Monday, October 26, 2015

Baptism and Picnic

Our week was good. We are still struggling to find some investigators. That seems to be the common theme for my mission :)  Nevertheless, we had some pretty good things happen. Good youth night on Monday, great English Practice on Tuesday, a Baptism on Wednesday, a day with 3 lessons on Thursday and a full day of meetings and fun on Friday. Saturday was our picnic with the branch and Sunday was a good spiritual day. Monday, we had a fun youth night and had a ton of members and investigators come and it was a great way to help our soon to be baptized investigator meet more members. She is from Mongolia and doesn't speak a ton of Russian but you don't have to speak Russian to play "Ninja" or "Signs" (The games we played at youth night). One of our members from China actually thinks that she is kinda cute and since they both speak English and a bit of Russian and Chinese, they get along pretty well.  It is interesting watching them talk in a few different languages and make the conversation work :) It’s cool.

Tuesday was a good day and English practice went well. We had a whopping 17 people at practice! That is pretty great considering there are some cities in our mission that have 1 or no people showing up weekly. We are blessed in that respect. 

Wednesday was the baptism of the sister missionaries Mongolian investigator. She doesn't speak English or Russian very well - and the sisters don't speak Mongolian very well (i.e. not at all), so they asked a less active Mongolian member to help translate. Since I am the ZL I got the honor of doing the baptismal interview and it all went really well. A member from the Angarsk branch baptized her. He is 19 and planning on going on a mission soon so it was a great experience!

Thursday we had lots of lessons which made it a good day. Friday was the memorable one though. One of our most fun members bugged us a bit. He came and sat in on our lesson that we were having. We were talking about a talk from the April 2000 General Conference and it was going really well.   Anyways the other guy came in and started making trouble. He was trying to be funny but ended up saying some mean things and totally taking away from the spirit. He is a good guy but we had to rebuke him. Just kidding :)  But I got a bit serious on the lesson and I might have made him upset.   I just realize that I can't please everyone all the time, and I can't let him go on with an incorrect understanding. He is still a good guy and we love him, but I have to show more love now than before so he doesn't count us as his enemies.

Branch Picnic
I am actually wearing my big fluffy black leather coat today and I am nice and toasty :)  We got snow again yesterday and now we will not see the sidewalk again until May or June next year haha. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Another picture from the picnic
I don't have boots yet but today we are going with Elder Tracy to get some boots. Well... he is getting boots. I am buying some boots from another Elder here. Elder Perry bought some boots but he doesn't like them because he thinks they are too awkward looking. He isn't a fan. I think they look fine and they are SUPER warm, so I am buying them off him. Now all he has to do is buy some boots and then he will give me those. I still have a coat and scarf and long-johns so once I get some gloves I will be good to go!

Elder Gray got back safe and sound and we went to pick him up from the airport late that night. We ended up getting home at 1 am :)  Logistics here are just TOO MUCH FUN. 

I hope you have a good week and you look at your ponderize scripture a lot :)

I love you!

Elder Gardner

Monday, October 19, 2015

Good week

Our week was good! I was in Vladivostok with my former MTC companion, Elder Hansen. He got moved to a new area in Vlad and is now training too. I am so lucky to not be in their shoes.  Training in a new area doesn't sound like too much fun. Elder Hansen is such a hard worker - it was pretty cool to see him! I was there on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday we met our new companions and we got to go contacting (Elder Tracy and I, along with another greenie Elder Ormsby) for a few hours.  Elder Ormsby is a fun guy, too!  Not a whole lot of people stopped to talk with us but we met a few interesting people and they were nice enough. Some people wanted to argue, as always haha. Elder Tracy made an interesting comment. "People never have time to have a nice talk with us but they will always take time out of their day to try to argue and correct us "misguided boys"  ha ha.   
I like Elder Tracy, he is way fun! He is pretty huge, I am gonna have to do some growing here pretty soon if I want to keep up. Anyway, we have been having fun. He speaks really, really good Russian for the amount of time he has been out. He is pretty humble about it though, and he has a desire to learn a lot and speak well, so I am excited to be with him. He bore his testimony at church and it was nearly flawless grammar. Maybe 2 mistakes in a 7 minute talk. Pretty good :)  Everyone's jaws hit the floor when we were doing role-plays at District Meeting and he was teaching these fake investigators as if he has been out for a few months. Haha, it's fun. Of course he doesn't understand everything, especially when people slur or are drunk. For example:
Some drunk guy started talking to us on the bus last night and asked for a ruble because he didn't have enough bus money. I gave him a ruble and then just started talking to Elder Tracy in English. The drunk guy noticed we were speaking in English and was in shock. I told him we were studying it in school and just practicing (because sometimes Russians aren't too fond of English speaking folk, especially when they are drunk). He asked where we were from and I didn't tell him. He got kinda mad that I wouldn't tell him and I was messing with him telling him that I was Russian, and then I said I was American, and then I said I was lying about it all. He then turned to Elder Tracy and said "What's wrong with you? Why aren't you talking? Cat got your tongue or something?" I said "My friend is deaf, he can't hear what you're saying."  I then turned to Elder Tracy and told him "I just told this guy that you are deaf" and then Elder Tracy started laughing out loud and the drunk guy figured it out that he wasn't actually deaf haha. Oh well! We almost fooled him. The guy was nice enough after that and there wasn't a problem :) 
Our trip back from Vlad to Irkutsk was quite a doozy. The winter season is starting up and all the missionaries made a list of the things they needed from the mission office in Vlad (fluffy winter jackets, boots, Under Armor long-johns, etc.). I brought my big suitcase and the next biggest bag that I own and expected it to be enough. When I got to Vlad and grabbed all the stuff it turned out to be a lot more than I expected. All the clothing fit into my big suitcase which I could check under the plane and it wasn't a problem. 
But the mountain of packages from parents to missionaries was enormous and all I had were a couple of carry-on bags. I am surprised they even let me on the plane with some of the stuff - haha. The security was a drag though. I had all the packages in my carry-ons and some parents sent peanut butter and other liquids which made the security angry/upset. They asked me "what kind of liquid do you have in your bag?" I told them I didn't know. She pointed to my big bag full of clothes and so I opened it to show that there was nothing and then after my suitcase was opened in the middle of the airport she realized that she was looking at the wrong picture and that the liquid was in my other bag, not the big one that I had opened up. I had to close up the big bag and open the small one and open up a couple of packages to show that nothing in there was dangerous haha. One package had bocce balls in it, and when I opened it up to show the security that it wasn't dangerous, I pulled out the bocce balls. I have never played bocce ball before and I had no clue how to explain it to the security so they made me put it in my big check-under-the-plane bag. Basically it was a big fun time and I spent a lot of time talking to airport security. They were nice enough about it though, which made me really happy:) Just doing their job, I understand:) 
I like training! Its pretty good.  This week I will be double-training. Elder Gray is going to Korea and Elder Perry (his companion) is staying with us in our apartment as a threesome. Should be fun! 
This morning we got some snow but it was only for 5 or so minutes. Really quick and then all gone.
Our church members still don't understand the importance of independence here. They rely too heavily on the missionaries and it is hard to beat into their heads the fact that missionaries won't be here forever. We say "The missionaries got pulled out of Ukraine before and if that happened here in Irkutsk, the whole Sunday church meeting would fall apart." They didn't resent that because they know that it is true. We told them 5 minutes before church started that we needed to get the sacrament ready. They said "well you do it." We said  "no, but we will help you. We will match your efforts." They said to forget it and that they would do it on their own. We started 15 minutes late.
Then our Sunday school teacher didn't show up so they told us to teach the lesson. We said "no."  They called on a faithful sister to teach the lesson and she did a FABULOUS job. It was really wonderful, much better than any missionary could have done. Then for 3rd hour they didn't pick a teacher. The 1st counsellor of the quorum asked us to teach because he plainly forgot to assign someone the lesson. We told him "no."  They ended up picking a brother who is a bit shy but he is very nice. He led the lesson and the missionaries all gave input and the members did too and the lesson went well. The leadership here is just very childlike. Childlike in the sense that they don't yet understand the really important things that need to get done. It isn't about the missionaries teaching a Sunday school lesson. We can lead a lesson about eternal families, that isn't a big deal. It isn't about missionaries preparing the Sacrament, we can do that since we have been doing it since we were Deacons. It is about the branch learning to coordinate and communicate and work together to do what needs to get done. I noticed something when I was in Vlad. Lots of people can talk, talking is easy. The real goal, the real challenge for some (if not most people) is the ability to actually communicate.  So I am setting a personal goal to be a more effective communicator. I hope I didn't sound too boring in this letter and I hope somebody can find something of value in what I have written:) haha

I hope you all have a great week and remember what your most important goals are! Are you asking the missionaries to do your Sunday School lessons when you should be doing them yourselves?

Elder Gardner

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Training Again

Dear Family,

This week was a good week, we started out with some contacting on Tuesday morning and met some nice Chinese people. They were asking for directions in English. Elder Protopopov answered them and told them where to go. It was kinda interesting watching both non-native English speakers communicating and making it work. Pretty cool :)  We visited our member who owns the pawn shop where he is selling the gas masks, and he was painting. He does a little bit of painting and he isn't too bad actually. He told us about the times back in the day when he would go down by the river where tourists walk normally and he would sell paintings to tourists for 100 dollars a pop. His pictures are good, but they are only about 8x5 inches. I don't know if I would pay 100 for them but he was making really good money back in the day. 

We went home teaching with President Soolemanov and it was pretty good. We visited a lady who lives about an hour away by bus, so we got on a bus and got to the spot 15 minutes early. Right on time, in my opinion. I heard that if you are early then you are on time. If you are on time, then you are late. If you are late, then you are fired - haha but anyways... We show up 15 minutes early and wait for President Soolemanov to show up and he doesn't show up until 5 after. I don't blame him, the lady that we were supposed to be visiting wasn't prepared either so it was good that we weren't on time or even early. It is such a foreign concept to me, being late is the norm here. Just in everything they do, its 5 minutes later than the designated time. I am still trying to get adjusted. I am not saying it is a bad system they have got going here, it is just different than what I am used to.

This week was my last week being District leader of the Irkutsk missionaries! We got our transfers on Thursday and I am going to be..... wait for it... training! Yay! Now I am going to be Zone Leader again and Elder Gray is stepping up to be District Leader.  I am training a new Elder named Elder Tracy.  Thanks for sending me his picture.  I always get the big handsome dudes to be my companion. haha. That’s cool that he has a blog for his mission.

Elder Gray got a new missionary and now I get one too -  haha it’s like Christmas! Maybe that’s a weird way to put it, but I think it’s really refreshing seeing new missionaries and their energy and enthusiasm. I feel a bit of responsibility because it is actually pretty important to show them the right way to work -  but I always love a good challenge.

I haven't heard anything about the new Elders or anything. I always make predictions about what the new missionaries will look like and where they will be from. I haven't been correct yet, not even once haha. I am super excited for the chance to be training again!

Oh yeah and Elder Protopopov is going to be Assistant to the President for the next 6 weeks before he goes back to Moscow. We fly out tonight and Elder Protopopov will start his new responsibilities as AP. I will be working in Vlad for a few days with my former MTC companion, Elder Hansen. 

I have one question for you this week. What is your pilots peak? Think about it, maybe research it, maybe ponderize it ;) haha 

Oh by the way, we watched General Conference yesterday. Way good. I am so glad we have wise men inspired of God leading the church. I definitely found answers to questions that I have been thinking about it. I am sure you all did too. I think I loved most of all Elder D. Todd Christoffersons talk. He is one of my favorite speakers. Let me know in an email what your favorite talks were, I am curious. 

I hope you all have a good week! Make sure to set small goals that will lead up to bigger goals you have in life. If you don't have any big goals, make a bucket list or something of that sort. Write down what things are important to you. An education maybe? A husband or wife? Maybe you wish you had a more positive outlook on life? Make small goals and do something every day. Make a small step every day to do something and to move towards the bigger goals and you will be happy :) Its kinda like Ponderizing. My ponderizing scripture this week is 1 Timothy 4:12. What is yours?

I love you most.

Elder Gardner


Monday, October 5, 2015

1 year in Country!!

I noticed that this week was my one year mark in country! Pretty cool:)  That is kinda weird to think that I have been here for a year so far and I still don't know what really is going on. Hahah Of course I know how to contact people and teach lessons and do work, but I still feel really young. I can remember my first days here in Russia like it was just yesterday:) I miss Elder Sayers! It's nice to know people say I speak Russian well.   I really don't think my Russian is that good haha. Like I know it probably sounds like I am pretending to be humble but I feel like a rookie speaker haha.  Elder Protopopov and I only speak Russian and I am trying to improve but it is rough. 

Anyways, I remember Dad last week mentioned that Putin was speaking at the United Nations and I hadn't heard anything about it here. Then while we were at the Dentists office waiting for Elder Protopopov to get an X-ray I looked up at the TV and there was putin speaking at the UN. I couldn't hear anything though. He seems like a really strong leader, I see why his people like him a lot haha.

We will be watching General Conference next Saturday and Sunday but I could not wait so I looked to see who the next apostles were and its pretty crazy:) I am super excited to watch! This transfer was 8 weeks long because the last one was only 4 weeks. Transfers are at the end of this week. Hopefully I get to stay with Elder Protopopov and send him home from his Mission. 
Made a Puppy friend at a member's house. 

This week we went to help one of our members do some reconstruction on his house. He is a little bit special but he is a very highly functioning invalid and he doesn't come to church a lot so we wanted to help. We met him at the bus stop outside his house and walked with him up to the door. He put his key into the lock but it didn't unlock it for some reason so he had to knock. A lady opened up and our member said "Hey look I brought some friends lets do some work". She looked shocked and then started yelling at him in front of us. Apparently that isn't his house, he doesn't live there. He just wanted us to help some lady with her remodel project haha. I felt so bad for him, but it was fun getting to spend a little bit of time with him.

Oh yeah, craziest thing this week. We got snow! It snowed all night, and all day, and all into the night. Pretty crazy:) The next day the snow started to melt and the day after that you could never even tell that it had snowed. It was all melted. Weird weather. People are calling it an Indian Summer. I am not too sure what it means but its warming up again and I am not complaining haha.
Snow Today
Gone Tomorrow

Along with the snow comes a lot of mist/fog near the river. We were out the other morning and I got some cool pictures. Cameron would probably love to come out here and take pictures its really pretty.

We have noticed a pattern/ ratio that emerges the more we talk to people. We have been writing down how many people we talk to and how many will talk to us. The results are so far as follows:

For every 50 people we try to talk to, 10 will stop and have a quick conversation.
For every 10 that stop to talk to us, 1 will be interested in learning more about the Gospel.
So there is some data for the science/math people out there:) Enjoy!

I hope you all find some way to serve your neighbors this week. Whether it be a smile or quick compliment or even just a "hey thanks for all you do, I realize it would be easy to not work as hard as you do. I really appreciate it". By small and simple means are great things brought to pass:)

Elder Gardner

I hope you all have a wonderful week! 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

I miss the sun

A big Catholic church we visited with one of our investigators
The time is flying by for me, each week I am surprised that it is already Monday again and I can email you again. The work is good here, but I am afraid it might start to slow down a bit. It is starting to get cold. This week we had some half rain/ half snow. My companion called it wet snow. It was cloudy and gloomy all week but it’s not a big deal. It is only going to get more cold and gloomy :)  I realized last winter, when it is cold and cloudy and the days are shorter, that I really missed the sun. It doesn't help to go stand outside in the sun because it is cold and the sun doesn't heat you up very well. I miss that part about Arizona. You can go outside and enjoy feeling the heat from the sun. Of course you can do that in the summer here, but winter time it is too cold to enjoy the sunlight. Anyways, we had our Open Door Day this week and it was a success :) We had a few people show up and we even had the director of Religious Affairs for Irkutsk show up ( I think that is his title). Anyways he seemed to be impressed by what we are doing here and he said that he would see us again. That sounds pretty good to me :)

We visited one of our members today who owns his own pawn shop. He wanted to show us something new that he got and he wanted to sell it to us.  Russian Gas Masks! Pretty cool.  He said they are modern and I think they would make a cool Halloween costume or something. If anyone out there is reading this and wants a 100% authentic Russian Gas mask, they are on sale for 800 rubles and I can get it for you :)  

The green hood is for the winter time, so that you don't freeze. Pretty cool!
I am not too sure what to write this week. We had a good week but not a whole lot happened. We are creating plans, working with people to put the plans into action and we are checking progress to see what needs to be changed in order to continue to succeed. We started a new plan to get the branch here on its own two feet and not leaning on the Missionaries for assistance on easy tasks. It should be fun but it will be a big change and I am not sure everyone will like it.  Oh well. 

Summer mode.
Oh and about the blood moon, I know that about 12 hours ago (Sunday night) it was a Chinese Celebration that had something to do about the moon. The moon was really big here but it wasn't red. Maybe it will be tonight (Monday Night), I will keep my eyes peeled. We have a member here who is Chinese and he speaks English and he told us he would bring us some Moon Cakes that his parents sent him from China. Sweet! 

Anyways I hope you have a wonderful upcoming week and I hope General Conference is inspiring as always. President Perkinson always asks us what we learned at a meeting that wasn't exactly said. Just because you heard something, doesn't mean that is necessarily what you learned. You can learn a lot from listening and thinking about how the teachings of the prophets apply in your life instead of just how it applied to those people in the scriptures.

I love you all. 

Elder Gardner