Russia Week 5

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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.

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