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.
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.