Monday, August 17, 2015

Big transfers

I am always glad when I make enough time to write a big letter to you all. That makes me happy. Normally I am rushed and don’t have enough time to do everything I want, but a big letter makes me happy.  I am getting better about writing more quality things in my emails I think.

I wish I could tell you a lot about the people whom we teach but we don’t teach a whole lot of people haha. We have few members here but we meet with them often and some investigators who don’t really care about the lesson but we keep going :) There are some people who live here and they are satisfied with their surroundings. They don’t want to improve their life and they are happy being in the dark (metaphorically of course). The first half of my mission I was super set on trying to change them to believe in God. But that isn't my job. My job is to search out the elect children of God who hear the message of the Restoration and act on it because it is familiar to them. Because it is what they learned in the pre-earth life and they loved it then. It is our job not to convince the Atheists or false believers to come unto Christ. We can't do that. We don't speak Russian well enough. We don't have enough tact and eloquence to convince them to change their lives. Even if we could do that, we wouldn't be able to give them a testimony deep down about the truthfulness of the Gospel. Only the Holy Ghost can do that. We are here to proclaim the truth to all who will listen and help those who truly have broken hearts and contrite spirits. We are to go about doing good, being faithful, lifting up the hands which hang down, and strengthening the feeble knees. (D&C 81)

This transfer big things are happening! We are buying a new apartment in a different part of Irkutsk for Elder Gray and his new greenie. We found an apartment just a few days ago for them. It is a one room apartment but the guy did a remodel on it and it looks great. It is big and they are renting it out for 20,000 rubles (about $300) a month. Most apartments come with everything furnished and ready to move in. But 20,000 rubles, that is a decent price. We have another apartment where I am going to live and it costs 27,000 ($414)  a month. It is a 3 room and it’s really nice. The other one is smaller and about 20 minutes away from us in a different part of town. 
Apartment Hunting
I am getting a new companion. I will be in the same spot serving with Elder Protopopov (Протопопов). (All the O's in his name sound like "Oh" except the last one. That one sounds like an "Uh".)  He is Russian, from Moscow and he goes home in 2 transfers. Turns out when the Irkutsk Branch President served his mission in Moscow, he knew Elder Protopopov. Pretty cool!  Expect big improvements in my Russian language skills coming soon.   He could be staying with me till the end of his mission! Cool. Elder Sitton (Our 3rd in the companionship) is going home in 2 days. Back to Arkansas.
We travel a lot.
Chess seems to be a kind of big thing here. Lots of members play and they aren't too bad. I need to get better though.

We haven't gone to the circus yet unfortunately, and our rescue diver didn't come to English Practice yet but it’s only been one week. There is plenty of time for him to come.

My haircut was given to me by Elder Sitton. He cuts his own hair and offered to give me one too haha. It turned out good! And it was free :) 
This week was a good week. We had a big birthday party for the 2nd Counselor of the Mission Presidency birthday.  He turned 50 and apparently he is a big soccer player here in Irkutsk. He invited a ton of people to this party and there were little activities for the kids to do and a scrimmage soccer game going on in the background and it was a great chance for us to get acquainted with people whom we recently didn't know. There should be a video coming out soon. People took a ton of pictures and videos and it will be great to watch. Oh yeah we also had a few assignments to help prepare for the party. One of the assignments was to fill up a couple water balloons for the big water fight he had at the end of the party. When I say "a couple" I mean somewhere in the ballpark of 400 water balloons ha ha. The Russian water balloons were really like regular balloons though ha ha. They were super thick rubber and got super big but they didn't pop easily. We threw one up in the air in our apartment and it didn't pop when it hit the ground. I got hit a couple times during the water fight and it was just painful hahaha the balloon didn't pop and I just got hit by a big heavy balloon.
Branch 'assignment' - balloon prep

One of our investigators is almost homeless. His name is "S" and he had to move out of his house because drunk people who live on his floor always bug him. He hasn't been able to move into his new apartment because he hasn't gotten paid yet, because his boss is greedy and won’t pay.  There is a lot of dog eat dog mentality here. People not being true to their word. His boss said he would pay him 2 weeks ago and he keeps pushing back the date farther and farther, therefore our investigator has been living on the street for the past few weeks. We met with him the other day and as we are walking around he mentions that his birthday was that day! We bought him some bread, and a razor and gave him some of our left over lunch :) He is a great guy. I can't even imagine what he must be going through. He really wants to get baptized and always asks when he can get baptized.

It was great hearing about this year's high adventure.  It is weird to think that there are still young men’s activities even though I am not there. I just kind of assumed everyone came because of me and that they would end now that I am gone. :) ha ha Just kidding! I am glad they didn't have any bad/scary stories this year. Please send my love to all the ward especially to the Greenawalts. I haven't heard from them in a while but I hope they're doing good.

Our former investigator (now new member) “R” got the Aaronic Priesthood yesterday at church and it was super cool. Elder Sitton got the chance to give it to him before he went home. I also gave a talk yesterday about the Word of Wisdom. It is more than a list of things to do and to not do. There are a ton of talks written about it and the more I study about it, the more I understand how all-encompassing it is. It is a topic we could talk about for hours and not hit all the points! I urge you to study it.
I hope you all have a good week and learn a lot in your personal study of the Bible and Book of Mormon! There is always something new to learn. I promise.

I love you all and miss you dearly!

Elder Gardner

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