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Alright, so here’s a quick experience I had this morning…
Only in Russia do you find yourself riding a bus to go to the market place when suddenly the bus driver pulls off the road for no apparent reason, opens the door, and runs out of the bus. We sat there for a minute or so joking about how we could drive off with the bus which is still running when we see the bus driver come jogging back. Oh good. Wait, what’s that he’s got? Beer? yup. He gets back into the bus and we are once again on our way to the market. He just had to make a quick stop for some alcohol.
This week was great, although one event really takes the cake. We had the Bowden’s, a senior couple who have served in Kemerovo before (now they just visit from time to time) over to our area for the last time before they go back home to Arizona. Everyone here in Kermerovo loves the Bowdens so much, so we planned very carefully all of the activities and lessons and things to make the best use of their time. The last activity we could plan would be family home evening. I had an idea that maybe the Bowdens could create an environment where people could feel comfortable sharing their testimonies. We worked very hard for this last family home evening. We worked with two girls (investigators with baptismal dates in October) Ira and Kcyousha to create a “Cowboys of Kemerovo” book/picture/painting for the Bowdens (who tell Cowboy stories when they visit). We took pictures of all the members and investigators here and then cut out their heads and glued them onto cowboy bodies. So we just barely finished the gift in time for the testimony meeting and the Bowdens started to speak.
They explained what a testimony is “something that you know for sure because you’ve seen it” and what a testimony means to them. Then, rather abruptly, we thought, Elder Bowden said “I’d like to hear each of your testimonies. What about you, Alexander, do you have a testimony?”
We each took turns, either when we wanted to or when Elder Bowden called on us, sharing our testimonies, whether they be long and complicated or short and very simple.
Sister Tamara was one of the first to volunteer. She said lots of things but what really hit me was at the end. She said ” I have very poor soil in my garden. I’m very poor, so I don’t have enough money to fertilize it like I should. But even so, my potatoes are bigger than my neighbor’s. I know this church is true because I pray for my potatoes every day and I also pray for my neighbor’s potatoes.”
There were at least 5 people there that night that were not members of the church who testified that they absolutely knew that this church is true. One of them, a man who can’t get over his smoking addiction, said that he knows the church is true because the people who are members are so happy and they have no bad habits. Another one of our investigators, Anton, said that he is thankful for this church because he knows that through this church you can be healthy, have a family, and be happy. After each testimony was shared the spirit got stronger and stronger– there was so much love in the room and everyone was so open about sharing these personal things when usually there is a very high personal barrier at activities like this. Then it got around to Ira and Ksyousha, the girls we’ve been working with very hard. We were hesitant about how strong they had desires to be baptized, especially because their baptismal date was so far away. Ksyousha bore her testimony and said that this summer her family had major problems and she prayed for a solution. When they found this solution she told God that she would try to find his house and join his church. She was then introduced to the missionaries and came to the fireside that the Bowden’s gave the last time they were here and that ever since then she’s felt a comfort in her life. She said that she absolutely knows that this church is true. Then it was Ira’s turn. We were really not sure where Ira was at with her progress in reading and having a testimony, etc– we thought she was just coming to help Ksyousha feel more comfortable. Ira started talking about the night before when she had a great day at church and was feeling so wonderful all day. Then she got home and just realized that she didn’t know for sure if this church was true of if the Book of Mormon is true. She went to a private room to pray. She said that she wanted to know so badly if it was true that she was crying. She prayed for a long time and then suddenly a strong peace came over her and that know she definitely knows that the church is true.
It was a very emotional experience for me– to see these two investigators that we have been working so hard with bear their testimonies so strongly. It was absolutely the most spiritual experience I’ve had so far on my mission. There was such a strong feeling there– everyone could feel it. Ksyousha came to us after the meeting and told us that October 23rd was too long to wait for her baptism; she wants it to be sooner. We’re still trying to set the date but it will be in either 1 or 2 weeks. 🙂
Sorry, that turned out to be longer than I thought. Thank you all for your emails, they mean a lot to me. Zoe, Amber, Sara, Jisu– thanks. Jisu, yes, i’ve met Elder Barwick, he’s a super cool guy. I saw him about two weeks ago for zone conference. he’s serving in a city four hours away, called Novokuznetsk. I actually really got along well with him and I have a lot of respect for him. Very cool guy. It’ll be fun to tell him that we’ve got a connection.
Yes mom, I was able to read emails that I took pictures of, so people, if you send long emails i’ll read them later via camera or printing.
The weather here: Its been at about 5 c lately. Although I hear it already snowed in a city in the mission. it feels like it’s not going to stay this warm for long though. i can start wearing my coat in a week or two probably.
I love you all, thanks for writing me. Justin Geldzahler– you sent the song to me in m4a. m4a, really?! come on.
Shout out to Hayley– Happy Birthday!!! 😀 Sorry that I didn’t keep up the constant writing to you while I was in the MTC… and now its super limited. But anyways, I hope you have a great birthday. Fyi a lot of Russians see your pictures when I show them pictures that my mom sent from Jenna’s wedding 🙂
Ok, I’m going to keep this one short this week.
Our two most interested investigators, Ksyousha and Ira set a baptismal date– it’s far off in the future (the 23 of oct), but still, it’s there. They’re still very excited and involved in all of our meetings that we have with them.
On monday we had FHE. It was just about to be a really awkward FHE just because of the three men that had showed up and us four missionaries and it was looking like that was going to be all….. when suddenly Ksyousha and Ira showed up and saved the day. We had a sprititual thought that the other elders had been trying to do for the past 3 weeks (but there weren’t enough people at the activity they had planned it for, or other things kept coming up) where one of them does a certain amount of push ups for everyone present so that everyone gets a piece of candy. Even if they don’t want the candy, the elder has to do the push ups. It turned out really well, actually, and I think it was a pretty meaningful spriritual thought for everyone there. It relates to the atonement of Christ– how he suffered for us all, regardless if we make use of the Atonement or not.
Then, after the spritual thought, Dad, I explained your game where you fold a paper into fourths and draw in the first fourth of the page a head of a figure, fold it back so no one can see it, and pass it on and start to draw the next section of the figure that someone else started. I don’t know if I’ve ever played that game in a more successful setting. After we played it the first time and opened all the papers, EVERYONE was laughing hard and having a lot of fun. They loved it so much that we played a second round of the game, which quickly got much more abstract than the first round. But everyone was very involved and laughing and it was a very successful Family Home Evening.
Some other good news: we got a call yesterday informing us of the address of the building that the office in Moscow is going to rent for us to have a meeting house! 🙂 So its just a matter of time now of how quickly the paper work can get done.
Thank you all for your emails, they were very encouraging and fun to read. The long ones I just took pictures of and haven’t read yet, so if I didn’t reply to something you asked me, that might be the case– I’ll reply next week if I can remember.
I’m pretty sure they’re forwarding all of the letters that were sent to me at the MTC shortly after I left– i’ve gotten one so far, and in a couple more weeks I should get mail.
My companion and I are still in need of good recipes, especially crock pot recipes, or maybe just some general tips on how to use it. Also, mom, could you send your german pancakes recipe? We have one here but it’s not as good as yours. But yeah– still open for hearing more stories and games. Thanks to all who have sent me some already, I’ll let you know how they worked out when we try them.
Dad, yes, i can receive pictures so you or anyone else can send pictures to me through this gmail account.
Also, shout out to Justin Geldzahler– your email was mad long so i just finished it. Thanks– that actually meant a lot to me. You’ve got a letter coming to you in the mail with about a thousand Russian stamps on it– i sent it a couple weeks ago. Miss you a lot, it was really awesome to hear from you. Take care.
First, I want to say Happy Birthday to Hadley! 🙂 I’ve been thinking about you the last few days wondering how your birthday went– it sounds like it was lots of fun 🙂
Secondly, Dad and Mom, I think you both asked if there’s anything I need from you guys on the other end, and here’s a list I’ve been coming up with. I want to extend this to everyone who reads this email/blog also.
Anything easy to cook, cheap, fast, etc. We don’t have foods like peanut butter and… I can’t think of all of the other stuff right now, but some things aren’t available.
- Dad, your biscuit recipe– the one where the biscuits just look like crazy blobs
- Mom, your enchilada recipe
- Any crock pot recipes– we have one out of 4 or 5 crock pots in the entire Novosibirsk mission and we don’t have anything to cook in it.
- Maybe a rhubarb pie recipe? We found a member who grows rhubarb but doesn’t eat it.
- good cookies/desserts for family nights
- banana bread recipe/ other bread recipes
- mom, your cabbage soup recipe
We have to come up with activities for Family Home Evening games when many of the church members come over on Monday nights. We’re running low on activities to play when we’re all together and it’s hard to come up with ideas on the spot. My family: can you please send a list of your favorite FHE activities? and anyone else– any large group activities that preferably don’t rely on language, since that seems to be a bit of a problem considering the barrier for me and the other English speaking elder.
Third, I want to answer Parker’s question and say: yes, I do get dear elders. In fact, lol, i had asked Amber if she’s SURE she was sending the dear elders that i wasn’t receiving to the MTC. Amber, I got all of the Dear Elders you sent me as soon as I arrived in russia 🙂 Same with one from Sam and one from Zoe. And my companion recently went to Novosibirsk for Zone Leader Conference, so I also just received a Dear Elder from Erika Larsen– that being the first letter I’ve received in Russia that wasn’t sent to me before I arrived in Russia. So yes, dear elders work quite well. When I write home to friends i’ll use international postage. And I love receiving handwritten mail, but if friends out there don’t have time to handwrite me something and you want to write me something long, then send it dear elder (if you send it email it takes up some of the time i have to write you.)
Fourth, I want to give some explanation to these pictures that I’m hoping will all be attached… but it’s a long shot- there are lots that I’m trying to send.
K First the MTC pictures. The last week of the MTC was rough for me and i coped with it by drawing on hot chocolate cups and bananas (and then by putting the bananas back for other missionaries to happen upon.) Then there are pictures of me with each of my two teachers in the MTC, brother Merrill and brother Sunday. And a picture or two of me with elder player. Then the entire group of us leaving to Russia that week. Then the group of all the guys in our district minus two when we were up late at our “saying goodbye” get together before us Novosibirsk Elders left. Then a picture of the Novosibirsk Elders and sister at 4:00 am the morning of leaving to Russia.
I’m starting to forget what the other pictures were that I loaded. Siberian skies/sunsets are incredible. We did a service project at Sister Tamara’s, i think i told you about it. there’s a picture of me sharpening her axes/shovels for her using super sketchy equipment. Also in there is a picture of a members garden house which i’ll talk about later. And The last picture (again, if they all send) is of the bathroom in the other elder’s apartment. Our bathroom is nice b/c our apartment is also the meeting house for the church here in Kemerovo, but the other apartment, while being one of the nicer ones in the Novosibirsk Mission, is still a little shabby, with emphasis on the really bad bathroom (almost all the faucets in the apartment constantly drip) and the water pipes make funny noises.
Alright, so here’s my little report on the week:
We went bowling last P-day with Anton and Kristina and a couple of their friends. It was very fun; the bowling alley was hilarious. No wax on the floor, so the balls would basically be bouncing up and down at the end of the lane. After that we had a watermelon party– just ate watermelon and played cards. Kristina was baptized, but her husband, Anton, wasn’t. He had a date and his interview and everything but backed out last minute. So he’s one of our big focuses right now– we all feel that once he is baptized he’ll be a super strong member and a huge asset to the branch– its just a matter of figuring out what’s holding him back.
The next big task last week was to plan a branch activity. We decided we’d like to do a shishkabob cooking at the park (in russian they’re called shashleek) We bought a ridiculous amount of meat, invited many former investigators from the area that we had record of but had never before met, and most every member was going to come. We decided that it wouldn’t rain that day. And Saturday came and it rained all morning. We didn’t know what to do. Also another great aspect of this picnic is that we invited some Senior Missionaries to come and join us and to give spiritual thoughts. This couple had previously lived in Kemerovo, so they are close with many of the members and investigators. They arrived on a bus on Saturday and so we were very excited to have them. They helped us decide what to do with the shashleek problem. We decided to go somewhere else to cook the shashleek and then we’d bring it back to the church meeting house (our apartment) where we would all meet. We’d have a spiritual thought, sing some songs, have the picnic inside and just see how everything goes. In order to cook the shashleek we went to a member, Julia’s dacha. A Dacha is probably the most brilliant idea ever. It’s like a cabin, only not in the mountains. it’s a modest little building where one goes during the summer to work on their garden. so there’s’ a small house, a large garden with lots of flowers, vegetables, fruits, herbs, etc, and a vania– which is a really awesome, intense russian sauna.
So the picnic turned out to be a huge success, largely due to the amazing spiritual thought that Elder Bowdin, the senior missionary gave.
He talked about how in our lives we prepare, plan, and work our schedules around meals and other things that help us be physically nourished, but we never seem to do that with spiritual needs. He talked about how he finds a time, for him its watching the sunrise, each morning to just think about life, pray to God, and get answers to his prayers. He talked about how if we set apart a time each day to work on our relationship with our Father in Heaven, we will feel spiritually nourished and we will begin to better understand how God answers our prayers.
We later found out that a former investigator, Ksyousha went home that night, read the Ensign article that he recommended, along with the rest of the magazine and then started the Book of Mormon. We met with her and the Bowdin’s the next day and she told us about how she’s recently felt like she needs to have more spirituality in her life and that she feels like she’s now finding it.
It was amazing– hopefully everything will go well with her– she’s so excited to learn more about the Gospel.
Well I’m running very low on time and i don’t think these pictures will work. I’ll try more next week.
I love you all! Thanks for all of your support.
Parker, we ride on these little buses called Marshootka’s and they’re like really really, really old small buses. we don’t have cars or bikes here, but we ride those old buses, along with regular buses, electric buses, and taxis and stuff like that.
Tyler can receive and print out e-mails, but is only able to send one e-mail out a week to his family (which is posted to this blog). He is able to send physical letters as desired. He picks up e-mails on his Wednesday, which is our Tuesday evening (11 hours ahead). Send e-mails to:
The mailing address to Russia for physical mail and packages is:
630102 Novosibirsk, Russia
ul. Kirova 46
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Russia Novosibirsk Mission
Elder Tyler Froelich
You can also send a one-page letter through the pouch system at the following U.S. address (just a US first-class stamp):
Elder Tyler Froelich
Russia Novosibirsk Mission
PO Box 30150
Salt Lake City, Utah
Note that to use the pouch system, send one sheet of paper, folded in thirds and taped closed with 2 pieces of tape at the top, with the address on the outside. The pouch is a package of letters that is sent from Salt Lake City to the Russian Mission office on a weekly basis. Refer to mailing instructions at this link: http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/51446/Pouch-service-has-new-regulations.html
Also, you can do the same on-line through DearElder.com. This free service will deliver your letter you ‘type in’ to the pouch system. Here is the link: http://www.dearelder.com/