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?