December 30, 2009 Tomsk

December 30, 2009

Wow, it feels like Christmas came twice to me this year.  On Christmas morning my companion and I woke up and opened some presents and letters that we had just received from Novosibirsk.  I opened a package from the fam and a package from Matt and Karla (thanks!) and many, many letters sent from Brother Osmond’s sunday school class, and some other letters.  It was a great Christmas morning. Then I got to talk to my family on the phone, which was AMAZING 🙂 It was wild after getting off the phone with you guys… I just sat there and started thinking of all these other things I wish I could have told you and– I don’t know, it was just so weird realizing that I can actually connect to my life back at home and that things are still happening without me!

We celebrated Christmas at the other elders’ place with a senior couple, the Millers.  We had a Christmas dinner, watched Cars and The Nativity.  A couple days later there was a church Christmas party where children from branch dressed up and performed the nativity and people from the branch sang christmas songs and performed.  It was a great Christmas.

But then– yesterday I got more mail!  A letter from Brother Holdaway and…. a nice heavy package from Andrew.  Andrew, you said in that letter that you realized it was probably pretty important for me to get mail from my friends– you have no idea.  I was so happy to hear from you, how you’re doing, and you provided me with a very very very nice Christmas present. Thank you. 🙂 🙂

And today I was so happy to receive pictures from Hadley, the fam, and Sean/Spencer/Sam/Andrew…. I just feel so spoiled right now. Thanks everyone!

So most of my time went towards reading mail and taking pictures of things you guys have sent me.

But I wanted to give a little update of Tomsk.

In Tomsk we have a BEAUTIFUL building.  We have English club on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  English club is an hour long, broken up into three classes (seperated by their English proficiency) (We teach the second group).  The majority of the time we discuss topics, learn vocab/phrases, play games, etc.  Then we all meet together for story time (where a member of the 3rd group translates for everyone else) and then we technically have to end english, give people the option to leave, and we continue on with our spritual thought (given in english and translated like story time).  Something I forgot to tell you, fam, I was able to share the story of the lamb on Christmas eve to all those people at English club– I gave the story and then the spiritual thought.  It was very special for me to be able to continue a Christmas tradition waaaaay over here in Tomsk.

There are kids here!!! It’s so great!  There is one in particular who is WILD.  He steals missionaries’ name tags and jumps on you and picks your pockets, etc.  I made a deal with him that I would give him a piece of candy every time I saw him if he wouldn’t steal my nametag. 🙂 There are also many young adults because of the large university in this city.  So there are some very cool Russian youth that we are able to see at English and church and stuff– it’s a lot of fun.  And this last Sacrement meeting– it was so bizzare for me!  I just sat there. I didn’t have to give the opening prayer, play the hymns, give a talk, pass the sacrement, and everything else.  I just sat there… I didn’t know what to do with myself!! It’s wild to see such an independant branch of the church here, especially in contrast with Kemerovo.

I’ll include pictures of the building when I remember to take some.  It’s been pretty cold lately, although I haven’t quite seen 40 yet.  For New Year’s we aren’t allowed to leave the apartment– Russians drink all day long and party and drink some more and drink some more, so it’s pretty dangerous for missionaries.

Anyway, I love you all– I don’t know how much time I have left.

Thanks again for all of your emails– it means a lot to me!

–Elder Froelich

A few individual shoutouts:

Again to Andrew– you take the cake this week. that was so great to hear from you.  A baptismal service happens like so:  You meet together in some place that has water.  We believe that a person must be baptized by immersion– being completely submerged in water, and they must be baptized by someone who has the proper authority– the priesthood– just like Jesus Christ’s baptism.  We all dress in white just as a symbolism of becoming clean from sin through this ordanance.  We have that “special gear” for baptisms– just white jumpsuits.  It just is the easiest and most practical way to do it, rather than to ask the person to purchase their own white clothing– we’ve got it all for them to use.  There are a few speeches that are given by selected church members, we sing some songs, and then we enter into the font.  A prayer is said by the priesthood holder as they acknowledge that they have the authority from God and they are performing the ordinance in His name and in the name of the Son and the Holy Ghost.  Then the person is immersed in the water, they are pulled back up, and then both participants go to change.  There is then time for more singing and more discussion on what baptism means and the service is concluded.  So yeah– there you go.
I know I’ve got a bunch of birthdays that i’ve either missed, will probably forget, or something like that…. I’m sorry, but in my defence, I don’t have the facebook app that all the rest of you have and I have very few reminders of people back home…
Taegan– Happy Birthday! I hope to hear from you soon.  I hope you had a great Christmas and Birthday though.
Marie– i know you had one a while back– happy birthday
Spencer, I couldn’t few the photos because I didn’t have an account.  take care of that for me, why don’t ya 🙂  It was really cool to hear from you. I’d been getting worried that my letter wasn’t delivered!


December 23, 2009

December 23, 2009
Greetings from Tomsk!
Well. My head is still spinning quite fast.  The past few days have been quite eventful.  Leaving Kemerovo, packing, arriving in Tomsk and throughout all of that: anticipating Christmas.  It’s quite a strange feeling.
But what’s adding to the confused feeling inside the most is all of my ‘goodbyes’ from the people in Kemerovo.  It’s a very strange thing to leave a city where you worked so hard to make these people see that they need to change their lives– after you try and try and try to help them to feel the difference they can have– to see their reaction when you leave.  Even people who I thought weren’t listening to things that I was trying to teach them and who were avoiding coming to church or avoiding living the commandments that they need to follow showed an appreciation for me that really hit me hard.
I’ve got a few photos to accompany this email, assuming that I finish this letter in time.
Sasha:  a member who has been pretty inactive lately. He started being more active and then got Tuberculosis and is now in a hospital and will be there for an entire year from now.  We visited him during visiting hours and shared spritual thoughts with him over the talking of the other visitors in that dirty visiting room. He’s about 19 and he’s got a girlfriend.  We became great friends.  We would have fun conversations that often had to be aided by dictionaries because Elder Wheeler and I are both at about the same level of Russian. On what I thought was our last meeting I wrote him a long letter and gave him a Christmas present. He looked me in the eye and told me that I had to come back once more before I left the city.  It’s mandatory, he said.  We got there a few hours before our bus was scheduled to leave and he gave us each a personalized Christmas present that we’re not allowed to open until the 25th– just like when we told him he could open ours. 🙂  We hugged goodbye and promised to write eachother.
Kristina and Anton: a young couple: Anton isn’t baptized yet, Kristina is.  I had prepared a lesson for them my first transfer that I never got to share with them because they started working and studying and couldn’t find time very often to meet.  So I wanted one more big spiritual meeting with them.  Ksyousha and Ira were also there.  I picked up Anton’s guitar and Elder Wheeler was able to sing “Where can I turn for peace” to start off the meeting.  Then I pulled out my photo of me and Hadley when we were very young.  And I told the story of how my sister almost drowned when she was four.  But my dad was able to give her a priesthood blessing.  And she somehow recovered: the doctors all said that it was a miracle.  I warned everyone that I would probably cry while telling the story… and I did.  The spirit was strong as we taught about the priesthood and we testified at the end that after Anton is baptized he can hold the priesthood and be a blessing to his future family.  Kristina and Anton both came to see us off at the bus station.  Kristina gave me a note telling how much she appreciated my work and how much that last lesson really touched her.  Anton looked at me and I could tell he had something he wanted to say.  I thought about it on the bus ride to Tomsk and I think he feels that he may be ready for baptism to receive the priesthood.
Ksyousha and Ira: the girls that were baptized my first transfer.  We had a few fun activities with them the last few days before leaving.  After the priesthood lesson we got a text later that night saying that they both wanted blessings from Elder Wheeler and I before we left (school is getting tough and exams are coming up). We were able to give them blessings and then we ran together to the bus station to say goodbye.  It felt so great to be able to see how strong they both still are in the gospel and to see what examples they are to their friends: especially Kristina and Anton.
Dima: A man who has some major difficulties in life.  I’ve been working him fruitlessly since arriving in Kemerovo.  Now he mostly just comes to family night and church and sports day and asks for an occaisional meeting.  We’ve worked hard to help him see that God answers HIS prayers as well as the prayers of others. He wanted to give me a gift before leaving, a souvenier that he had at home somewhere, but on our last visit he said that he prayed 4 times while trying to find it, but he didn’t find it.  The next morning he called me at 7 AM and said that he found the gift and wants to meet me at the bus station.  He was there waiting for me in -35 weather.  When I got on the bus after saying goodbye he couldn’t see me through the tinted windows but I could see him.  He waited there next to my bus until the bus pulled out of the lot.
Note: the guy in the hankercheif over his mouth is Sasha.
I don’t know how much time I’ve got left.
But I want to say that I love you all.  I’m thinking about you.  I miss you.  I’m so thankful for Christmas, when we can remember our Savior Jesus Christ and the opportunity he gave us to become clean from our sins and return and stand before God, with the knowledge that through the Atonement we can be comfortable in His presence.  I know that Christ lives.
Merry Christmas,
Elder Froelich
To answer a few questions people asked me:
Parker: I’ll try to find you pics of snow forts that kids make here– they’re sooooo cool. 🙂
Hadley– keep me updated with pics of your artwork! and your little studio upstairs! 😀
Chris– yes, we have The Fountain Head.  It’s red/white paper back.  It’s probably with some of my things b/c I was trying to finish reading it.
Justin, Sean, Sam– hey, thanks for taking my brother out to do stuff.  It really makes me feel happy– like you guys haven’t forgotten me 🙂  So yeah; thanks– I really enjoyed reading about it from him and also from my mom.
Justin– thanks for walking around with my brother after dinner and doing the whole movie thing.  He said he really enjoyed it.  I have to say i’m a bit jealous.  I’m missing carry town/ going to see movies, and just wasting time in general with you guys….  Also, thanks for the email. Interesting stuff.  I have to say that I myself can’t quite understand the story of Job.  Certain things about it I really don’t like– like the whole argument between Satan and God and the competitive nature of the whole story.  But one thing that I really do appreciate about this story, especially now as a missionary:  This job guy was devoted.  He had obviously decided before all this stuff happened that he would be faithful to what he believed to the end.  Throughout the entire story he did not waver.  You’ve got to wonder about the decisions he made earlier in life to get him to that point.  As a missionary it is my greatest fear that after I leave a city, some of the people that I helped come unto Christ will hit hard times in their lives and forget everything that they knew before and just slide back into the habbits they had before.  Job is a great example of making an absolute decision to stay faithful no matter what happens.  And yes, after everything is restored unto him it still isn’t the same as before: but that’s just it– think of how much things have changed for him; how much he now knows to appreciate the things that he has.  I think there is an important aspect of the story that might be missing in writing about his learning process over all the trials he endured.  We’re on this life to do hard things and learn from them, and he defininitely did that.  So as far as the literature of the story goes, I agree with you: it’s kind of a turn off in general.  I personally take the concept of the story and the self application and leave the literature aspect of it alone.  And as for the interpretation of the feeding of the multitude: interesting.  I don’t really have much of an opinion on it right now except that I absolutely believe that the miracle could have taken place as most people imagine it.  Christ has power to perform miracles.  But that doesnt rule out the possibility of different than we normally imagine happening.  Overal: interesting.

December 16, 2009

December 16, 2009
Before I forget:
Andrew– thanks for your email– it was awesome to hear from you again.  I’ll look forward to getting your letter 🙂
Grandma Harlan– Yes, i’ve talked to a couple missionaries to figure out that the Stewarts served in Ulan Ude. It’s the farthest eastern city in the mission (about a 2 day train ride from Kemerovo).  Also, I never met Elder May in Finland… but there’s always next time! (in about 6 weeks)
Justin Trapp– I found the email you sent me, thanks.  Chris told me it went to my other account and so I had to log into my tyler.froelich@gmail account and luckily found your email amoung the 2900 unread emails in my inbox :O.  I’m glad things are going well– keep up the good work and thanks for keeping me updated.
Mom– I got the book you sent me in the mail– thanks so much.  It was a very nice unexpected gift to receive 🙂
Erica– I also got the conference talk you sent me– thanks!
Family,
This week we had Zone Conference in Tomsk.  It was actually probably the best zone conference experience that I’ve had so far.  The President focused us on our two goals for the next year: Teach more lessons, teach better lessons;  work with the members.  It was an interesting conference for Elder Wheeler and I on the “work with the branch president and ward leaders” section (considering my companion IS the branch president).  The conference was very uplifting and encouraging.  Our interviews with the president went well also. We talked about what we need to be focusing most on in Kemerovo.  The President wants the branch to be able to stand without missionaries, so we’ve got a lot of work to do to get to that point.  As of now we have no priesthood holders (our reliable priesthood holder just got dragged off by the army).  So the president encouraged is to find families and find priethood holders.  He said “if you need a branch president, go find a branch president. If you need a relief society president, go find one.”  So, because of the detailed game plan that we both received in our interviews we are both thinking that we’ll be here for another transfer.  So these next couple weeks we’ll be exercising a lot of faith in our efforts to “go find” priesthood for our branch.  As far as we know, the paper work for receiving a building is still on schedule, so we should be moving into the place within a couple weeks! (crossing our fingers)
I’d like to share a cool experience that Elder Wheeler and I had right at the end of zone conference.  The president dropped us off at the Bus Station and we bought the next availiable tickets (the bus would leave in 1 hour and 20 minutes from when we bought the tickets).  Then I made a sarcastic comment on how the Assistants forgot our mail.  My companion called them just to make sure they weren’t joking.  Turns out they weren’t; they just forgot to tell us that they actually DID bring our mail (no comment on how upsetting that was).  So we looked at the time and figured we could make it back to the branch building and then back to the Bus Station in 1 hour and make our bus back to Kemerovo. So we hopped on a city bus to go back to the branch building.  Traffic was really bad and we got nervous as we realized how it would be quite a task to get back on time.  But we got to the building ran inside, found our mail, and called a taxi.  The taxi took forever to arrive and we kept getting more and more nervous.  Finally he arrived and we started back to the Bus Station.  We had about 20 minutes until our bus pulled out.  The driver took some really weird route to the station and it was looking like we weren’t going to make it.  We were both praying pretty hard that we could actually make this bus some how.  We paid him before we arrived and when we did arrive we ran out of the car.  Instead of running through the bus station building, we ran around the bus station, running down the road that all the buses leave by.  It was 5:52 and our bus was supposed to have left at 5:50.  Right as we started down that road on the side of the building we see our bus, seconds away from pulling onto a mainstreet.  We frantically knock on windows and tell the driver that we’ve got tickets.  He lets us on and while we’re still trying to find our seats the bus is driving down the road, exiting Tomsk.  We sat and looked at eachother and decided that there is no way we actually made it.  In all reality we SHOULD NOT have made that bus.  If we had waited at one more traffic light in that Taxi, or had went through the bus station, or if the taxi driver had been 10 seconds later to arrive to pick us up, we would not have made it.  A sister missionary had borne her testimony about miracles that she had seen this transfer and both my companion and I knew then that we had absolutely witnessed a miracle.  It was literally a matter of 10 seconds, but the Lord put everything into place, even as far back as waiting for that taxi driver, just, as I felt, to show us that he is really in control– even down to 10 seconds.
Thanks for your emails this week; they were encouraging as always.
Chris, I’m so happy to hear that things are going well and that you’re home and safe.  It helps me feel more comfortable here in Siberia knowing that my family is together and happy.  And Hadley– I’m so glad to hear that the ballet went well.  Dad sent me pictures and they’re wonderful- i’ll be showing all my friends here 🙂  Mom, don’t get too stressed out about things– take time to appreciate the time of year and the increased love for the Savior that we can feel during Christmastime.  Dad, thanks for your insights into King Benjamin’s speech.  I really love hearing how your seminary class is doing.  Oh, Hadley, if you see Brother Beens again, tell him I said hi and that i’m doing great and thank him for being such a great teacher.  Parker– make sure to spend lots of time with Chris while he’s home. Before you know it he’ll be gone. Maybe you guys can go rock climbing!
Friends– what’s going on for Christmastime?  Is everyone home from college? any big plans? When does school start back up?  Listen to some Sufjan Stevens Christmas for me. And someone please watch A Charlie Brown’s Christmas and the Pinky and the Brain Christmas Episode, and the Nightmare Before Christas for me! 🙂
Well, like I said before, this Christmas will be different, seeing as they don’t really celebrate Christmas here in Russia.  It’s such a sad thing– Christmas is such a great time of year to show how greatful we are of God’s gift to us– sending his Son to make it possible to return and live with our Father in Heaven.  Take advantage of the love and happiness that people naturally tend to feel this time of year and try to really experience it.  I’m sad not to be so exposed to the caroling and christmas cookies and Eggnog, etc– so experience it double for those of us in Russia 🙂
–Elder Froelich

Before I forget:
Andrew– thanks for your email– it was awesome to hear from you again.  I’ll look forward to getting your letter :)Grandma Harlan– Yes, i’ve talked to a couple missionaries to figure out that the Stewarts served in Ulan Ude. It’s the farthest eastern city in the mission (about a 2 day train ride from Kemerovo).  Also, I never met Elder May in Finland… but there’s always next time! (in about 6 weeks)Justin Trapp– I found the email you sent me, thanks.  Chris told me it went to my other account and so I had to log into my tyler.froelich@gmail account and luckily found your email amoung the 2900 unread emails in my inbox :O.  I’m glad things are going well– keep up the good work and thanks for keeping me updated.Mom– I got the book you sent me in the mail– thanks so much.  It was a very nice unexpected gift to receive :)Erica– I also got the conference talk you sent me– thanks!
Family,
This week we had Zone Conference in Tomsk.  It was actually probably the best zone conference experience that I’ve had so far.  The President focused us on our two goals for the next year: Teach more lessons, teach better lessons;  work with the members.  It was an interesting conference for Elder Wheeler and I on the “work with the branch president and ward leaders” section (considering my companion IS the branch president).  The conference was very uplifting and encouraging.  Our interviews with the president went well also. We talked about what we need to be focusing most on in Kemerovo.  The President wants the branch to be able to stand without missionaries, so we’ve got a lot of work to do to get to that point.  As of now we have no priesthood holders (our reliable priesthood holder just got dragged off by the army).  So the president encouraged is to find families and find priethood holders.  He said “if you need a branch president, go find a branch president. If you need a relief society president, go find one.”  So, because of the detailed game plan that we both received in our interviews we are both thinking that we’ll be here for another transfer.  So these next couple weeks we’ll be exercising a lot of faith in our efforts to “go find” priesthood for our branch.  As far as we know, the paper work for receiving a building is still on schedule, so we should be moving into the place within a couple weeks! (crossing our fingers)
I’d like to share a cool experience that Elder Wheeler and I had right at the end of zone conference.  The president dropped us off at the Bus Station and we bought the next availiable tickets (the bus would leave in 1 hour and 20 minutes from when we bought the tickets).  Then I made a sarcastic comment on how the Assistants forgot our mail.  My companion called them just to make sure they weren’t joking.  Turns out they weren’t; they just forgot to tell us that they actually DID bring our mail (no comment on how upsetting that was).  So we looked at the time and figured we could make it back to the branch building and then back to the Bus Station in 1 hour and make our bus back to Kemerovo. So we hopped on a city bus to go back to the branch building.  Traffic was really bad and we got nervous as we realized how it would be quite a task to get back on time.  But we got to the building ran inside, found our mail, and called a taxi.  The taxi took forever to arrive and we kept getting more and more nervous.  Finally he arrived and we started back to the Bus Station.  We had about 20 minutes until our bus pulled out.  The driver took some really weird route to the station and it was looking like we weren’t going to make it.  We were both praying pretty hard that we could actually make this bus some how.  We paid him before we arrived and when we did arrive we ran out of the car.  Instead of running through the bus station building, we ran around the bus station, running down the road that all the buses leave by.  It was 5:52 and our bus was supposed to have left at 5:50.  Right as we started down that road on the side of the building we see our bus, seconds away from pulling onto a mainstreet.  We frantically knock on windows and tell the driver that we’ve got tickets.  He lets us on and while we’re still trying to find our seats the bus is driving down the road, exiting Tomsk.  We sat and looked at eachother and decided that there is no way we actually made it.  In all reality we SHOULD NOT have made that bus.  If we had waited at one more traffic light in that Taxi, or had went through the bus station, or if the taxi driver had been 10 seconds later to arrive to pick us up, we would not have made it.  A sister missionary had borne her testimony about miracles that she had seen this transfer and both my companion and I knew then that we had absolutely witnessed a miracle.  It was literally a matter of 10 seconds, but the Lord put everything into place, even as far back as waiting for that taxi driver, just, as I felt, to show us that he is really in control– even down to 10 seconds.
Thanks for your emails this week; they were encouraging as always.
Chris, I’m so happy to hear that things are going well and that you’re home and safe.  It helps me feel more comfortable here in Siberia knowing that my family is together and happy.  And Hadley– I’m so glad to hear that the ballet went well.  Dad sent me pictures and they’re wonderful- i’ll be showing all my friends here 🙂  Mom, don’t get too stressed out about things– take time to appreciate the time of year and the increased love for the Savior that we can feel during Christmastime.  Dad, thanks for your insights into King Benjamin’s speech.  I really love hearing how your seminary class is doing.  Oh, Hadley, if you see Brother Beens again, tell him I said hi and that i’m doing great and thank him for being such a great teacher.  Parker– make sure to spend lots of time with Chris while he’s home. Before you know it he’ll be gone. Maybe you guys can go rock climbing!
Friends– what’s going on for Christmastime?  Is everyone home from college? any big plans? When does school start back up?  Listen to some Sufjan Stevens Christmas for me. And someone please watch A Charlie Brown’s Christmas and the Pinky and the Brain Christmas Episode, and the Nightmare Before Christas for me! 🙂
Well, like I said before, this Christmas will be different, seeing as they don’t really celebrate Christmas here in Russia.  It’s such a sad thing– Christmas is such a great time of year to show how greatful we are of God’s gift to us– sending his Son to make it possible to return and live with our Father in Heaven.  Take advantage of the love and happiness that people naturally tend to feel this time of year and try to really experience it.  I’m sad not to be so exposed to the caroling and christmas cookies and Eggnog, etc– so experience it double for those of us in Russia 🙂

–Elder Froelich