Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Snow-Bweem-Go-Dum" Happy New Year!

Hey everybody!

So we are writing real quick before we buy our groceries and go home for the night since prolly won't be open tomorrow. I will now give a typical grandma (babushka) blessing: I desire for you: health, happiness, a handsome husband and many children, everything good, but most important health. Yea ...that's what they say every time 8) and it still gives me warm-fuzzies. Hey ...better than them yelling at us and calling us "sektantee" (a sect).

Anywho, this past year has been amazing with all that I have experienced and learned. It's crazy to think that this whole past year was spent in RUSSIA speaking and working with the Russian people in furthering this great work -crazy. Things that I (ok ...really God) has managed to accomplish this year: I now understand and can speak Russian. I am bold when I talk to people on the streets or at the doors and no longer fear them or their rejections. I have matured as far as my taste buds go; now liking most if not all vegetables (fresh and cooked) and nuts, and soups of all kinds. Mostly only my immediate family would understand how big this is.

Um... what else....I have learned how to read maps and find my way in a new area, learn names of a bunch of people quickly (a.k.a. branch members) and have learned the joy that comes when we give ourselves to a better cause and trust in the Lord and see the miracles that result. I'm so grateful for my time here in Russia. It has literally FLOWN by and I cannot believe how little remains but am excited to continue to develop the talents and qualities that I have gained here and never become complacent with where I am. I have also learned the amazing art and necessity of goal setting and reaching. It's amazing how much I could have already achieved if I had mastered this principle earlier but I'm glad that I've mastered it and appreciate the Lord's role in being able to do this.

I'm so grateful for all the letters, packages, and even prayers and good thoughts that have been offered in my behalf. They have not gone unanswered. I feel all of your love and support so strongly and know that the Lord has continually supported me thanks to your prayers and well wishes. I love you all so much and am trying really hard to finish strong and continue this great work any way I can in my every day life.

I hope you all have a great New Year and take time to remember all of the amazing blessings that you enjoy (the biggest being the knowledge of the restored gospel!) and how the Lord has helped you this past year and how we can make ourselves worthy to receive the same if not better blessings in this upcoming year and help others enjoy them as well.

Cectpa Richards

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Have a very, merry Christmas!

Hey guys,

Sorry -it'll be real quick since I'll talk to you all later on. MERRY CHRISTMAS! It's always SOOOO weird on the mish -especially since they don't celebrate the 25th, but it was good all the same. We went over to the senior couples house and had a great big breakfast and watched the polar express. Sister Maxfield gave me a new winter hat/beanie, and a green scarf since my packages hadn't come in (don't ask me, don't know but no biggie-) Zone conference is next week and if not then, shrug, my comp will love it all when it comes -I don't care) and now we'll prolly go look at some Cd's and work a few hours and then it's your call!

Thanks for all your love and letters etc. -I hope you all have a great Christmas and really strengthen your gratitude and love of the Savior. Also, hehe (as far as I'm planning on -I'll still be around Houston in April so that's a big YES! for the Les Mes tickets -it's only my dream come true!!!!!!!!!!)

I love you all, you can get the commentary rundown of our phone convo from mom I guess 8)

Cectpa Richards

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Working in a Winter-y Volgograd

Well ...I thought I would be the only one experiencing a cold Christmas-everyone always asks me what winter is like in Texas and I always answer: it just isn't. haha, but I guess now I can actually tell them that it has snowed twice in my town-cool! (I'm sure Steve was happy)

Well yes, I just finished my first week and a half in Volgograd and.....judges....I LOVE IT HERE!!!!Seriously, I don't know WHAT people are talking about when they say that the work is super hard here and the people are mean etc....I was really intimidated at the beginning of my mission with this city but I couldn't be happier-what a GREAT way to end! It doesn't hurt that I'm back with Cectpa Fourtina whom I love!

So this city (I can't remember if I already said this) is one loooooooong street (longest city in the world) and everything is really nice because everything except one building was destroyed in the 2 world war-nothing was left so it's all new and nice compared to other cities I've been in. They have lots of statues and cool memorials etc. I'll have to take lots of pics to show you later.

This week it def. turned colder-yesterday (around -2 to -5 cel.) we had our first serious snow fall-only a couple of inches but it was really pretty....and so amAzingly cold! You don't really think how cold it is until you have to be out in it at 8 am for two hours contacting people who are rushing off to work-my hands hurt sooo bad by the end! I'm gonna try and find warmer mittens and maybe a hat today (i have a hat but I'll be on the look out for warmer things).

We have been finding some good people lately and there have been lots of people from the last transfer that we've been meeting with so we actually haven't' been knocking that much-but far, the people are the same as rostov, even a lil nicer 8)our zone conference won't be til' Jan 2nd so I doubt that I'll get my packages before then so our Christmas will be a quiet one, but that's ok-at this point i don't really care-it doesn't really feel like Christmas on the mish-but the snow helps. We'll prolly get together with the other missionaries and the Maxfields (senior couple) and do a gift exchange, dinner etc.

Speaking of dates and holidays here's the schedule of my next few p-days (slight changes due to holidays)P-days:*DEC. 25TH (THURSDAY)this night is when y'all will call- PLEASE CALL AT 9 P.M. RUSSIAN TIME -Russia time and I don't know if President sent the same email to you with country code etc but here it is just in case:

1. Have your parents call between 8:00 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. on Christmas Day, Russia time. Be sure to email them your phone number this week. Please tell your parents that international calling cards can be purchased from the Internet for about 4-6 cents a minute.

2. Phone calls are limited to 40 minutes. If both sets of parents are calling, it is important that the first parents call right at 8:00 p.m. so both will have adequate time.

3. Organize with your companion so both of your parents' calls can be completed by 10:15 p.m.

4. Keep the calls appropriate. "Take care that these calls do not pull your thoughts away from your service..." (Handbook p.37)

5. Remember, this call is for your parents (and especially your mom). While it is not prohibited to speak with other family, it is not recommended. Girlfriends are not even on the list.

6. ANY exceptions should be cleared with us.

So yea...did I read correctly that Eric will be home til the 29th of January?! or was it a typo and it's til the 29th of DEC. Either way I hope I can see him when I get back.

Well, we taught these great two women yesterday-they're really searching for truth-have went to all sorts of diff churches and we contacted them on the street and THEY called US to meet and were so excited about everything-so cool, they just talked about how they didn't feel peace/good feelings for a long time etc and how we looked just so happy and at peace etc-they're coming to an activity the relief society is throwing on Saturday so we're really excited for them!

We also have a baptismal date-he's 60, still thinks he's a rock star (has rainbow suspenders and crazy curly hair) he's soooo funny and so ready! he knows the bible really well and loves the church, book of Mormon, etc and is always asking us if we know: slipknot (but he pronounces the "k") slip "k" not. it's so funny but don't worry, we gave him so church music and we hope he gets hooked on that 8)

Other than that the work is going well here-we have a nice building here as well-and it's one minute from where we live (helpful) and the members are great! really no drama which is strange to me...a normal...branch....8) I'm not complaining! I think I'll be in utter shock when i step into the new stake center back home-it'll be culture shock all over again. (not looking forward to that-wasn't too fun the first time either but I guess it's ok to be in shock at how nice things are)

Thank you so much for all your letters, pictures, updates, and support-it's the highlight of my p-day (but not week, sorry-that would be finding new investigators 8)It's amazing the desire and love that I have for the work now this last transfer. It's like my love for the work has escalated 100x more the second I got here to Volgograd-I'm just so excited to talk to people on the streets, to knock on the door-it just gives me a lot of joy, more so than before this point on my mission and it's kinda weirding me out but it gives me so much enjoyment. Maybe it's cause I realize that my time is running out that I wont' get this type of opportunity again-to further the work in this way (even if I serve with my husband we won't work how I'm working now) and every last moment is precious to me-I only wish I had this amazing drive every minute of my mission. I guess I just fully understand the worth and the special-ness of what I'm doing now more so than ever before and I'm grateful for this realization-it's gonna be a great transfer 8)

I love you all and it's really weird to think I'll talk to you guys in a week or so-hopefully I can think of interesting things to talk about -come with questions, and you can say hey to Fourtina (Of course me saying hey to her family is a lil more complicated -I'll have to work on my french).

Luv ya!

Cectpa Richards

P.S. Hi to Andrea! good luck at the Y-see ya soon, and mom-good luck with the chocolate store-fight off those sugar hungry babushkas!

Monday, December 8, 2008

From the land of the North

Greetings from....Volgograd!

That's right. Last night I made the not so fun, slightly smelly, 9 hour trip by bus to Vgrad. I got here around 5:30 in the morning (I was with another elder, not by myself) and was met at the station by good ol' Sister Fourtina! It's really great to be with her again. I missed her and think it won't take anytime at all to get back into the swing of things with her.

I haven't seen much but we are in a new, tiny, but good apartment -great location. We're near the supermarket, and the church is a two minute walk from us -it's very own building-specifically built for that purpose! And the internet club is just down the street 8) It's cold here,but not terribly so, prolly...6 degrees cel. The wind is what gets ya though. I will need to buy gloves and a good hat 8) Our zone conference will be on Jan 2nd so if we get any packages I won't get it til' after all the festivities but o well -what do ya do?

It sounds like the work is going great here and it's not the big, bad scary town that everyone makes it out to be so I can't wait to go have some success and work hard right til' the end. Man, I'm really tired and feel a lil throat thing coming on but hopefully that's just the traveling talking so I don't have to fight a cold while getting used to a new area etc.

President said he would send an email next week about times etc for the christmas call and rules but our home phone number is: (oops! sorry gang ...I can't post that here!) and if there needs to be any sort of area code etc. they'll prolly say in the letter. So it's hard to believe that the next time I'm traveling'll be home -crazy! Though I'm really excited to get lost in the work with Sister Fourtina and be really united and have goals/help each other improve as teachers etc.

Nastia was confirmed yesterday which was good -what wasn't so good was that she apparently had an arguement with her mom (about the church) and decided to move out of her parents' house and now lives 2 hours away and we're not sure with who -obviously not welcome news considering the fact that we wanted to work with her family which now prolly has resentful feelings towards the church. Not the best of news to leave under especially when Sister Pico hadn't developed the strongest relationship with her yet but she promised to keep coming to church even tho it's so far...we'll see. Luckily she has good support from the members -she opens up with them etc. and they support her.

Apparently we have one person with a baptismal date here which is good and a few other investigators so that's great 8) I'm excited to see the sites and get to know the city -apparently the longest city....ever...along the Volga river and of course the biggest statue in the world, also there apparently is a museum -the only building that was left standing after World War 2. (Obviously the war had a big effect on this city and they have a lot of history that they're proud of.)

Well that's about it with the news from me. I love you all so much and am greatful for all the words of encouragement. Our next P-day will be not this coming wednesday but the next -the 17th? Anywho, keep me informed and I'll try not to freeze. Apparently this week is supposed to be warmer so that's good 8)

Cectpa Richards

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Better late than never

Hello everyone!

FINALLY I CAN WRITE YOU! The Internet cafe didn't have any power on earlier so we basically got no down time to rest today cause we were finding things to do while we waited for it to open up. It's weird that the tiny town of Tagonrog has two or three Internet places and the huge city of Rostov has one -go figure, but I'm not bitter.

So.... we should have already had transfers but President couldn't decide things and now we are having transfers when the elders are so that means on Monday. Today three sisters left for home -crazy!!! Sister King is with us tonight and leaves tomorrow morning with a mini-missionary and Friday we find out officially about transfers. I'm pretty sure that I'll be going to Volgograd to be with sister Fourtina but I guess we'll see ...things can always change last minute in this mission as I well know.

THANK YOU for all your prayers!!!!! Nastia got baptized last Sunday and even her Dad came out to see it and even asked what time church would be on Sunday! Seeds were definitely sown-let's just hope they're fast growing seeds 8) She talked about how she felt like she was flying after the baptism and that it was so great! We went and visited her this past week at her house while her kids had their naps and the spirit in that home was so different! She had some church music softly playing and talked about how she had been reading the book of Mormon more than before etc. We were so happy and not only for her but for those kids too.

We also found a woman (32) who lives really close to us who the missionaries had found 8 years ago and taught and she had fallen through the cracks during transfers or something and was saying to her husband a few months ago -it's really sad that the missionaries don't come around anymore and BAM, two months later we knocked on her door. We've taught her twice -she's keeping her commitments and talking about how it's different when she reads the Book of Mormon now -more interesting to her etc. and we found out through conversation that she loves Ireland as much as I do! She started showing me different stuff she had and I showed her my ring and necklace from grandma etc. and she took out this Irish soccer scarf and said, "I want to give this to you." I of course politely declined but then she said that she had another one .....well if you insist! I was so excited we took a picture 8) She's great and I'm sad that I'll prolly be leaving cause I know she'll go far.

On a sadder note winter boots that had served me so well for almost all of my mission ...suddenly succumbed. I kept ignoring it -it just couldn't be true, they were ok ....but no. I'll take pictures of the huge hole etc. I prolly would have held off and just duct -taped it til the end but members saw it and started freaking out about the cold and what if there will be snow and all the remont people (repairs) said it was not fixable and if I'm going to Volgograd ....well .....they just wouldn't cut it. So ....I took out another 45 bucks and got new winter boots. 6 WEEKS BEFORE the END!!!!! ARGH! It's really hard to throw them away -I really grew attached ....sigh, o well ....I'll show you all pictures later I guess. They were so warm 8) but my new boots are cute and I would actually use them after the mish up in Utah so that's good right?

Anywho ...I can't believe Andrea is already home!!!! So weird!!! I can't really explain which emotions I'm feeling about the whole going home soon thing, so. ...I'll just not talk about it. I'm kinda sad that me and my comp didn't get to the comfortable level that my previous comps were at -don't' get me wrong, we love each other -have lots of fun together just ....the good rhythm together didn't really come -we have way different styles but it's ok. We still worked and loved each other and I'm grateful for what I learned with her, but am excited to be on to new things as well. I've kinda felt like I haven't been progressing as much as I had the transfers previously which prolly more my fault than hers but a new place and new situations always seem to give the added energy and perspective to keep going.

I love you all so much and ...o my gosh CONGRATULATIONS AMANDA!!!!!!! If I had a car I'd be honking it like crazy for you in the middle of traffic on a Saturday (everyone/most get married on Saturday here and decorate their cars and drive through traffic honking -that's love I guess). I can't wait to help you out with plans/arrangements etc! YES! I will abe able to see one friend get married!!!!!!!!! Phew....thought I'd have to just rely on past comps' weddings.

Thanks for the great pics and news from home. Well anyways, I'm writing this late and we prolly gotta get going. I can't say it enough -I love you all and am so grateful for your love and support and praise -don't know if I'm worthy of it but I know it there is anything commendable it's thanks to all of you 8) Use the wonderful Christmas season to share your testimonies of the savior with your friends or even invite them to different Christmas programs/activities so they can feel the special spirit there. Brighten someone else's day with secret Santa service etc!

Cectpa Rrichards