A few events from the past week:
We had a Woman’s Day district activity on Satuday. It was like a talent show where guys performed for all the women and there were lots of little entertaining things. At first I was honestly scared that it would be awful, but it turned out to be really successful and fun– we had a great turn out (there wasn’t enough space for all the people that came, even) and it put everyone in a great mood. We had investigators show up and lots of less active members of the church who hadn’t been to church in years showed up. My good friend Kostya Tolomeev has the whole thing recorded on video and I told him to friend me on facebook, so you may be able to watch some of it somehow. It may or may not involve a dance party presentation that my companion and I may or may not have gotten roped into.
My highlight of this last week was when on Sunday, after being let down that Michael didn’t make it to church, showed up for the later meeting (again– but because of an unforeseen problem that took up his entire morning). The last time we had met with him we gave him the book Gospel Principles and asked him to read some parts in the book to understand the doctrine that is required to understand before baptism. He showed up on Sunday (two days after we gave him the book) very happy and excited and lively and came up to me to tell me that he had finished reading that book. He went on to elaborate on things he had learned. He especially loved the order of the priesthood and he pulled out a little notebook he carries around, flipped to a page and showed me how he had it all written out for reference: deacon, teacher, preist, bishop– aaronic priesthood; elder, high priest, patriarch, apostle– melchisedec priesthood. It’s amazing: he now has been exposed to every major piece of doctrine of the church of Jesus Christ and he’s excited to learn more. He fully intends to attend church every week– it just made my day to see him so involved and making so much progress.
A really tough part of this week was with an investigator named Valentin. We’ve been meeting with him for a while, and have been hopeful when we noticed that he’s been more serious lately during our meetings and has been paying more attention to what we’ve been saying. This last lesson we had though, was a rough one. We talked with him about the importance of preparing to meet God, about repentance, and about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I really put all of myself into this lesson; we both love this guy a lot, but he just hasn’t been making very much progress. I put it all out on the table and told him that we really have been thinking and praying a lot about him and how we could help him come closer to God and how we decided that he needed to pray every day about the Book of Mormon and read from it. He then very directly told us that he would not do that; that he was more inclined to the Russian Orthodox church; that he is already a pretty old guy and has lived most of his life and is not interested in making any vast changes, but that these conversations about life are interesting to him; he loves talking to people with different views of life, and that we could continue our meetings.
It was a pretty crushing experience.
Something that I’ve noticed now that I’ve been a missionary for a while is that I have begun to get easily upset when people have very faulty logic or excuses about why they aren’t interested in hearing our message. It was especially hard for me with Valentin because of the invitation that he rejected: to come closer to God. He doesn’t understand very much about the scriptures, God, Christ, the Atonement, and he feels like the tradition of him being Russian Orthodox takes more priority than bridging those gaps for his own personal understanding.
It’s hard for me to write about this b/c it’s all still settling in my mind, but by way of application of this story, I thought of a general question that I could ask myself: what things in my life do I let get in the way of me understanding more about spiritual things? I think we probably all have little things that for us seem out of the question to change– because they’re just a part of our lives– but that are really getting in the way of us coming unto Christ. It’s like something I remember hearing in the MTC– a question you could ask yourself every day “what can I give up to come closer to Christ?”
There we go; that’s my spiritual thought for the week. We are going to the zoo today. I hear there are 3 giraffes (I have really come to love giraffes over the course of my mission) here and I’m really excited to say that I have seen giraffes in Siberia. (yeah, isn’t it wild?! who in the world decided that they could do that? bring some giraffes from africa to siberia and keep them there so that people could look at them. poor guys.)
–Elder Froelich (Tyler)