Monday, November 24, 2014

Russian Approved Jacket

New Dolls
New Jacket
This week was a pretty good week, I guess.  I spent about 3,500 rubles on a big fluffy jacket. There are about 50 rubles in a dollar now, so it seemed pretty cheap to me. All the Russians say it is a really, really good jacket. Way fuzzy and fluffy. I got the Russian stamp of approval:)

We had a ton of lessons fall through, like usual. We planned to meet with a guy named Roman.  He said okay I will see you at 7. It was 6:40 and we called him just to make sure he was on his way and he said he was leaving the house. We thought “oh great! This should be a great lesson.”  7 o’clock rolls around and nothing. We call him and he says he is only 5 minutes away. We wait 5 minutes. Nothing. 10 minutes. Nothing. 20 minutes and still nothing. At 7:30 we just left. We can't be waiting all day for him, and we have souls we’ve gotta save! Elder Sayers felt bad that we just left but if Roman wanted to meet with us, he would have been there. We can't be at his mercy the rest of the night just waiting for him. It was hard to just go, but it was necessary.  

Elder Sayers getting in on the Kitty Love
The guy with whom we had a baptismal date, a 70 year old man, met with us this week. We started with a prayer and he cut us off before we could start the lesson. He turned to us and said,  "Look here little boys. You are great, all the stuff you are doing is great, I know you want to preach to me but I don’t need that. I don't need anything from you guys right now. I just need a passport."  He needed a stamp or something in his passport so he could find better work in a different country. So everything we have taught him, the baptismal date he agreed to, the time we spent together, all of it was useless. I was speechless. I was thinking... you have the key to happiness in this life and the life to come; it is right in front of your face. I just wanted to yell at him and say "Open your eyes! You have such a great opportunity in front of you! What do you mean you only need a passport?!" But everybody has freedom to choose and that is hard for us. We can't make them accept it even though we know it is only going to help them.

 A man walking by asked us in English "Hey are you guys CIA?" We laughed and said "No." But then he asked if we were FBI... Of course if we were CIA or FBI then we would say no, so either way he wasn't going to believe us. 
CIA?  FBI?  I don't think so. 
We met a lady this week named Raiciya. I don't know how to spell it in English.   Раися. Imagine you are saying the word "Rice" but put a "Ya" at the end of it.  Anyway, she asked us where the bus stop was so we told her.  But she was a little old lady and we wanted to be nice so we walked with her to the bus stop. She was walking slow and was carefully placing each step she took. We thought she might be a little drunk but we didn't know for sure so we just kept walking. We got to a part in the sidewalk where the sidewalk steeply angled down for a foot or two and then leveled off again. She didn't see it and we didn't realize it would be a problem until she took a normal step and her foot landed a foot lower than she expected. She tumbled and totally ate it. It turns out She was very drunk!  Inside we were laughing but trying to be sensitive. Aww:( We kept walking and we were keeping a super close eye on her. She didn't fall again.   But we walked her within 10 feet of the bus stop. We told her "Alright, there it is. Just go straight on up, sit down and wait for your bus." She said "Thank you my sweets!" As she started walking away towards the bus stop we were watching. It was literally a straight line to the bus stop and then she could sit down.  But, she got about 5 or so feet away, started looking at a tree on the right, started leaning and walking to the right... then she tripped over the curb and belly-flopped flat in the grass again. We picked her up and picked up some of the stuff that fell out of her jacket... like a mason jar full of big orange wet chunks... it was the weirdest thing to see.  We sent her off on a bus, still not too sure she could make it home safely... poor lady. 
Russian Bible

We had an intense lesson with a man of another faith last night. He was trying as hard as he could to prove to us that we were wrong. We were talking and then he just threw scripture after scripture in our face about this that and the other. Pretty intense.. It was like he was trying to convince us using only the Bible and his knowledge/interpretation of it. We had the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and our testimonies. He was cool and all but he only knew the bible in their heads. He didn't have a personal testimony. We were preaching to him and it was the best feeling:) We asked him "So if the world ended tomorrow, would you be able to confidently say "' Yes I know that my church is true 100%'"? and he couldn't even give a simple 'yeah I know its true'. He beat around the bush, started quoting more scriptures from the Bible and even changed the subject to politics. Like dude... youre trying to tell us that we are crazy when we know 100% In our minds and in our hearts that this is true? Haha its so hard to explain but it was a way great experience:) Don't get me wrong, I love these people that believe in God! They are way dedicated to their faith, they read the Bible and study better than most people I have met, they are not afraid to talk to people about religion, but it is rough seeing how close they are to the truth... but yet so far! 
Cool Pot!
All in all, I am having a great time:) This whole mission thing isn't really hard. I mean yeah, we talk to people on the street 24/7 and most of the time they think we are silly little American boys (which truthfully, we are). But this is a great experience!  I am so grateful for this church and the blessing it is in our lives. 

 The Church is True and I Love You

Стареишина Гарднер
Elder Gardner

Monday, November 17, 2014

Having a Blast

Oh man! 3 months in! I am having a blast!  Russia is great! Just one quick side note about those pictures that Ksenya sent, I was probably on my tippy-toes for 90 percent of them.... I haven't grown yet!  We see SO MANY KITTIES here in Russia:) That is probably the reason I got sent here.   I forgot to tell you, I got your Halloween card exactly on Halloween!  Yeah, it was way cool.  We had a big zone training meeting on Halloween in a city about an hour from here. We rode over, had our meeting and on the ride back they gave us our mail. That was a little bit ago.  But, when President Brinton came down from Vladivostok this week he brought mail with him. I got your Christmas package! I am excited to open it.

I had no clue that Uncle Kyle and Mr. DeValk were good friends! That is way cool.   I don't have Mr. DeValk's email, but if you have a chance could you send it to me? Or maybe you could just ask him. I would like to get a copy of the music we used in Junior Year. We sang a song that was in Russian and I want to show it to Ksenya to see if she can translate it or maybe I can even read it now.  I don't know how well I speak Russian yet.

I pulled out 8000 Rubles today of personal money. (That’s about $160 U.S.)  I bought a big coat, a hat, and some leather gloves.  It really isn’t bad here. I love the weather! We don't need anything more than a big coat and maybe a scarf, it is pretty windy.  We had some super small snow the other day! Crazy! It started snowing as we were out talking to people. That makes talking to people harder on the streets because the streets become empty around 6 pm or so every day.

I think the coldest it has gotten so far is negative 5 degrees Celsius. That should be a little below 32... so maybe... 22?  I have no clue.  They don't use Fahrenheit here, pretty frustrating. But don't worry, I know how to calculate the temperature. You just use your two points and create a linear function that intersects both points. We know that 0 Celsius is 32 degrees Fahrenheit and -40 is -40 in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. Not too hard.

It is dark, like midnight kinda dark, at 7 pm every day. Pretty rough, we have to work so much harder during the day to make everything work. 

Our branch was struggling a little bit these past few weeks. But we had a big day yesterday. We had a giant 42 people at church!! That is CRAZY, but way cool!

One of our investigators, well not really an investigator, is named Max. He was a member, he went to New Zealand and met a woman. They got married and it didn't work out so he divorced her and came back to Russia. He married another woman in Russia but the only problem was he didn't fully divorce the woman from New Zealand. So he became technically a polygamist. He divorced the woman in Russia and now he is stuck. Technically he is still married to the woman in New Zealand even though they haven’t seen each other in 10 years or so. It is a dumb, dumb law and we can't get any help from the New Zealand government to do anything about it. All he has to do is contact the lady in NZ and have her sign the divorce paperwork and it can all be over. So if you know anybody who could have any pull with the New Zealand government or anything that might be able to help, please give them a call.   This guy is the strongest member I have ever met! He understands everything and has the strongest testimony but he is stuck in this stupid mess. He actually opened up Nakhodka for missionary work 15 years ago. The first Sacrament Meeting was in his living room. President Brinton's son taught Max 15 years ago, and now we get to teach him. It is a very cool experience. 

Anyways, this week was pretty rough. Not bad or sad or anything but just rough. We worked as hard as we could, talking to as many people as we could see, working on the street all day when all of our plans fell through. It was frustrating standing on the street at 6 o’clock. We were looking through all the names we had, seeing we had tried stopping by or calling every single one of them and every single one of them was busy or did not want to meet.  So we hit the streets, and there was nobody interested. Walking around for 3 hours, talking to everybody and every single person blows you off calling us a sect and stuff.   We were just lost this whole week.   It was all worth it though.  At the end of the week we looked back at our week and we got 3 times the number of new investigators we had wanted and almost reaching our other goals. It was rough being in the thick of it and writing down each night how we only got 1 lesson that day. After Church we looked back and saw that it was a pretty good week, considering everything.

Oh and one last story; we were out talking to people and when we said “Hi” to one man he looked real close at our name tags. He then stood up, backed up and shouted at us in English;  "Mormons?! You are Mormons?! Dude! That’s heresy! That’s heresy man!!"  Hahaha I was so speechless, this guy sounded just like a hippy who wanted to fight against "the man"! Pretty funny.  It put a smile on my face for the rest of the day:)

I miss you a lot! Hope everything is going good.  I love you!!  Don't forget, we get to Skype for Christmas!! Should be good. I don't have any information about that yet though. I will let you know when I find out that stuff. Oh, and also my first Korea trip is a week or two before Christmas! Weird... that will be 3 months in the country, which will be 5 months total.... which is almost 1/4 of my mission gone already. Whoa! I shouldn't be thinking like that. That makes it seem like I will be gone so soon.  Weird thoughts. Anyway, I love you!

Elder Gardner

Monday, November 10, 2014

Happy November

Another great week here!
Found a Kitty Friend
We had FOG!

Dear Family,

Thanks for your note.  I am super pumped to get a Christmas Package!! WOOHOO:)) The package tracker says it's in the Russian Federation.  My companion tells me that the Russian Federation is just Russia in general. So I hope it is in Vladivostok, but I am not 100 percent sure:)  Perhaps it is on the other side. And wow! You sent 2 more??   I am pumped.   Hopefully I can get all three at once and make everybody jealous here. 

It is not cold enough to require much extra clothes so far!  The stuff you sent me with is great:) I am probably going to get some gloves and maybe a jacket next week.  Sometimes I wear my Shopka that Mike Rime gave me. During the day it is hot, but nights can get pretty windy.
Sunday Selfie
We use our Kanga pouches every day. It is just part of the attire we wear. It holds our passport and wallets, so if anything happened the important stuff isn't going anywhere.
Thanks for sharing the "Spirit is like Spidey Sense" analogy from the Stake Baptism. I made an analogy the other week how The Sons of Mosiah were like the Grinch. How they were kinda stinky people but after their change of heart, (after their hearts grew 3 sizes) they were the best of the best.  People totally started giggling in the middle of my spiritual Grinch thought. It threw me off.
Way fun to hear that Megan will be hanging out with you guys these upcoming weeks for Thanksgiving and Christmas! It might be weird to not have me there, but hopefully you don't miss me too much;)

I Love You so much! Everything is fun:))
Elder Gardner

Friday, November 7, 2014

3 months gone!

3 months down! Wow.... feels like we were just on the cruise last summer! Just a few days ago buying some suits for me, going through the temple for the first time! Weird how time flies.

The lady that takes care of the Nakhodka Facebook page, Ksenya, is the best! She is just like a mother to me! She saw us heading out to go talk to people and she asked where my coat was. I told her I loved the weather and I wasn't wearing one. She told me she was going to beat me next time she saw me without a jacket! hahah She’s fun:)

We had 2 baptisms this week.  That was really fun to see them baptized. They are way cool people.  I got a chance to teach them a little bit and they were totally prepared long before we got there! It is hard for any of us to take credit for their baptism. We are just so lucky to have played a small part in their conversion.   Our baptismal font is portable, we set it up in our church kitchen and that is how they do baptisms here in Nakhodka.   So I was just sitting peacefully in the Baptismal service listening to the talks going on, then all the missionaries stood up and I looked around clueless... They told me to stand up with them because we were singing! Haha Turns out every other missionary knew that we were going to be singing... except me... It was okay.  I could read the music good enough.  Hopefully next time I get at least a 5 minute heads-up. 
The Halloween party was great! I didn't know we were having it until the day before. Turned out to be super fun and Ksenya pretty much led the whole thing.  She decorated the church and made all the games to play and it turned out way good.  Here in Nakhodka they celebrate Halloween but the missionaries here say they don’t do anything in the western parts of the Vladivostok Mission. We saw a ton of people drunk and stumbling around, a bunch of men wearing masks;  totally up to no good, people dressed up like always. There was a giant concert in this shopping center. It is just like the outlet malls near our house.  We stayed out till 9 o’clock just like a normal night.  Nothing too crazy for us.  We were playing a game and I lost so I had to shout that I loved everybody.  It was a fun day overall!

We made cookies for the party!
This week is the last week of the 1st transfer.  I am 99.9 % sure that I am staying here for another transfer. When a new missionary gets trained, his training lasts 12 weeks;  2 transfers.  This transfer was 6 weeks but the next transfer is bumping right up against Christmas. The way it works out is we have a 3 week transfer and the following transfer is 9 weeks. They are trying to minimize people flying to new areas during the holiday season. So I should be here for the next 2 transfers also.  After that, it is anyone's guess!  This area is really nice.   There are a lot of great people here but I definitely want to go everywhere at least once!
We don't have any tests or evaluations here.  We just go out and work! Each month we have a zone meeting and we check our progress on our goals and evaluate as a group how we can improve and do better.

They don't believe in drains in Russia
That is crazy to hear how well our sports teams are doing. They normally are so bad. Who is the Cardinal’s quarterback?

Wow, Aubrey spoke at stake conference?? That is scary! I wouldn’t want to do that.   She used to have a nickname of "Mom" because she was always the most mature out of our friend group. She is the best.  She didn't like the nickname, but I was watching one of the young women’s conferences the other day (because we have them on DVD in our apartment) and one of the ladies was speaking of how the title "Mom" is probably the best title somebody can receive in this life! I thought a lot about the great ladies in my life (Like you, Mom<3) and I also thought about Aubrey! She should be happy people call her “Mom.” I could never be a mom! I mean... obviously... but I think you get what I am trying to say.
Miss you all much! I wish I had more time to write.

I Love you all so much!
Старейшина Гарднер

Elder Gardner 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Saturday Fun-Day

Ryan and the other missionaries in his branch sang at a baptism this past weekend!
At the Halloween party Ryan lost a game and in turn he had to yell "People I Love You All!" on the street.