April 13, 2011 – Final Letter from Russia

April 16, 2011

Well… this is it….

In wrapping everything up here, I cannot completely express my emotions.

On the “exciting missionary news” side, I forgot to mention last week that we found a miraculous new investigator– Yustina. She came to an English sign up a few weeks back and she expressed desire to learn more about the church. We started meeting with her and she described how she felt during the spiritual thought at English club– a warm, happy feeling inside; i just love being here. She described the moments in the Russian Orthodox church that really bother her, and we were happy to tell her about what we believe on those topics (baptism for infants, praying through icons, etc.). She is full of light and is a really happy person. She also has a husband and she told us that he’s catholic. We were suprised when he showed up on one of the meetings when we talked about the Book of Mormon and watched the Restoration. We thought her husband would not be supportive of her, but instead, when we read some verses from the Book of Mormon he opened up to us: “wow– in my life i’ve always just said “i don’t have time for religion,” but really it was just because i didn’t understand any of it. This that we just read– that’s how I feel about prayer in my heart– and it’s phrased so wisely and perfectly. I’ll definitely read this book.”

We had the senior couple, Elder and Sister Rolfe, with us on that meeting and they testified to the young couple of the love that they see within their relationship– how much Yustina’s husband respects her and how in this church they’ll find more happiness as a family and as husband and wife than they could even imagine. The spirit was super strong and crying took place.

It gets better. The next meeting they unexpectedly invited a friend, Sveta, to English with them and we had a lesson afterwords with Sveta. That resulted in Sveta asking at the end “alright, so this book… you guys sell it? how much does it cost?” (while we started to explain that it’s free, her friend, Yustina, jumped on that one: “I’ll sell one to you!”) 🙂

So that’s a little taste of what I’m experiencing here my last few days in Irkutsk.

Reflecting back on these past two years I’m simply in awe. I feel like I’ve just experienced first hand one of the most beautiful, simple, complex masterpiece. Simply looking at how things were in the beginning and how they ended up– it’s all so perfect. I think that’s one of the major lessons that I’ve learned serving on a mission for the Lord Jesus Christ– His hand is in everything; the hardest times and the happiest times. It’s only a matter of patience and faith, and then he’ll show us. Life has meaning, everyday things have meaning. All it takes is the right perspective– trying to see through “heaven’s eyes” (to quote a song that Elder Sage Petersen likes a lot), following the footsteps of the Savior and everything becomes clear. We are built to understand things and to learn, and we can know truth– God intends us to learn truth.

Thank you all for your support and thanks to anyone who read this since I’ve left home. Thanks to those of you who gave me some advice and encouragement these last few days/weeks. Thank you so much for all the letters and packages you sent me– there was no way to respond to everything you all sent. Some of it i tried to respond to and I have a stack of unsent letters– sorry. But know that your testimony and written thoughts gave me strength and reasons to smile when things were hard on the mission.

So…

…i guess I’ll see you guys in a few days….

*shrug*

–Elder Tyler Froelich


Russia – April 7, 2011

April 8, 2011

Dear All,

Wow, so much stuff has happened, I don’t even know where to start. Here we go– for starters, I talked to the office and they told me about some complications in my flight plans home– so I’ll know dates and times soon, but as of right now I’ll get home probably on either the 20th or the 21st. But I’ll have concrete information hopefully by next week.

It’s really wild serving in Irkutsk having so little time left on my mission. There are lots of things that weigh on my mind lately and I find myself generally more tired. I feel pretty stressed; not going to lie, but things are doing really well in general and I’m really enjoying this last bit of time on my mission.

I just got back at midnight from Zone Leaders’ Conference. I flew to ZLC with my companion and the elders from Ulan Ude. It was quite a mind blowing experience for me.

For starters, as we drove through the city of Novosibirsk my heart rejoiced in seeing all the familiar streets, buildings, monuments, etc. I was really lucky and was able to make it for the last part of English club! 😀
I walked in right when they were starting up closing announcements and was welcomed by a round of applause. I was greeted by familiar faces of great friends who I missed dearly. It was so awesome to be back and get to talk to everyone again (there were some people who weren’t there that I really was hoping to see…. but just in general if any of you end up reading this who didn’t get to see me while I was in Novo– большой привет вам!). (And a special shout out to Kostya, who, I found out, reads this blog. 🙂 He’s a great friend and I was really lucky to be able to talk with him for while while I was in Novo. Thanks, man.)

And then the next day ZLC started and I was able to see all the zone leaders– all my great friends and old companions and old zone members– shuffle in to the mission house. I can’t even express how great of an experience it was to get a “one last time” at ZLC. I could go on writing about it for the rest of the email, but I won’t.

And then we got on a plane back to Irkutsk. This time it was a propellar plan that creaked when we turned and that vibrated and roared loudly for the 4 hour flight back to our area. And now I’m back.

It’s hard to find what to write about, even. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and awe for the way that God is so involved in everything. All of the rough times in life are definitely worth those precious moments when you see unfolded before you the reasoning and the intention of it all. It’s such a beautiful plan and it’s such a beautiful Gospel.

–Elder Tyler Froelich


Russia March 30, 2011

March 30, 2011

(double-click to enlarge photos)

Are you guys ready for this?

All sense and logic would point to me staying in Krasnoyarsk for the last 20 days of my mission with Elder Petersen, but….
nope! I got off a 24 hour train ride this morning at 6:00 am and arrived to Irkutsk to be a zone leader with Elder Smith!

No one saw that one coming.
It was a bummer that I had to leave Krasno, right after forming some strong relationships with all the people there. It was especially unfair that I had to leave Tuesday morning– before I was able to say goodbye to any of the people from English club 😦
And I was asked not to bring all my luggage to Irkutsk because I’ll have to fly from Irkutsk to Novosibirsk to go home and the planes here are smaller and charge more for overweight luggage. Mom– you’d be so proud of me. I got rid of so much unnecessary stuff and managed to pack all of my things for the rest of my mission into one suitcase, then I packed my smallest suitcase, put it inside my bigger suit case and filled in the gaps (those two suitcases will be shipped by train to wait for my in Novosibirsk for when I come home to America).

So I got on the train on Tuesday morning, said goodbye to an amazing zone of missionaries that I have grown to love with all my heart (Elders Petersen, Byers, Lilinquist, Sodja, Whiting, Sisters Filatova, Clark, Fesenko, and Lyudmila) and had a great train ride with a lot of cool missionaries: Elder Larkin, Zanger, Taylor, Ahuna, and Birtcher.

Being zone leader means that next Wednesday I may or may not have time to email because I’ll be going to Zone Leader’s Council by plane with my companion to Novosibirsk for a day.

I had some super emotional and spiritual days before leaving Krasnoyarsk. I really love the people there and I just keep getting the overwhelming feeling of things working out how they needed to. I’m beginning to understand the concept of having no regrets on the mission. I thought for a long time that it was impossible– you could have always talked to one more person about the Gospel. But now I’m beginning to see how “having no regrets” is possible, but only if God plays a role in the process. I’ve seen God’s hand more and more clearly as I serve longer and loger on a mission and I see him filling in the holes– compensating for my weaknesses and mistakes, and I have really felt successful as I’ve looked back on my service over the past little while. It’s a very beautiful merciful gift that comes from the Savior’s Atonement.

I really don’t know what awaits me here in Irkutsk. It’s right by lake Baikal, so maybe I’ll make it there. I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do here for a grand total of about 20 days, but hopefully I’ll be able to figure it out and make very good use of my time here.

I made it to the “East”.

–Elder Froelich


Russia– March 23, 2011 (see also March 16 post, just posted)

March 24, 2011

All,

Well i’m running low on time because of these stupid computers (i spent too much time trying to attach photos for you guys).

This last week was really good– lots of difficulties and lots of success.

We went to an opera for culture night on Saturday– Madam Butterfly. 🙂 That’s on my bucket list (things I need to do before I die) and I was really happy to be able to cross that one off on my mission. I was super impressed by the opera. It was so intense– so much emotion. I think I’ll be getting more into that kind of stuff later down the road.

The big thing this last week was an experience that taught me that when we do all that we can and pray hard and search the scriptures and have a righteous cause– things work out. We had a difficult meeting with Leonid that really weighed down on my mind and stressed me out a lot. I didn’t know what else to do. The next day when we met with him, it seems that he had been thinking a lot about things that night too, and he really had a change of heart. He actually even expressed his desire to be baptized! 🙂

We’ll get transfer calls on friday and i’ll find out what my last group of missionaries is that i’ll be serving with. I’ll probably stay here in Krasno, i’m assuming with my current companion, but we might be in a 3-some.

Thanks for letters– i got one from zoe and one from Grandpa Harlan. I really appreciate the support!

(we didn’t end up going to the zoo. i’m pretty bummed about it. hopefully i’ll pull it off before I finish my mission.)

–Elder Froelich


Russia March 16, 2011 (forgot to post last week for Tyler, sorry!!)

March 24, 2011

Привет всем!

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)


March 9, 2011

March 10, 2011

All,
 
Happy Birthday Grandpa and Isaac!
 
And thank you all who sent me mail! I got mail from the Insbrook YW, Taegan, Caitlin, Emily and Jeff and family, a package from the fam, and a dear elder from Sister Warnick.  Thanks– I love getting mail and being kept up to date with what’s happening in your lives.
 
This last week was a pretty miraculous one. Wow, thinking back to what I haven’t written you guys about– there’s a lot that’s happened.
 
I’ll start off with the baptism on Saturday.  An investigator of the Zone Leaders was baptized on Saturday.  We invited lots of our investigators to the baptism.  I called Michael (who had previously not answered our calls for about 2 weeks) and he picked up! (he lost his phone for 2 weeks or something) and I invited him to the baptism.  Also, Leonid, a guy who showed up at church randomly to find out what the church was all about.  I was happy when I saw Leonid show up– we met with him a few minutes before the baptism and when we came out of the meeting– there was Michael! I was very happy to see him, seeing as we’d not seen him for about 2.5 weeks.  He was also pretty happy about seeing us– he embraced us and gave us a man kiss on the neck.
The baptism went great– the moment that made my day was when we nearing the end of the baptism.  The branch president allowed Peter, who was baptized, to share his testimony, and then he allowed anyone else you’d like to congradulate Peter to come forward.
Michael’s hand shot up and he immediately stood and walked towards the front of the room.  (now you have to imagine this guy– he’s a big manly, burly guy with black hair and a big moustache, very straightforward and lively) He said “I want to congradulate you on your baptism! I know that this was a good decision you’ve made! I just want to share with you all that since the Elders found me and since I’ve read the Book of Mormon I’ve decided to quit smoking.  And I asked God to help me– not to just help me quit, but to make it so that I just hate cigarettes– and you know what happened? I suddenly felt like I never smoked a cigarette in my entire life.  Congradulations, Peter, on your baptism; I wish you great spirituality and I know that you’ll be happy being a member of this church!”
I was beaming. Others went up to congradulate, but no one really beat out Michael.  The day after the baptism he also came to church (although he came to the 2pm meeting instead of the 10am meeting) and we hope to meet with him again today.
 
Also Leonid– he’s progressing very well.  Please keep him in your prayers.  He’s struggling and thinking a lot about what we’ve told him so far about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and prophets.  He’s a very sincere man and he’s trying to find the truth.  I’ll have to tell you more about him later; some amazing things have been happening.
 
Also there was Zone Conference. My last. Ehh. I stood up at the end of zone conference (they made me) as my zone and some great APs (McConnaughey and Rupper) and President Trejo and his wife sang “God be with you till we meet again.”  What a weird experience.
 
Lots of other great things happened this last week too, I just can’t cover them all; i’m out of time.
 
I love you all so much
thanks for your support and prayers.
 
–elder tyler froelich


Russia– March 2, 2011

March 2, 2011

WE FOUND AN APARTMENT! and we moved! and I finally unpacked my suitcases (first time in krasnoyarsk) and finally my companion and I feel at home. The apartment is very very nice. and so is our landlord. the kitchen is heavenly and orange. the bathroom has tiles of cave painted indians shooting arrows at deer, the bathtub/shower is gorgeous, the study room is perfect and tidy, there is one huge huge bed (which i finally convinced my companion to take) and a quaint little other bed that I sleep in. When we walk out of our apartment we are greeted with the river bank of krasnoyarsk and the city skyline. it’s beautiful. that was a huge huge accomplishment for us. we moved in on monday and the new sister comes in tomorrow– so we just barely did everythign in the nick of time.

English continues to be successful: lessons continue to be fun, people continue to increase, and spiritual discussions continue to take place after English club.

I’ve been working on getting through “Jesus the Christ” before I finish my mission (I definitely will make it) and it’s really illuminating my life recently. It’s really humbling to learn and think so much about the Savior and his example for us. The more that I live the Gospel and study it and am engaged in it on so many levels the more I am intensely grateful for the soundness of it all.

I had a very spiritual Sunday. On the way to church my thoughts turned to Olesya– a girl who I started teaching in Tosmk, who later got baptized. Then in church that day, right before the meeting was about to start, Olesya walks down the row and sits right next to me! She came to visit a friend in Krasnoyarsk for a couple days. The last time I saw her was when I convinced her to come to church to see me before I left Tomsk. And now I found myself sitting next to her, singing hymns and partaking of the sacrement– both of us renewing our baptismal covenants. There are a lot of moments on the mission where God has shown me his love and mercy towards me. It was a very sweet experience that I will never forget.

Well, I’m about out of time–

I’ll get mail in a couple days probably 🙂

I love you guys!

–Elder Tyler Froelich