Russia 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

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