Russia – September 29, 2010

September 29, 2010
NOTE:  Tyler’s birthday is October 3rd– you can wish him a happy one at tyler.froelich@myldsmail.net.
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All,
Hey– things are going great. I’m adding this part of the email last– I just had some bullet point-like things to say, so here they are
General Conference:
We will watch General Conference on the 16th and 17th.  That being said– I’d appreciate little comments like “oh man, the second talk of the second session was AMAZING! take good notes on THAT ONE!” or “my favorite talk was elder ________’s, it was about the general topic of __________”
But overall, as a missionary, General Conference is like Christmas, and it’s kind of tantalizing when we have to wait two weeks extra, so keep that in mind when you write me. Comments that would prepare me in a positive way for it, and direct my attention to things that will  be of really great help to me so that I can take good notes would be great.  But don’t write about it as if I already saw it– that’s just frustrating.
Dear Grandpa/Grandma Froelich,
When I show people my photo album, the second picture is my family standing in front of the Nauvoo temple with you two.  I explain that my grandparents served in this temple for a period of time as missionaries.
Our last baptism was a woman named Lena.  She has a daughter who is about 18 who is still investigating, waiting for an answer, and Lena is divorced from her husband.  Something that I thought would be really incredible for you to hear (being temple workers) is the key aspect to her conversion.  She had been investigating for a while and the sister missionaries were working towards setting a baptismal date with her.  The Sunday church meeting was different that day: district council– when all the branches met together for some exciting news about the combining of the 1st and 2nd branches, and the leadership changes for that to happen.  During this meeting were also announced the 3 baptisms that we had had the day before.  And also announced in this meeting was the Kiev Temple Dedication.  The mission president himself made this announcement, and encouraged members to get a temporary recommend if possible to attend the dedication.  Lena, sitting in the meeting, suddenly became very interested.  After that meeting, she met with the sister missionaries, where she told them that she had recently had a dream that she was to serve in a temple in the future, and that while President Trejo was announcing this temple, she knew that she was meant to someday work and serve at that temple.  She set a baptismal date, and was baptized two weeks later.  The best part is that no one ever explained to her the concept of Mormon temples, or even that members could have callings to serve full time as a temple worker.  All the missionaries agree that she definitely looks like a Latter-Day Saint, even before she was baptized. She has light colored hair and a very nice, sweet face; she’s about 40 years old, I’d say.  She speaks limited English.
So a request to you, grandma and grandpa– I think it would mean a lot to her if you were to write a short letter congradulating her and testifiying of the blessings that come from temple work (keep in mind that she is a very recent convert and doesn’t know much about temples yet, and that if you write simply enough she should be able to read it without a translator.  Also, her daughter will also probably be interested in reading it– you could write a little to her, too.  Her daughter is all ready for baptism– she’s just waiting for a confirmation that it’s all true.)  I just got the idea that it would be a very significant thing for her to have– almost like a physical representation of this dream/goal of hers to serve in the House of the Lord.  You can send it through pouch mail, or even email and I can just print it out– whatever works best for you (time is probably not a HUGE problem. I imagine I’ll be in Novosibirsk for quite a while still)
Grandma Harlan and Great Grandma Sara–My Mom told me that you sent me a birthday card/gift– thank you so much.  Great Grandma Sara– I really appreciate the letters I’ve gotten from you the past few months.  I’m so blessed to have your care and support.  It means a lot to me that you both have remembered my birthday– even when I’m so far away.
Birthdays
I feel especially guilty about birthdays right now because I know I’ve forgotten/will forget a TON of birthdays that have recently been/will recently be.  It’s harder than you’d think to remember birthdays when you’re living in this other missionary-world.  Facebook doesn’t exist, friends and family only exist in “paper” and “package” form (you can never really know if they’re all not just something you thought up, as part of this “past life” that “once was”), and we’re not on a 4 week/month calendar, but rather the 6 weeks/transfer calendar, not to mention the missionaries’ birthdays that are hard enough to remember, and the members’ birthdays and the investigators’ birthdays.  So to everyone who recently modified or will modify their answer to the question “how old are you?” I would like to officially apologize for forgetting/sending a letter too late/remembering except for on wednesday when you have to write some silly email to lots of people.
I’m hesitant to make this list, but just from the resources that I do have, I’d like to officially note the following:
zoe
amber
sean
sam
caitlin
Whether I managed to get something to you or not for your birthday: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
And for those who would be interested to know things about my birthday– I have no idea how it may be celebrated.
I got an AMAZING package from home with a WEEZER the dog book in it (it’s my new favorite book) (I’ve opened a few of the presents due to impatience) and I just got ANOTHER package from home that’s longer and less square than the first one, and I got a letter from Zoe and a postcard from Caitlin, and one addressed “Harlan” those will all add to my birthday-ness :).  What are we allowed to do for birthdays for missionaries?  Well we wouldn’t want to do anything that makes us feel guilty about how we used valuable time.  I’ll be going to church like regular on Sunday, and if there are any secretly planned birthday cake/singing/festivities planned for me it would probably be no more than an hour.  But– not super important.  Birthdays are weird things on a mission– you can never decided if you want to celebrate it or not.  I’ve gotten enough packages lately and books about dogs named Weezer that I’m pretty happy with how things are– even if there are no other surprises.
Anyway, I’ve rambled on a lot now, and I think I’m pretty out-of-time….
Weather
a quick note on the weather for those who are interested– it’s getting a bit colder. today it rained and yellow leaves are everywhere! It’s beautiful and the grey cloudy skies, rain, and leaves on the sidewalks make me really happy.  Next week will very possibly get really cold– no one knows.  A city in the mission has already reported having seen snow.
–Elder Froelich
PS Someone get me Spencer Leake’s mission address ASAP!!!!!!!  I can’t believe he’s in the MTC!!!!!!!!! 😀  (mission and mtc address, please, and email, and get me on the writing list if he sends out bulk emails, and so forth)

Russia Septeber 22, 2010

September 22, 2010

All,

We had some fun stuff within the last couple of weeks. We went to a hockey game last Wednesday! It was the team Sibir (novosibirsk) vs Dinamo (from Belorussia). We lost pretty bad, but the hockey game was lots of fun (it was our once-per-3-months culture night).

I actually feel overwhelmed for the first time in the last few weeks. We had tons of headache-finances to deal with while doing things the last few days (getting our electricity turned back on, finding and signing a contract for the sisters’ new apartment), so the other highlights of the past couple weeks are a little bit obstructed in my head. English club has been getting lots better– I love the group that I’m in charge of– 3rd group. There are about 15-23 people who come each week. Last night we played Guesstures and had a blast. I feel like I’m really developing a friendship with some of the people in my group. It’s nice because as I get to know these people better I can see a light in certain people’s eyes and it becomes evident who might be ready to hear our message that we share as missionaries.

We also had sports night in an indoor venue that the church has purchased. We played floor hockey! It was so much fun! Unfortunately, due to poor planning, we had a very small amount of people there; the ratio of missionaries to not-missionaries was pretty embarrassing, but now we’re all really excited to get more people to sports night because we’ve all seen how much fun it could be to have a bunch of people there, and it should also open doors to teach people.

Well, maybe I’m just a little too tired, but I can’t think of anything else to write. I’ll attach a couple of photos.
Thanks for the prayers/letters/support!

–Elder Tyler Froelich

photos:
hockey game
my companion and i at hockey game
me harvesting potatoes with cat and kitten


Russia, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2010
All,
I had a pretty remarkable week.  My weekdays were completely packed with 1)Zone Leaders’ Council and 2)a new special training session.  The Sunday before those weekdays started, our recent convert, Alexei was ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood.  Our branch president is awesome and made sure that that was all taken care of– he even got Alexei’s wife from relief society so that she could see the ordination!  We hope to be seeing alexei passing the sacrement in a week or so!
The training that we had was amazing.  It was like being in the MTC without the awful cafeteria and awkward schedule, and everything annoying–including having 0 missionary experience to know what we should be learning anyway and how we might apply it.  The church is going to be training missionaries differentyl in the near future, so they’re putting us through the training now.  There were 8 lessons taught over 3 days to me and about 7 other missionaries–zone leaders.  It was amazing to step back and look at what you’re doing and look at where your focus actually is.  It’s amazing how off course we can get sometimes in whatever we’re doing.  We had all these lessons, which really seemed to focus us in more on teaching people so that they feel respect, love and honesty from us, and so that we teach with the goal in mind of those we teach having a good understanding of everything they need to know from us.  It was an amazing experience to be able to be redirected.  I’m so thankful that I have so much more time left on my mission that I can now apply the things that I essentially just “relearned” but had somehow forgotten or put in the back of my mind.
But I guess that’s my message to you guys this week– I think we all generally know where we want to go in life and where we mean to go….. but how often are we letting side issues get us distracted and put our focus somewhere else?  It was a big sacrifice of missionary time that for three days we did nothing but sit in the president’s house for this new training, but in the end I think it’ll be really worth it.  Sometimes we all need to sacrifice that time to relearn the things we already know and reevaluate the focus of our lives.  It’s like we sometimes tell the people we teach: the reason that we do things like go to church on sunday is this: imagine walking down a long line ot tape, blindfolded.  Sure you can stay pretty accurate for a while, but after 100 steps you’re going to be far away from the tape line.  If you can take off the blind fold every so often and look at where you are and readjust and recommit yourself to that goal, then you keep yourself close to what you should be doing.
Thanks for all your letters of support and emails and prayers.
-Elder Froelich
ps. pictures: a funny russian add for some happy event to happen on sept 11… which is the day we remember the twin towers
also, we drew the plan of salvation for one sports night with sidewalk chalk.  (click on photo to enlarge!)

Russia September 1, 2010

September 1, 2010
Today is the first day of the new school year here in Russia, as well as the first official day of Fall!
The streets are full of young girls dressed in ridiculous school uniforms, mostly comprising of white blouses, large lacy bows in their hair (often one on each pig tail), a short black skirt, and black high heels.  The guys are occasionally dressed up in a suit or white shirt and tie (so it’s weird– I feel like I’m getting misidentified today as a strange looking Russian high-schooler), but for the most part it’s the girls who are noticeable, with the guys filling in the gaps in the background– which is how it usually is in Russia.  The girls are always dressed up really nice and are often very pretty and the guys at their sides are wearing some grubby Adidas sweat pants and jacket.  It’s also possibly the hottest day of the year so far (on the first day of Autumn). I can’t find the info now, but someone yesterday told me that it would be 34 Celsius today.  We’ve had a fortunate Summer in Helsinki compared to cities like Moscow who have had a very hot, very hazy summer.
A lot of you asked about that English activity that we were preparing for– I’m sorry that I forgot to provide you with more details and the report.  The event was called a запись, which translates out to “sign up”, where we spent lots of time on the streets telling people about English club.  If they were interested we’d tell them that we’re officially starting on [date] and they can come during these three hours to sign up for the club and learn more about it.  We’d then take their phone numbers down to remind them the night before about it and see if they could come.  We had the sign up on Tuesday and Thursday from 5-8 in the evening.  We spent about 2 hours calling our phone lists (the ones that my companion and I made)– a total of about 160 numbers.  We would just remind them that we’ve got this sign up and that if they can come, they should come at this time and they can get some info about the club, and then we’ll have some games, refreshments, etc.
The first night of the sign up was a little bit stressful– we were figuring all this out for the first time.  We had lots of games out (taboo, gestures, pick up sticks, uno, fingerpainting) in one room, and then in the sign up room (where they go first) we had a table were they could take a little test.  On the test they write their name, phone number and address, answer a few questions of translating english to russian and vice versa, and indicate some other information (such as “how did you find out about this club?” and “would you be interested in learning more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?”).  Then we had some handouts for them, describing what English club is, along with descriptions of our other services and activities that we have in the city.  Once enough people came we got a giant, growing game of “do you love your neighbor.”  It was a very successful night!  We had lots of new people show up, sign up, and get excited for the start of the club– a week later.  The biggest success was the shockingly high number of people who indicated that they would, in fact, like to learn more about the church.
The first night of English club the rooms were almost all completely full.  Lots of new faces, along with our long time goers, and lots of excitement on starting English up again.  Of course, this number has been falling a little bit– there’s a natural drop that you have to expect of people who see that it’s not that important to them, etc. But on the whole, we’ve found lots of new people who seem like they could really be interested in hearing more about what we have to share as missionaries.
The reason we hold English club is to serve people here and then offer to teach them more about religious things. So, at the end of the club, we always have a spiritual thought.  Legally, this has to be after we say “this is the official end of English– you can leave now if you need to.”  Most of the time only 3-4 people shuffle out of the room and a missionary shares in English (with a russian translating) a spiritual thought.  This time around we’ve really focused on helping our missionaries use this moment more effectively.  We’ve changed up how we do the spiritual thoughts and have made certain emphasises such as posing lots of questions to get people to think, and then always having something to hand out to them on the way out.  We’re still working the kinks out, but we’ve had two really successful goes at it so far.  The first time I wasn’t present for– Elder Barwick shared a really great thought on families and how they’re so important to us.  He shared lots of thought provoking questions and then explained “we have a film that gives lots of answers to these questions! you can pick up this film on the way out and keep it for up to two weeks.  Just write down your name and address and phonenumber as you take a copy!”  That night every copy of “Together Forever” was taken.  Just last night for English Sister Antonova gave a great spiritual thought on how many seconds we have in a day and how we use those seconds.  Do we use our time on Earth, which is short and can end at any time, in the most effective, important way?  She then explained that if you’d like some answers to these questions, there’s a pamphlet that we have waiting for you outside–feel free to take one to read.  It’s called “Plan of Salvation” and it’s all about what God expects us to be doing here while we’re on Earth and what purpose we have in life.  Many people grabbed a copy of the pamphlet on the way out.
Well, i’ve just been rambling on about this for some time now– sorry if i’m boring some of you.  In short, it was very successful and we’re hoping to find some people who are really interested in learning more about Christ’s church.
We have another baptism in our zone this Saturday– a lady named Lena.  Hopefully her daughter, Marina, will follow shortly after.
Thanks for all the letters!  Just an update on my mail situation:
While I’m in this particular city I get mail the day it arrives and I can also send out mail a lot cheaper to you guys!
The pouch system is actually feasable now that I’m in Novo, so dear elders get to me quick, as well as other pouch mail. I can easily send out something in the pouch system (if you’re reading this and don’t know what the pouch system is, shoot an email to my parents and they’ll explain), although I have a limit on American stamps, so I just need to keep that stock up, so more stamps are always appreciated. (I did just get a bunch of stamps from you, mom, thanks!)
One little request:  to any of my cooper union buddies, especially Brendon– does anyone have photos of some of the drawings that I did in cooper? Especially the intersection project drawings?  If someone could get the word out to brendon so that i eventually get some kind of email i’d really appreciate it.  I’d like to show them along with the photos I have of my model.
Thank you!
Happy Birthday to Hadley! 😀
–Elder Froelich