Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Well, well ...interesting how things work out

October 29. 2008

After I got the email from dad and thought about it and also felt impressed for you guys to not come out I talked with President the next day and found out that I can't extend! It turns out that they thought someone was coming in on January which would have made us uneven and thus would have called for a need for me to extend but just before they were going to send my passport to get a second passport (for quicker visa trips) they called Moscow to double check and it turns out there never was a record of someone coming out in January and there isn't. Needless to say I was pretty sad at the news but it was reconfirmed to me that that's why I felt impressed to tell you guys to not come -which apparently you had already been feeling for awhile, so everything works out in the end.

I'm just trying to not think about the looming death date (Jan 14) that is speeding towards me faster and faster. It'll be hard especially with all the holidays-always makes time go faster but I won't think about it and just lose myself in the work. Plus it'll be fun to go home with King and Taylor who I came out with. President was funny, he said that now he didn't know what to do with me cause he only had me stay in Rostov thinking that I still had some time to be sent elsewhere. I mentioned how I prolly won't see Volgograd now since sister Fourtina is out there and he said: "Why not? You would want to?" So we'll see....either way at the end of my mish there will be an odd amount for the last two weeks because a Russian sister is going home at the end of December so there will prolly be a "floating" sister that just travels around and works with the other sisters and that might possibly be how I get to see Volgograd, but then we have two newbies coming in next transfer so who knows. (Haha, like I said, I'm not thinking about it...)

Um....what else...So that's cool you got the utube from the Cameron's -we switched alto and soprano so one verse I'm singing soprano and one alto etc. My new companion is sister Piko. she's from Arizona (Mesa area) and came out two transfers after me. She's great! A real go-getter and not afraid to take charge. At first, I'll admit, I was nervous because she would just sort of do everything and wouldn't give me a chance to get some words in too, etc. I talked to her about it so she was aware of it but as I was thinking more and more about it....why should I want her to work less? I should just do more, push myself, and make myself heard and not wait for a clear window to speak etc. It was a great change of perspective and since then I've been a lot happier.

It's always interesting when we get new companions and we go through a kinda homesickness for our last companionship and finding a new rhythm with the new companion etc. but it always works out in the end, and she's a great missionary which is the most important thing. She's really happy, a funny person and I'm excited to see what this transfer will bring.

I don't know why mom is asking about that Joseph Smith fireside-it was back in July and it went great. People came and they all felt the spirit (us missionaries sang a lot and I bore my testimony). I need to know what size Eric would want for his football jersey (in European sizes that is) and will go take a look today at a local store for prices. Also in the next few months if anyone wants anything let me know (aka: shapka-Russian furry hat, or...martroshka dolls etc). I want to get a pretty Russian shawl and maybe some Russian boots before I go but I'll let ya know how much it costs (aka: Christmas presents for me). the work is going pretty good. We've found a few good people lately-one gma in particular that is really sweet and starting to believe in God and she keeps all commitments we give her so we'll see how it goes. It's so exciting when they keep commitments! Nastia (a long time friend here) might finally be getting a job that doesn't require her to work on Sunday which would mean: baptism!

I LOVED the pic in front of the temple with everyone jumping!!!!!!!!! It was sooooo cool -especially CB's pose, very impressive: congrats guys! Um what else....I can sympathize with Steve about band ending. I remember how hard and weird that was and I'm sure he'll be watching his band DVDs all Christmas break and eating bon bons (sniff sniff) but you'll always have those memories and experiences and I'm sure learned a lot from it. You can show your kids something that you were a part of that's really cool -don't worry, I know it seems like all the fun is over but it's only just starting. College is soooo much fun! Seriously if you get a great group of friends, your experience in band will pale in comparison. That's exciting that Eric will be home for the holidays-yeah! I can't remember if I wrote it last time or if it was the time that my email didn't work but, happy bday Mike! (man you're old!) That's ok, we can't all stay a young kid like grandpa.

On the 8th of Nov we're having a big Halloween party for our district which should be fun and a hit if the delegating worked right and everyone did their jobs. It's hard being where the church is still young and not used to how things work especially when they don't want the missionaries planning everything because we should be out doing more missionary things but sometimes you know it'll be better if you just do it-oh well, we'll see.

Last Sunday all the district came in to center to watch the broadcast for the Europe east area-it was amazing! President Piper (our area president) spoke, a sister, Elder Cook from the twelve, and President Monson spoke. It was really good -all about being strong and how we have the foundation now for the church to grow here and we all need to be member missionaries to move on to a second stage of growth. Also about loving one another and not having contention in our branches etc. It was really good for the members to hear from him and his counsel for our corner of the world.

I know that he is a prophet of God and it makes me so happy to be able to say that -gives me such pleasure to have that witness and it gets me so excited to talk to people about how we have a prophet in our day and they can know for themselves too. I think I've realized something, something for the 10th time. If you want to be happy as a missionary: testify. Just bare your testimony. Whatever it is about, whatever you want, but bare it as much as you can every day and then, despite how many lessons you gave or numbers you got etc. you will feel happy and that you fulfilled your calling at the end of the day. Don't wait for a situation where you're sitting down on the couch in the living room with the t.v. off and the person staring at you. Of course these situations are great but let's face it, they don't happen every day. You bare it the second you see an opportunity no matter where you are or who you're with. I know I need to do better at this and I think it's a good way to be happy in general in life because I think we just don't realize how many opportunities we have everyday to bare our testimony's. You don't have to say: I would like to bare my testimony....or I know that ...etc. Just say something matter 'o' factly. Anywho, enough of that.

I love you all so much and am so grateful for all your help, love, and support. It is gonna be crazy meeting up in the airport but in a good way -how all good reunions should start after a long time apart. 8) I haven't gotten any packages yet but it'll be a miracle if I get any of them before November so no worries there.

Cectpa Richards

P.S. Two words: Scotland and castles. (and of course if there's time -see London or Dublin etc.) Hey, a girl can dream can't she? 8)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

God Be With You Too

I just received an email from the Cameron's who used to work in the office of Whitney's mission in Rostov, Russia. They recently concluded their mission and as they were leaving to return to their home in Nevada, Whitney and her companion Cepta Fourtina sang "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again" as a way to say good bye before they left. They sing the song in Russian and in English so be sure to check out both. The Cameron's posted it on U-Tube and sent me the link so I could see it too. Enjoy! (Russian) (English)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Back in Rostov Center

Hello everyone,

Well we returned back from Madrid and the beautiful Madrid temple earlier this week and today is transfers. I'm still going to be in Rostov center but I'm losing sister Fourtina to Volgograd which is sad for two reasons: I love working with her, and that prolly means I'll never make it up there because I would be serving with her again. People don't just go up to v-grad for a transfer but for a long haul. Anywho, but I'll be with sister Pico who came out a few transfers after I did and is also a product of Sister Malinina and a great worker. She's known for her success and work ethic so I'm way excited to be with her and lose myself in the work yet again and finish strong.

Speaking of finishing strong that brings me to Dad's email about extending/coming out here to pick me up. So far, this is what I know: yes my visa that I just got runs out on the 14th which would be a day before my scheduled official end date: Jan 15th, BUT I am pretty sure that I will be able to extend due to keeping the numbers of sisters even. So I would go on one last visa trip and just go til' March 1st -I think that's when the transfer ends, or if you guys don't come out, til the end of when my visa expires etc. The office elder said he asked president about it as far as planning on me going to renew my visa or not. He said that President said he was pretty sure the answer is yes. So basically I'm 99% sure that I'm extending, and if I extend there is the possibility that I'll have time left on my visa for you guys to come out here.

That brings me to the other questions you have. I'm now not sure what I want because I could see the possibility of you guys coming out being a source of distraction but maybe not....also, I would love for you guys to come out and see where I've been, what I've experienced, the culture etc. so you would understand a lil bit more. But then again as far as what we would see, where we'd go, and who I would introduce you to -well that's the tougher question. I don't want to sound terrible but there's no one in Krasnodar that I'm attached to -I barely remember anyone, Taganrog friends are all youth there, not really adults etc, and here in Rostov....I just dunno how fun/interesting it would be for you guys. I dunno, I guess I'm undecided now. Or maybe cause dad mentioned a possible trip before school -being somewhere in the Uk/Europe....prolly a lot more to see there than here, and I've always wanted to go to Ireland/Scotland....I dunno! Man, I really don't know which I want now....especially if we could come back later for the Olympics and see where I was a few years later would be soooo much fun and would let me keep my experiences wrapped up in themselves here and a lil separated from showing to fam and friends.

There would be some satisfaction of coming off the plane home knowing that I did it all by myself and it was my personal experience and then come back later with you guys (always wanted to go to Sochi!) basically now I'm starting to wonder if I would want you guys to come out. I mean long as we're together going somewhere it doesn't really matter to me if it's here in Russia or somewhere else, just that we're together. So through the course of this letter I've felt more and more the impression that it would probably be better for me if you guys didn't come out to meet me so there's nothing to distract me towards the end. I'm really sorry for any inconveniences I've caused -if you've already spent money trying to get visas or travel arrangements etc. If it would be too expensive to undo anything we could go ahead with it. I just think it would be easier for me to just come home and then we can plan something cool together and maybe even visit the Olympics in 2012? I feel really bad and I hope this doesn't dash any of your hopes. Let me know your thoughts on the matter -your honest thoughts.

Seeing some of the missionaries go home today that I've known for awhile and always looked up to is pretty crazy. Thinking that Sister King and Taylor only have two more transfers left-aaahhhh! Time really is flying by and I don't want to waste another minute of it. One of our long time investigators -found the first week I was in Rostov, finally might be getting her work schedule figured out. Which means she could come to church, which means she'll get baptized soon, which means I'm really happy cause it's not just her. She has two kids -future generations open to the gospel, and a mom, dad and younger brother who will be influenced by her decisions. It would give me so much joy if she would be the way of all of them coming into the church, oh man ....pray for them please.

I love my Savior and I love this work, The trick is not getting into ruts, mindless repetitions of what we do everyday which makes special things etc. become rote and insincere -that's the trick. Always finding a way to be sincere and feel what you're doing/saying, improving, then the work is enjoyable despite results. I love you all and I'm so glad that you are all supporting me and always showing your love etc. Man I love my mission so much and feel so privileged to be able to be here even. I can't believe that I'm able to go and do what I do everyday and see so much and experience so much. It's really deepened my appreciation and understanding of the gospel and the reality of God's plan and existence and the truly obvious attempts that Satan makes to cloud this from our view. Everything is that much clearer on the mission and things that gave me so much pleasure before my mission prolly won't give me pleasure to the same extent that it did because I've found a deeper, more pure source of pleasure through living the gospel in this way and I can't wait to find a good way to continue this in my regular life after the mission.

I love you all (can't say it enough) and please don't be too sad about my change of mind -but don't worry I'll show you Russia, just later. I want that plane ride home- to be left alone to my thoughts and all the emotions I'll prolly be feeling-to sort it all out in my mind etc. Well anywho, keep me updated, and hey -mom didn't write this week 8(

Cectpa Richards

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lost ...and then found

Hola Familia!

Well it appears that I am in Madrid, Spain ...maybe because everyone around us is speaking very quickly in a language that I don´t understand, or maybe cause there is this stupid letter on the keyboard that I don´t remember from high school Spanish: ç or this one too ñ or maybe it´s just cause the Madrid temple is right outside our window!!!! So yes, we got in yesterday and just so ya know I spent a gruelling hour last week writing an amAzing letter and then the Internet cafe crashed and I couldn't send it and ran out of time on the computer, it really ruined my morning but all is well anywho.

So yes yesterday was all travel. We flew to Moscow in the morning and then we had a long lay over and then we flew straight to Madrid and got in around nine and by ten we wound our way through the metro and got in here to the MTC -REALLY pretty grounds: there´s the MTC, temple, and a stake center all on the block but it really just feels like you´re on the temple grounds everywhere -it´s so pretty. It was cool cause everyone was in bed and we got to go into the cafeteria -pretty small but they were like: if you can find it you can eat it, so we just got to open cupboards and and just eat whatever, pretty cool. It´s a pretty small MTC and quiet. We´ll be here til Friday morning and then fly back and then transfers (short transfer due to people going home) will be on Tuesday so that´s when I´ll write next and share all the great experiences and things that I saw here in Spain and if I got transferred or not (though I´m not counting on it)

Sorry Dad, and....Eric and....Mike, and....well Steve too cause you took some Spanish in high school, but I don´t remember ANYTHING! It is just sad but ok, I know a cool language 8) but yea...we've tried remembering different words and about the extent is a few numbers, simple greetings, and yo quiero pantalones or something etc. or random verbs. Oh well, we have enough Spanish speakers in our family.

So we watched Sundays sessions of gen. conf. and they were amAzing!!! We were fasting for extra spiritual boost and to prepare to go back to the temple as well and Elder Quentin L. Cook´s talk on Sunday evening´s session was JUST what I needed and we felt the spirit so strong and was just so good. I think I had started to loose some heart that I hadn´t accomplished anything yet on the mission, wondering where were the miracles that were mentioned when I was set apart. During conference the spirit gently reminded me or at least...warned me that I was short changing all the miracles that the Lord had blessed me with so far on the mission and that I wasn´t appreciating them like I should and how could He give me more if I didn´t recognize and appreciate what He had already given me etc. There have been miracles so far and just because they didn´t result in a baptismal statistic does not make them any less miraculous. It was a good reminder and humbling moment and I realize that I need to be humble and worthy enough to receive more so I´m gonna try.

I´m really excited to be back in the temple and feel that spirit and continue to learn and receive inspiration about myself, my mission, and about God´s plan for me in general. I´m so excited!!!!! You could even say... ¡yo loco! ok, I´ll stop with the Spanish. I love you all soooo much and am so thankful to be able to see the saints all over the world all working so hard and diligently to share the gospel and it´s cool to see, though I´ll always be excited to return back to Russia.

Cool to here about Eric and if he will get to come home sooner than he thought....hopefully that won´t be the case for me 8) Good luck to Steve on his marching band season final!!!!! Soak it in and really feel it -it´s good when it hurts so bad at the end, means it meant something to you and that you gave a lot of yourself for it.

Flying on the plane here, it was really weird to think that the next time I´m on a plane it could be going home with my family but I quickly stopped this thought process cause it started to bring on a tiny panic attack and the repeating thought: I don´t wanna go, I don´t wanna go, not yet, not yet. But it´s all ok, I just don´t look forward to the transitioning process but it´s a part of life right? So anywho, better go, we want to try and catch a session at 11 -it feels so weird to be going back to the MTC. It´s like I feel like I´m starting over, but with just a lot more knowledge 8)

Anywho love you all. Thanks for the info and cute pictures. Congrats Kathleen!

Cectpa Richards

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Missing in Action

As you have probably guessed ...we didn't receive an email letter from Whitney this week. That's in spite of my checking several times through out the past 24 plus hours! You know the saying about watching and waiting for water to boil ...doesn't happen! That probably means that she has been a). extra busy, b). transferred to a new area or C). sent on a visa run ...which means she could be in Estonia, Prague, Madrid or even Stockholm! The joys of being a missionary in Russia!!!

Since you are checking in and there's not much to read right now (after all you are a captive audience!) let me send out a special request to all of you who read Whitney's blog. I am sending her last Christmas package tomorrow -Friday Oct 10th- and would love to be able to include some extra love from home in the form of letters and pictures from her family and friends. As soon as you finish reading this hurry and write an email letter for Whitney, add pics if you have them and send them to me at I will print them out and include them in a special Christmas envelope that will go into her package. Thank you so much for helping me out with this little project. I know she will love hearing from all of you.

Whitney's older brother Eric left home yesterday to head back to Iraq. He was home on leave for a couple of weeks and it was great seeing him and spending time together. We are looking forward to having him back in the states about the time Whitney finishes up her mission. His big news was finding out that he has been promoted to Sergeant! We are so proud of him. If any of you are looking for a special service project for Christmas this year check out the comment I left last week concerning "Operation: Christmas in Iraq". I am hoping to get Christmas cards/letters to send to all of the soldiers in the military intelligence unit where my son works. If you would like to help out just email them to me at the same address. I want the troops to know that we still appreciate their sacrifice and haven't forgotten about them. I won't be sending those off until the end of November so you have some extra time to work on this. Thanks!

We hope that you are all doing well. Good luck with the up coming weddings, babies, school/finals, etc. etc. You are all so great and we wish you the very best. Keep in touch and let us know how you are all doing.

Love and hugs,
Mama Richards

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Change is in the air


Well this past week brought some interesting turns of events. Namely being that Sister Fourtina (my comp) was asked to go to Taganrog to help the sisters there run English club because the elders that should be there are serving as place holders for companionships who have a companion stuck in Sweden due to visa problems. So she will be there for 1-2 weeks and Sister King who was in a threesome up in Volgograd came down to be with me. When Sister Fourtina comes back we'll finish up the transfer as a threesome. It should be interesting seeing as we have the tiniest apartment of all the sisters and basically the whole mission. Never a dull moment here in the mission.

So the temperatures have dropped quite a bit and in the day it tends to be really cool and nice but the second the sun starts going down which now is around six thirty/sevenish it gets down right nippy. But I hear that it's worse up in Volgograd -already wearing their winter coats ( 9 degrees cel.), is that Sister G (an old comp of mine who is up in Volgograd and supposed to go home in December) was asked to go home early ...1/2 for the sake of keeping numbers even among the sisters and 1/2 cause of obedience/work problems. So with that happening Sister King is convinced I will receive a transfer to Volgograd. But there are two other possible sisters that could receive transfers there: Fourtina will get a transfer either way -been here 6 months in Rostov, or Sister Pico (I realize that all of this is hard to follow for you, not knowing or caring about these people, but it's always fun to try and figure out what will happen -kinda like march madness on a small scale). So anyways we'll see.... I do and don't want to end the mission in Volgograd. I don't because it's going to be a harsh winter by the looks of it and it's known as a really hard area to work in, but then again I would enjoy being somewhere new and having that long bus ride back to Rostov at the end of it all to think/contemplate etc. and have some alone time... so I guess we'll see what happens.

It should also be interesting to see how extensions work out with all of this cause unless it's really necessary it seems that they will rarely happen etc. That's why I was curious if president said anything to dad through their emails back and forth.

The work is picking up a little bit now. We're off to a good start this week and have already found someone to teach. She's really great and listened when we talked and we made a point to testify more and start/end with prayer and it was a way good lesson. Afterwards she talked about how she felt so good with us/warm etc. and of course we pointed out that, that was the Holy Ghost. I just hope she reads and feels the same feelings and makes a connection. She wants to come to church and has Sundays off and lives nearby the church which are all GREAT signs. We have couple of other investigators right now that aren't as promising but it will be interesting to see the different feel that Sister King will add to the lessons/bringing her own experiences etc.

I love my mission. I really do and I want everyone who's reading this right now to know that. It's hard. It stretches me, most times to the point where it's not so comfortable but ALWAYS without fail I'm grateful for it after the fact. I've seen a lot, heard a lot, learned a lot and I realize that all these things have added to who I am and the knowledge that I'm gaining right now through these experiences makes me feel....deeper. Sometimes (ok so most of the times) it's hard to see my imperfections and inadequacies so glaringly apparent but I've also learned how that's no excuse to stop trying or continuing to progress baby step by baby step. I don't know....I just love this gospel so much and it's really hard to put into words how I feel about it, to articulate these feelings but I prolly still need to ponder on it and continue to let it soak in. Either way....I've gained deeper appreciation and realization of the patience and mercy of the Lord and the possibilities that are opened to us when we give all of ourselves, give what he asks. It really is real -and I love the frequent re-realizations I have of this.

Happy birthday again mom and dad -glad to hear that all had a great time. Sargent Richards?! Weird....what's left that's higher than that? I'm just thinking of the increasing authority that he's getting...scary....haha, jk. I'll salute you when I see you next ok? Keep it up! ...and hey, this lowly private would like to hear from you. Whenever you get back from the kids' drop me a line or 2 or 20 8)

Well I love you all and I can't believe that it's already October especially since the holidays FLY by on the mission and I know that I only have 2-3 transfers left after this one (aaaahhhh!) Just won't think about it I guess. For being in a mission full of crazy, unpredictable changes I still don't like the big ones.

Well, take care
Cectpa Richards