Thursday, April 30, 2015

Nine Months

My week was good! We had a good day yesterday! Right at dinner time all of our plans for the night fell through, we were stuck on the street for the last 3 hours of the night. It wasn't too bad because we met a lot of cool people who seem to be interested.

I again ask for forgiveness;  I haven't been all too good about writing the things that happen here in Russia. I should do better at that. You asked about the wedding we attended.  Nobody was wearing name tags because we took them off for the wedding:) Probably better without those at a Russian wedding/government building kinda thing. 

We spend part of our time in Angarsk, but also part of our time in Irkutsk.  When we go to Irkutsk we pack an overnight kinda bag, and go out on the street to the nearest bus stop. We just have to wait about 10 minutes for a big greyhound type bus to roll up. It’s got a sign stuck in the window saying "Angarsk to Irkutsk" and we hop on pay our fee and take the hour long ride over to Irkutsk. The bus just drives through the city of Irkutsk so you have to be observant. You walk to the front of the bus so the driver knows you want to get off and then he stops at the bus stop of your choosing:) Pretty easy. Normally we are only there for a day or so. 

Mom asked about cats.  We have a lot fewer stray cats here in Angarsk. There are more stray dogs though. We were talking to one of our friends here named V___.   We are trying to help him quit smoking. He is old and smoked for 40+ years. We need to help him find an activity to keep his mind busy. His eyes don’t work very well, so he can't read. Any ideas? Anyway, as we were talking outside his apartment on a park bench, a cat strolled on up. I reached down to pet the cat and it really liked me. The cat jumped up on my lap and got dirt on my pants. Dang Cat! Anyway, I kept petting it and it was cute. That’s about all the cat experience I have had here so far in Angarsk. 


I am sorry I wasn’t able to attend Michael Hopper’s Farewell talk in church.  I would have loved to go.  He is such a good guy, he is definitely going to make a difference in the lives of many:)  I am sad that I missed it but I will be home for his homecoming talk.  It’s cool that they had his ward and anyone who wanted to come up and sing in the choir.   Every time we have a big missionary conference in Vladivostok, we sing that Army of Helaman/Sisters in Zion song... But we sing it in Russian:) It’s really cool.  Our church is up on the 3rd and 4th floors of a big highrise in downtown Vlad. We open up the windows of the church building and sing out to the people in the center of town. Pretty awesome! 

Michael Hopper spoke in church before leaving for Panama.  Cameron and Aubrey got in on the photo op.

How are our home teaching families doing? Please send a big Privyet to all of them for me:)

I am super excited to skype with you all for Mother’s Day in a few short weeks:) I hope all is well. My companion told me that Google Plus does multi camera skyping. You can chat with different people in different locations. Maybe that could be useful! I will see you all soon, and don’t forget to 

Stay frosty!

Elder Gardner

Monday, April 20, 2015

Good Week

I am so sorry about last week.  I wrote a letter to the Schindele’s for their birthday and then Mrs. Schindele replied and mentioned a talk that she was going to be giving at her church soon about the parables. I started writing a note to her about the parables and what I thought and the time totally slipped away from me. I am sorry. This week will be good though.

Our week was a good one! The work is going good. The Assistants to the President came and visited us and we worked with them for 2 days. I really enjoy working with them. Do you remember Elder Jaeckel? His mom sent me the camera battery and I brought it to him. He is one of the APs and he goes home in a month!

I can’t wait for Mother’s Day in 3 weeks :) It honestly feels like we just skyped a week ago back in Nakhodka! I would have loved to go to DC with you.  That sounds SUPER cool! I could bring some friends and we could follow you around and be your crew. Beat up on the politicians who don’t vote the way you tell them to. Haha I actually really want to go. Maybe when I get back we can go and straighten out DC.  J

Beautiful Day in Angarsk
I will try to be better about the information I share about Angarsk. We aren't near the ocean but it is still pretty windy. We are not too far from Lake Baikal though, the world’s largest fresh water lake :)  The weather here is pretty crazy though. One day was hot, about 25 degrees Celsius and we were sweating all day. The next day we woke up and everything was cloudy, it was snowing hard. About an hour later it was hot again and all the snow melted, and then for the rest of the day it rained. The weather is fickle. Hard to plan for it, we normally just wear our suits and a light coat on top of it. Russians here wear big coats and hats even when it is hot outside. They don’t seem to go by weather conditions.  In their opinion if it is before June then you still should be wearing boots and coats.
Lazy sidewalk builders in Russia.  :)
There is a center part of Angarsk and it is pretty cool. It has nice old buildings, cobblestone streets and it looks a bit like old town Puerto Rico but less Hispanic haha. We normally go there to talk to people and sometimes they try to be mean but I don’t think they are mean. They are just kinda silly. This one guy told me "I am Russian so I don’t need what you are trying to tell me" Haha. All we can do is pray for them and love them anyways. Like it says in Og Mandino's book "The Greatest Salesman in the World"   Love is the key to success in all ventures. Without it I will fail though I possess all the skills in the world. There is something I can learn from every man I meet.

Speaking of learning something new... This week I started doing a little bit of studying in the Bible. Now you might say to yourself... This seems pretty late to START studying the word of the Lord... I would answer that I am now studying some passages in Hebrew and Greek. We have some study materials that are written in Hebrew and Greek and it really helps us to understand the original meaning better. Sometimes with the different translations of the Bible and what not it is hard to understand what the author meant. The older translations definitely help :) It’s pretty cool.
There is also this CD that we have here called "Defending the Faith" by Daniel C. Peterson. He is a lecturer and he gives a talk about all the criticisms the Church has encountered over the past 50 or so years and he dissects them. It is a very faith promoting CD. I would recommend it to everyone :)

In our branch we have a lot of newly baptized members. We have had about 4 baptisms in the past month. Lots of good things are happening for this small branch. We don’t have to do as much during Sacrament Meeting here as we did in Nakhodka. The members here seem to pull their own weight and that is really nice to see.
There was a wedding in Angarsk with two of our new members. They are fabulous! The marriage ceremony lasted about 1 minute 30 seconds altogether. We walked into the little wedding chapel, the bride and groom walked to the front by a table set up and a lady standing there. The lady gave a little speech basically saying "Do you promise to love each other forever and be good to each other and stuff?" The bride and groom both said yes then they signed this paper sitting on the table. Music started playing and then everyone formed a line to hug and congratulate the bride and groom. There was about 15 people in our wedding party which was a lot bigger than most other people at the Zaks (The wedding place). We took some pictures and then went to the reception at the church :) Fun stuff!  When we were taking pictures it felt more like prom than a wedding but that’s just an 18 year old guys opinion about it :)

We live 4 elders in an apartment and when the APs visited us there were 6 of us there. Fun stuff! It’s always a party. My companion is a small town country boy. He reminds me of Jared and Austin because he grew up in a high school with about 200 kids and a small town. He always went hunting and fishing and mudding in his truck. It is way fun to talk to him, he is Zone leader for the Zone of missionaries out here in the Western part of the mission.
That is so crazy, Michael is going on a mission soon! He is getting so grown up :) Please send my love to the ward and to the Hopper family!

I love you all! Hope all is going well.

Elder Gardner

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A very brief letter this week!

This week was awesome for me:) We worked hard and had a blast doing it! I am glad to hear you got the family together again:) Megan comes down so often it is like she never even left home! That is weird to think, her first year of school in Utah is almost over... That means the first year of my mission is soon gonna be over! I need to get to work! I don’t have a lot of time left:)

I am sorry I don’t have a lot of time to write today:(  I will do better next week:) I miss you all!  I hope everything is good at home:)

Love Elder Gardner

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Happy Easter

We had a good Easter here in Russia! Yes they do celebrate Easter. It isn't a big celebration but it is still recognized as an important day.  I have not seen Peeps in the stores here, but I got your package a few days ago!! Woohoo :) I am sad to say though, I ate the Peeps and forgot to take a picture with it.  And all the candy is already gone too :) Very tasty!
On Easter we had a nice fast and testimony meeting took place even though only 17 people showed up.   It has been really cold the past few days but no snow or anything so it isn't too bad.

We are going to watch conference next week. It takes a week for all of the talks to be translated into Russian.
I am glad you got the box I sent.  I hope you kept the box because it has lots of secrets!  It is illegal to send coins from Russia to America for some reason so don’t tell any police officers that I sent them :)  In the box you will find some hidden Rubles and Korean money.   I placed some inside the Russian dolls and others are in the inside flap of the blue Russian cardboard box that it all came in. They are in there stuck to the bottom using ASU duct tape.  Also, look in the spine of one of the books that I sent.  I also have hidden the memory card from my camera. It is filled with pictures since I left. 

There are a ton of people from Russia who go to Thailand. Especially in Nakhodka it was a big thing. People go there to find work, to go on vacation, to live just to live there.
I feel like even though I can speak Russian well enough, I still can't break through and have people pay attention to our message.  It is a big problem here where we will walk around on the street and people just won’t listen. I can speak perfect Russian but they just talk over us and it doesn't make a difference how eloquent I am.  I am still hoping to find the humble people :)  They’re out there somewhere!

I am so jealous of your trip to go see Kenny Chesney! We have been singing some of his songs this week. I am not really sure why, but all of us Elders here in Angarsk know his songs :) It is fun.
That is interesting that Mrs. Vogelsang asked about me this week because 3 days ago I had a dream and the Vogelsangs were in it! Crazy :) I hope everything is well with their family!

Not much new happened this week. We are struggling to find people who want to know more. We had a couple funny experiences. We tried talking to a few people and we said we were here as missionaries from our church. He asked "So you are Satanists?" I told him we believe in Christ, we preach of Christ, we joy in Christ" He said we were definitely Satanists. hahah  I just started laughing so hard and he kept shouting as he walked away. Some people might get offended at that but I find it super funny :) This old man is so misled, bless his heart.  Maybe his heart will be softened later. Of course I hope so, but we can only pray and hope for him.
I am feeling almost at home. I kind of feel sometimes like Jesus when he said "Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but missionaries have not where to lay their heads" I am paraphrasing of course. We move around quite a bit. I spent 3 or 4 days this week serving in Irkutsk. I haven’t been there before. Pretty cool! There was a missionary conference in Vlad, so my companion went to Vlad and left me to serve in Irkutsk with some other elder I have never met before. He just barely got into Russia and is super full of energy. Great elder :)  There is a lot of travelling, a lot of talking to people and a lot of praying going on :) Hopefully this upcoming conference on Sunday will reenergize us and help us be more enthusiastic when we preach :)

I miss you all! Hope everything is good, and hope you never forget to
Stay Frosty

Elder Gardner