, smoked, etc. (a big deal at age 16 in Russia) and as a result never had any friends because everyone else did that stuff. He was a believing person and prayed for help, for something to happen because it was too hard to be alone without any friends etc. He said that he heard a voice (whether out loud or in his head I don't know) that said two people will come to you.

Well I don't know how long this was before we knocked into him but I remember this day-prolly in the first week or so of me and Cectpa G being together. We must have knocked 200 doors that day (two big apartment buildings) and I had let the rejections start to get to me. I was definitely feeling discouraged and frustrated. We knocked on Deema's door and I said my shpeel (he later told us he didn't understand me) but I told him about our English classes and gave him an invitation and we moved on.

So we were sitting on a bench just outside his podezd taking a breather before our last podezd (stairwell). He said that he heard the voice saying: you missed them (like, that was them). So he came out and started talking to us and when he learned we were from church he asked how he could join. I'm ashamed to say that the whole time I really wondered about his sincerity-it's not every day a young boy is REALLY interested in our message for religious reasons. But we invited him to church-he called us a bunch of times to double check where and when and when he came the elders befriended him and the rest is history.

It's just sooo humbling when you have experiences like this. You can see that the Lord really is directing this work. I don't think we knew exactly where we'd be this day, but the Lord knew we'd be there and knew that we could help Him answer Deema's prayer. Just goes to show that God really does know us and what we are doing-sometimes it's easy to feel isolated or feel like it's just you out here cause you only see your feeble efforts and little result but then something like this happens and then it's a BIG reality check-oh yea, I'm not alone. He's totally directing this work and it's humbling to know that in this instance He knew that he could count on us to be there. I'm realizing more and more that 90% of the time we don't' even realize that we are being instruments in His hands-but in a way it's important because if we knew exactly why we were saying something, going some where, our faith wouldn't grow half as much, wouldn't be such a big test.

Well, anywho...I love you all and hope all is well with you-you'll have to write and tell me about how Oklahoma was and seeing the kids etc.

Luv, Cectpa Richards

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Things are looking up

Greetings from the land up north!

Well it sounds like everyone is doing great and keeping busy with all sorts of fun and interesting things which makes all your emails fun and interesting to read so thanks! Well we just got off of a great week-we had more lessons than we have ever had before and more new investigators than ever before, the Lord is definitely blessing us. Sadly Cectpa Malinina goes on today to Rostov to work with those sisters for the last two weeks of the transfer so it will be real interesting to see how her influence sticks with Cectpa G. Hopefully we'll only continue to improve and do more and more.

I have definitely noticed a correlation between how many people I talk to and the amount of success we have-not that our success necessarily comes from street contacting but it seems the Lord blesses us later through knocking into someone or by some other means. Though one story that really solidified my testimony of street contacting: we were walking along and I've really been trying hard to just talk to people at the drop of the hat if I feel the slightest inclination (not as easy as it sounds) and I stopped one woman and explained who I was, why I was here and if she would be interested to learn more etc. She was really sweet and gave me her number and then invited me right then and there to go with her to her house to talk-needless to say we found my companions and then all went over. They are members of some baptist type of church (with your typical hands in the air, amen type places) but the mom seems really nice and open. She even started crying while we were walking to her house saying how she is having such a hard time finding a job and living conditions aren't ideal for her right now, but she felt like she should have walked the way she was walking and sure enough met me.

It was really humbling because it wasn't like I felt anything earth shattering just saw someone that came into my path, wasn't walking super fast and decided to open my mouth. It's really humbling to know that the Lord uses us for His children and most of the time we don't even realize it-think of the many opportunities that pass us by without us ever realizing it! So now I'm definitely converted to talking to EVERYONE. I know it's sort of a "duh" thing in missionary work but after much rejection it's easy to doubt certain methods, wondering if it's just something you hear about in the ensign etc.

We knocked into one AMAZING girl who invited us in was excited to talk to us and wanted to meet again. We tried calling her last night but her boyfriend answered and after learning who we were wouldn't let us talk to her and said that he would decide because she was his etc (sounds like a real catch yea?) anyway, needless to say I was so mad afterwards and wanted to beat all boys (no offense boys) so I'm just praying that she'll some how be able to contact us.

Happy Birthday Benson!!! I can NOT believe you are 4!!!! of course I feel like you are older because you are such a smart boy and helping with your sisters. Seriously where is the time going?

It's really cool that mom and Steve get to spend sometime in good ol' OK. I hope you guys have a wicked-awesome storm there in honor of our OK days-they really were the best. take some pictures of the town if you can-at least, places that i would recognize.

Mom-thanks for all the great info on my friends! I can't believe Sara is already was in March?! crazy, time seems to be super compressed here because by the time I get news of something it's already nearly happened-lil time to get used to the idea. Congrats SARA and JUSTIN!!!! That is soooo cool, you'll have to write me and tell me all about it and where you went for the honeymoon etc-later of course when everything calms down-it's a whirlwind I'm sure.

Amanda, I'm so excited that I got a heart CB shirt!!! you can send it on to me or wait-but seriously anything new received on a mission is exciting (sad but true-a new shirt to wear to bed/ p-days would be really exciting) you just get so tired of the same old same old things. I think after my mission I will have fun burning my clothes, haha...or....ya it to DI or something....

I have a letter for Heather to send in the pouch but I have to find some American stamps, but I'll try and get on that.

Well it was a great St. Patrick's day....not sure why....we didn't do anything for it-my companions didn't know much about it-heard of it but maybe just because of all the Americans they hang out with. It's funny, you'd think Russians would love a holiday that encourages drinking etc, but I guess they don't need a holiday to do that. As they say here: every day in Russia is a holiday (and it's really true, just people rarely remember which they are celebrating).

So apparently Cectpa Malinina helped the elders find an apartment yesterday which is really good because if she hadn't- President would have moved us to Rostov and given the elders our apartment so there would be four elders but no sisters here in T-rog (He doesn't' like 4 elders living together) but they have one now so we're here still. Also it seems Cectpa Malinina gets to choose where and with whom she will serve for the last transfer of her mission. She said she wants me and will try but neither of us are very hopeful just because we have now served with each other twice and I need to be with cectpa G (president said he doesn't' trust many people to be able to work effectively with her etc). But we'll see, we mainly just want to be together for my birthday (12th) and because it's her last week before she dies (goes home).

I'm so greatful for all of your love and support. Steve, that sounded really gross-what happened to your toe, but way to be a man...I'm sure you didn't cry....much 8) And glad to see you are continuing the tradition of werewolves-tho I'm sure it's not as fun or masterfully played as ol' F6 and R22. We're having a reunion when I get back and we're all playing k?(--this question mark is really only here for grammar's sake, it's not a question).

It's interesting to hear about all the snow in Salt Lake right now-it's pretty nice here and every now and then we get a gorgeous day without clouds (i can NOT wait for spring and summer!!! ) tho...I'm sure I will be retracting that statement when it's really hot and we're climbing all the stairwells to knock and apparently the smell gets really bad in the heat 8) Also great to hear about Hawaii-I'm sure it was gorgeous and humid, it would be really interesting to see all the historical sites there.

Speaking of army, hey Eric! How's the job, life, the base? It's always funny if when in conversation it comes up that you are in the army and in Iraq-everyone is always like: "No way!" and then aren't sure what to say (if I think it's a good thing or a bad thing, am worried etc. ) I just tell them not to worry-that you've got a cushy job listening to the soothing sounds of Arabic all day long-right?

Well I love you all and gotta hurry and write to President. Please keep praying for me and the work (more importantly the work) I expect some pictures in emails of family, weddings, and friends soon 8)

Cectpa Richards

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

And the work goes on

Hello one and all!

All is well here in team T-rog. Cectpa Malinina has been working with us for the past few weeks and will either go back this week or next but it's been great seeing her and reminiscing-(sp?)

It's been fun because she's been able to see how I've grown and gotten further in what I'm able to do-of course you never really notice how much you are improving etc but apparently there is a difference which is heartening 8)'s hard to focus, I'm really hungry (fasting for an investigator who is golden to the core, we've taught everything, she accepts everything but isn't legally married to her husband because he doesn't have visa/documents-the government won't give it to him because if they do they have to pay him a bunch of money because he's a medaled war hero and they naturally don't want to pay him money and also want a bribe which they don't have the money for. So we're fasting for her to receive an answer of what to do-I'm hoping whatever it is it will lead to baptism quickly, tho I don't know if she'll be brave enough to just leave him-been together for a long time....we'll see)

Um, haha thanks for your approval of our lil joke dad-I thought mom would at least mention it but then again she was sick when she wrote the email and wasn't' prolly all there. So far there have been no repercussions (sp? seriously my English is suffering now) though for Women's' Day they came over and made us breakfast and gave us flowers and chocolates-we have a good bunch of elders here. I thought I'd at least get a comment of how cool our axe experience was while knocking-sheesh, tough crowd, haha I'll get a cooler story this week k?...though I may have to die in the process for it to be cooler...maybe a kidnapping...yea, that'll get a comment (haha joking of course)

It looks like in the beginning of April we'll go on another trip to Estonia for new visas-I swear heads in the office are going to roll soon, haha our president is pretty annoyed with all the red tape (understandably) but this time at least it will only be for a day, there and back so no big deal. It's fun cause all of us who were in the MTC and came out together in the field get a little reunion every couple of months 8)

Eric, thanks for the email!! it was way cool to hear about where you are. I dunno, I could prolly use an intensive "listening only" situation-it could really boost my listening comprehension which may be my weakest area right now, understandably. I liked the little comment about the victory over America palace-hahaha, talk about counting your chickens (or is it eggs?)before they've hatched. you'll have to take tons of pics and send them-they'll prolly get here faster than anything from home.

Speaking of things from home, if you haven't already sent my bday package: PEANUT BUTTER M&Ms!!! (it's impossible to get them here, simply not here) I mean, in Rostov you can find peanut butter which is pretty cool, but not this, also yellow cake and chocolate frosting 8) Cakes here, I'm learning, are really pleasing to the eye-they look great but just not very satisfying in the end, shrug. (I think it's cause they don't have the good liquid vanilla-this powdery stuff that's not as good and they don't have brown sugar). Also some batteries would be good-here half the time you get batteries and they're already used and not much juice left in them.

Well I hope mom is feeling better and that Steve hasn't caught whatever she's had cause then she'll catch it again- I know how the chain works. And what was the big news from Steve? you left me hanging buddy-sigh.
what else...

Thanks for the pictures Mike/Jess! they were sooo cute and soooo grown-up looking! wow...I cannot believe how big Gracie is. Poor kids, I understand their pain with all the ear stuff...looks like they are blessed with the same tiny ear canals like me-hopefully they won't have to get tubes like me, ugh but whatever helps right?

Well the work is going good here, we have a couple of potential investigators that we'll see if we can't kick into high gear in the upcoming week. Our English class is going great-our attendance was smaller this past week but we had more fun than we've had so hopefully they'll go tell their friends and get people coming back. We have two baptism dates right now- one a mom of a less active that we've been working towards baptism as well as re inactivating her son-they came to church last week so it's looking good. Also there is a 9 year old boy who's gma is an active member and his mom is inactive-hopefully we'll have the cooperation of the parents and the baptism will go through.

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve here and feel so blessed that the Lord trusts me with this important work and responsibility of teaching his children in Russia-and it is DEFINITELY needed here. Satan really is doing a number on people here as far as traditions go-there are some really hardened hearts, and not because they are bad by any means just...have let their traditions become the very chains he uses to stop them from coming to the truth. Sometimes I feel like "the dog who saw a rainbow but none of the other dogs believe me" (who can name that movie? hmm?) But at the same time it's better than if they didn't' have any religious beliefs at all-there's definitely a foundation to work with there, just need to focus on our similarities and trust that the Holy Ghost will teach them the truthfulness of the differences. I love you all and pray for you every day as I know you are praying for me.

Please work with the missionaries wherever you are-give them referrals or at least ask them if they have investigators you can invite over for FHE one week, to teach a lesson or anything like that-it makes such a difference when the branch/ward you are serving in supports and is excited about the work and you know you can count on them. Plus it really increases the likely hood of them getting baptized because they have a real foundation of support in the ward-have friends etc. Seriously one thing I have definitely learned while serving on a mission is how I want to help the missionaries when I go back home-the kind of member I want to be cause I know how hard it is and what a difference it makes. So please do it! pick one Monday out of the month and ask the missionaries if you can offer your home for them to bring an investigator to simply fellowship etc-they'll be so happy I promise! especially since in the states everyone is kinda on their own for FHE-here they have an FHE at the branch for all the people without families-young people etc.

I love you tons!
Cectpa Richards

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Grannies, swearing, and axes ...Oh My!

Well hello there everyone!

Things here in T-rog are going pretty well 8) Weather has definitely been warmer which is always nice and Cectpa Malinina has come and joined us for a couple of weeks. She is kind of an unofficial AP for the sisters and will spend a few weeks with each of the sister companionships throughout the mission working with them etc. It has been good having her here because she is definitely more take charge etc than me as far as talking to sister G. Don't get me wrong, sister G is great and will work...just...isn't a leader at all and does NOT like street contacting and or talking to people outside of knocking situations which isn't very good since you can't be knocking all the time but we are missionaries all the time.

But sister M has been great and really just is blunt and lays down the law which I know sister G needs to hear. Its amazing how much easier and less scarier missionary work is, namely street contacting when your companion does it and acts like its not a big deal (cause it's not) so I've been really grateful to her.

My efforts as far as street contacting go have increased too. The other day I talked to a bob (bobooshka=gma) in the reenok the other day as we were walking and she asked me why I'm doing this and how much do I get payed and when she realized I didn't get payed etc, kept asking-then why do you do it etc? If people want faith or church they can find it, you dont need to bother us blah blah blah, haha. I was just happy that I understood her, and I reached where sister M and G were waiting as the gma walked passed, yelling at me still and sister M just looked at me with raised eyebrows and said, "She said you are shameless." I just laughed and she said, "I'm proud of you." Which made me feel really good to have her approval-no one is perfect but I really respect her work ethic and fearlessness.

Anywho....I have another fun story from yesterday but I wonder if all here will see the humor in it that I did....oh well, I'll go ahead and tell you. SO we were knocking and one lady came out and once she realized who we were started yelling-happens. I didn't really understand what she was saying and cectpa M said: WOW, she used some BAD words. So we went to the next door and she came out again and said you're still here?! and started yelling again telling us to leave etc. Cectpa G started to leave and I started to follow her, we only had one door left in the stairwell anyway, and cectpa M reluctantly followed (she doesn't like to be chased out of places etc-like I said, fearless) all of a sudden the lady comes back out of her apartment still yelling, this time she has an axe! Hahaha, she didn't do anything with it and I didn't even see her cause I was already out of the stairwell but cectpa m saw cause she was last and the lady was waving it around and yelling.

Now, before you start to worry unnecessarily-this is a VERY rare occurrence and if you saw this tiny lady you would not be worried for our lives, hahaha. It was just so funny because we rang on her door and said we are here as missionaries and talk with people about families etc, and this is how she reacted, hahaha just so extreme and over the I have a cool little story to share about my mission. Mom, stop worrying, I know you-stop worrying, it was funny and the Lord is taking care of us so just laugh and don't worry.

Anywho, tomorrow is zone conference which I am REALLY excited about! I'm singing the special musical number for it so we will see how it goes-it has been a long time since I've had the chance to sing, it's kinda weird. um...what else...the 8th of March is Women's Day. A holiday where basically men give gifts to women for being women- yea! Way to be a woman! Shrug, I don't get it either but they have a Men's Day too so at least it's fair. We'll see if the elders do anything for us 8)

Well the work is going well and we have two baptismal dates-one 9 year old boy who's parents are inactive but his gma is active and a mother of a less active who we've been meeting with for awhile.

In response to mom's questions about T-rog, it is definitely smaller than Krasnodar and prolly less fancy looking buildings/public transportation. It's right next to a sea which is cool-though it's all frozen right now but hopefully I'll get to see it before I leave here. I really like it here and am excited to work hard and better all the time. Our English class is going well-it is always interesting because me and Elder Miller came out at the same time=we don't know Russian that well and the people in our class are in the middle group=they don't know English that well, but we have our trusted dictionary and get some laughs from it.

Thanks for all your love and support-it was crazy to hear about dad's run in with the racket, though I was impressed with how long he lasted before serious injury, and that's so cool that you guys get to hang with Mike/Jess and the kids-you'll have to take pictures of you guys while you're there and of our house and Central! and send them to me 8)It'll be fun to see my old haunts.

Well I better go, I'll be sure to write more of my adventures next week-hopefully they'll be a lil more quiet 8) Hahhaha.

Cectpa Richards