Monday, August 10, 2015

Summer in Russia

Hey there! Everything is pretty good in the Motherland:) Sounds like you all had a great week:) I am jealous that you got to see the family again for Ashley’s homecoming.   Before you know it, we are going to be gathering together for my homecoming talk! 

Some cool statue thing haha I don't know what it is, or what it's for... just a big egg on the ground

We have been baking all week but this morning we got rained on and it was quite a relief! We had a baptism this past week. His name is R______. He is a really great guy and although I didn't really teach him much it was still good to see him get baptized. I don't know... I don’t really count them as MY baptisms. I didn't do anything, I wasn't the reason they got baptized. They got baptized because they love the Lord and because they want to follow him. R_______ was the 2nd person who got baptized, that I helped teach. The first was M_______, but he basically baptized himself. We just helped him stay focused and on track and he was prepared to do what the Lord expected of him. That was kind of the same way with R_______. He accepted everything that the other elders have been teaching him for the past few months. I just jumped in the past 2 weeks or so and he was already prepared in my opinion. It is cool to see how the Lord works to prepare people to accept the message of his church. 

There was a shoe repair kiosk on the side of the road. 500 rubles for new bottoms:) (About $8)

I was happy to get the package this week:) President and Sister Perkinson came on out and are going to be here for a few days. They brought the package! Thank you so much for the Hawaiian tie and stuff:) There is a sister who is serving in Irkutsk with us right now who's name is Sister Stevenson. She is Polynesian and it is cool talking about Hawaii and stuff with her. I told her I got some Chocolate Macadamia nuts and a Humuhumunukunukuapua'a luggage tag and she was able to understand haha, I also said Talofa to her and she laughed. The next step is to convince her to teach all the missionaries how to do the Haka. I am praying that my next companion likes tacos because I now have 2 cans of El Pato and Elder Gray doesn't like tacos! It is really a shame.

We found a Mexican restaurant here! The workers don't speak Spanish though, haha but we taught them a few good phrases. Gracias mi amigo. Bienvenidos. Como estas? Me llamo... The workers there think we are a bit odd haha but that's okay:)

Sometimes I write letters to Michael, but most of the time I don't have enough time. He sent me a copy of his weekly letter last week and it was cool to read. Each mission has it's own problems and each missionary has a special set of skills to help where he is serving. It is great to see:) 

These past few weeks we have been searching for apartments and we are looking all around Irkutsk for one. We are trying to find one that is far from the other one. In case you don’t know, Irkutsk is GIANT. We hopped on a bus the other day and started going out to a member who was sick in the hospital. We drove about an hour and a half when we got a call from him saying he was at the church. Haha he got out of the hospital and didn't tell us. We still were in the middle of big city area and hadn't reached the hospital yet. Irkutsk is big. We headed on back to the church to find out he got bored and went home haha oh well:) that was the main part of our afternoon spent on a bus one day this week! 

Irkutsk is a big city but not a big branch. Well, it is bigger than some areas but we have been struggling for some reason! In the past we had around 80 people at church but nowadays there are only 40 or so coming. We are trying to help and keep in contact with as many people as we can but hopefully we can bring more in soon. 

We have around 10 lessons or so every week, 2 or 3 lessons have a member who helps us teach and 1 or 2 new investigators every week. That would be a good week for us:) A high week would be 15 lessons, 4 or 5 in the presence of a church member and 3 or 4 new investigators. For now we don't have anyone too close to baptism but we are working hard trying to find with faith:)

We have been playing chess at nights recently and one of our members is really good. Gotta beat him!

As we were looking for apartments the other day we were walking around when a man passed us. He was walking the same way as us and just passed us when he said "Hey guys" in English and his shirt had a diver down flag on the back. I asked if he was a diver and told him I was too! He didn't seem to believe me, so I asked what kind of diving he does. I asked if he does "Tri-mix" diving or if he ever does wreck diving.  After that he seemed to believe me and he told me that he was a rescue diver! Pretty crazy:) He was born in Irkutsk, studied in Puerto Rico for a few years and dives everywhere. Pretty cool guy, we invited him to our English Practice and he said he would come! 

We are still struggling a bit to find lots of people to teach. We baptized R_______ and now we need to find an apartment before the school year starts. Wish us luck! We have a full plate.
We met some more circus people this week. They are all from Kenya and their names are Fred, Sarah, Omar, and Marcel. They look like regular people, nice and happy and healthy and not smelly:) haha Marcel has dread locks and he normally keeps them up in a pony tail on top of his head. Sarah is really pretty and she's a dancer. Fred is super muscular, so is Marcel but Fred has super short hair. Omar is kinda chunky but they are all acrobats in the circus:) Hopefully we will have a chance to go see the circus! I want to go:)

I hope you have a good week, and I hope you remember that no matter what happens in life it is for the best. My friend sent me something the other day that I enjoyed, I will attach it. 

Ya know how sometimes you are just walking along and then you see something and all of a sudden you just have all of these thoughts come into your head of ideas how it relates to the gospel and stuff? I had one of those when we saw a mosaic that is like thousands of years old. I started thinking about how our lives can, in a way, represent a huge mosaic. My first thought was that when you look at a mosaic closely, all you can see is a few tiny stones that just don't make much sense. Sometimes we look at our current situation like this and are confused, when really we just need to take a step back and see how those few rocks are an important part of a much bigger picture that is beautiful. It's like keeping an eternal perspective. Secondly, I thought of how unique the beauty of a mosaic is. They really are sooooo beautiful, but it's not the beauty that you find in a perfect painting or an epic photograph. Mosaics aren't beautiful because they don't have any flaws. In fact, you can see how it really is just made up of a ton of tiny seemingly insignificant pieces. Some rocks are cut jaggedly, the outlines aren't smooth, but all together it becomes impressive. I guess one of the most beautiful things about it is simply that someone was so willing and able to put so much time and effort into making it. 

All of this reminded me of the scripture found in Matthew 5:48 "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." I'm sure you know this, and I think it says it in the footnotes, but the word "perfect" in this verse doesn't mean "without flaw". It really means "complete" or "whole". I think at the end of the day, our lives are the kind of perfect that a mosaic is. It's not flawless, but it's complete. It's full of obvious mistakes, but they all come together to make something whole. I just know that as we keep trying and working that whatever setbacks we may have, the Lord is going to make them into something beautiful if we will come to Him and receive His Atonement.

I love you all!  I am thankful for the support and love!  The Church is true, the Book is blue and Moroni is always on the ball.  :)

Elder Gardner

Everyone knows of the leaning tower of Piza but this is the leaning house of Irkutsk.

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