(Note: To find ways to write to Tyler, click on “Contact Information” on the right side of the screen)
Thank you so much for all of the emails this week. It was really encouraging for me to hear from each of you. Another little note to people who may just be added to the list recently: I can’t send individual emails, but I can have this one big email forwarded to you individually.
I sat down this morning to try to figure out what I should write and I figured I could maybe just include my journal entries rather than trying to remember everything that happened the past few days.
Wow, today was so enourmous and amazing. The entire day before 3:00 was devoted to preparing for the baptism. we cooked cookies, brownies, and made root beer, prepared music, baptismal clothing– double checked EVERYTHING. Elder Washburn and his trainer, Elder Bendixon, were here since last night for the baptismal interviews (since two of our Elders left we needed more missionaries to help us with the baptism, so they arrived on bus from a near by city). We finally were all ready and we left the apartment to meet Kostya (a Priesthood holder in the branch, he’s about 22 years old and he’s really cool), and Ksyousha and Ira. We went to the Bania– a Russian Bath House– it was a pretty nice room, though the water in the “font” was pretty dirty. We dressed in white as we waited for one more church member, Ulia, to arrive. We sang “Come Follow Me” and Kostya gave a talk about Baptism– most of which I understood. Then Ulia gave a talk on the Holy Ghost. She read from her journal which she wrote in immediately after she herself received the Gift of the Holy Ghost and she began to cry. Then Elder Washburn sang “When I am Baptised”. The Spirit was so strong as we walked to the baptismal font. My companion, Elder Ignatev, baptised Ksyousha first. Then I baptised Ira. It was an amazing experience– both of these girls were so excited to be baptised and become members of the church and the members, Kostya and Ulia, were so supportive of Ksyousha and Ira– there was so much love and support.
After the baptism when we started to eat the cookies/brownies Ksyousha and Ira announced that it was my birthday– something that I had essentially forgotten– and everyone sang happy birthday to me. In Russia, people sing Happy Birthday like we do in English… just with a really horrible Russian accent. 🙂
The girls then presented me with a birthday present (I found out later that they spent all night working on it) of a handmade journal and a beautiful airbrushed birthday card. I wanted to cry– it was such a simple but perfect and beautiful gift. I was so happy.
After the Baptism Ulia said she wanted to take me to Shashlika for my birthday (shishkabobs) and take the two visiting elders on a tour of Kemerovo. She drove us all over the city to places that I have never seen before– it was beautiful. The last place we went to is this statue of a miner (its a coal based city) overlooking the city. It was the most spectacular landscape I have ever seen in my entire life. Sunset, smoke stacks, Siberian sky, River, fall trees, industrial flame tours… it was amazing.
Well I’m pressed for time, so i’ll stray from my journal.
The next day we didn’t have a whole lot of people at sacrement meeting, but it turned out to be alright. Ksyousha was confirmed and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost from my companion and I confirmed and gave the Gift of the Holy Ghost to Ira. Then we had a testimony meeting since it was our Fast Sunday. Ulia bore her testimony after my companion, the branch president. Then the two new members bore their testimony, followed by Kostya, myself, Sister Tamara, and then my companion bore his again. I don’t remember much of what was said exactly except that a phrase that was commonly used was “I can’t explain this feeling with words.” It was an extremely spiritual meeting. There was so much love in that room. It’s amazing how this branch is set up– not one of the members could stand alone, but because of how much they support one another it is the strongest, most loving family-branch I have ever seen. I was talking with another missionary about it later– it’s a family, it’s not a branch.
The whole experience left me with a disctinct feeling that I knew that God knows me perfectly. It was the most amazing experience and for it to correspond with my birthday was overwhelming. I know that we are given times like this to remember when things get rough.
Well, time is about up, which is really lame.
When the other elders arrived they brought us mail! So I got letters from Sam Schaffer, Kerry Lubecki, Erica Larsen, Mom, Lexi, the Carters, Matt and Karla. Thank you so much! 😀 (most of the letters were mostmarked sometime in september) The ball was fun.
Mom, Thanks so much for your email to me– it meant a lot. There’s a member here who really loves root beer. If you end up sending a Christmas package or something, coudl you put in about 3 bottles of rootbeer extract in there (if you can find it at the store).
I would have pictures of the baptism, but Kostya ran off with my memory card. so you’ll have to wait until next week.
Well, I wanted to say a lot more, but not enough time. I love you all!
Thanks so much for your letters/emails!
Taegan: Will do.
Justin: thanks for the mp3 🙂
Everyone that wished me happy birthday: Thank you 🙂