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!
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!