Monday, November 23, 2015

Patriarch Visit

Hey there! This week was a good week.  We are getting quite a chill nowadays. Not too long ago it was bearable weather but now it is just downright freezing :)  I wish I was joking about it but it literally doesn't get into the positive temperatures anymore. Negative negative negative. The weather is killer, but I wouldn't have it any other way! Gotta experience the Siberian winter at least once in your life.  

I am going to be getting some mittens today, maybe some camel socks too.  I heard those are warm. The other day we went around contacting for an hour and a half and it was very cold. I was wearing a pair of leggings, compression shorts, 2 pairs of fluffy socks, boots with special insulating insoles, a beanie, and an extra long sleeve shirt. And of course a big fluffy jacket too with a hood :) I was warm except for my face and hands. If you keep your hands in your pockets then they are warm, but if you need to pull your hand out for any reason then it gets frozen pretty quick. Haha  I had to make a couple phone calls and it was freezingggg! Gloves are a must have... well I did have some but I sold them to another elder who wanted some. He didn't have any :)  Besides mittens are better than gloves anyways.   I can’t wait to get some.

This week we had President and Sister Perkinson in town with the Patriarch, Elder Neuenschwander. We love the Perkinsons. They are just very open and loving and funny in general. The members cannot get enough of them. 

Turns out that Elder Neuenschwander lives in Utah but just flies to Russia to give Patriarchal blessings every few months. He left this morning to go back to America. He is exhausted.  I mentioned to him that my Grandpa is a patriarch too in the valley and he served in Finland a few years ago.  It turns out that Elder Neuenschwander served in Finland, too! He is 77 or 78 years old and said he knew an Elder Woods back in the day but doesn't remember anything specific.  That’s pretty great!  When the Perkinson’s flew they brought mail and I got a letter from Grandma and Grandpa Woods. In the letter it mentioned how Grandpa Woods served for 2 1/2 years and didn't go to the MTC because there was none at that time. That was exactly what Elder Neuenschwander talked to us about when we met with him this week. It was kind of like deja-vu to hear it twice only days apart! 

We deep-cleaned the branch before the blessings and had to clean it every night too because the snow from peoples boots tracks mud in and everything gets dirty. It is nearly impossible to keep things clean here. I think it was well worth it though... everything turned out great. What else... This week I ended up playing piano for the whole church meeting. We were missing Elder Perry, who plays really great, but he is on a Visa trip. The Branch President got sick and his wife didn't come, and I don't think there are any other members who play the piano other than President Soolemanovs wife.  So I played for the meetings.  I also got to play a surprise musical number with Sister Soolemanova.  Please give a big thanks to all my piano teachers I have had. Even though I wasn't very into it back then, it really is a blessing to be able to play right now. I would encourage everyone to learn at least 3 hymns. Opening hymn, sacrament hymn, and closing hymn. It really is a great thing to know!
Playing Ping Pong during our dinner hour. Elder Tracy is pretty good, we have intense matches sometimes

This week we found out transfers too and Elder Gray is the only one from Irkutsk leaving. He is going to Khabarovsk where he will be helping the branch. They are opening up a new area there and Elder Gray is training a new missionary. Basically he is getting "white-washed". The branch is pretty small there too so Elder Gray will be doing lots of work :) He will do great. Elder Gray is a really great missionary.  The rest of us will still be the same.  Elder Burningham will be coming in to replace Elder Gray.  I am still zone leader and that’s about it.  Not too many changes.

There is still some drama in the ward. President Perkinson gave us a lesson when he was here about respect and how to avoid arguments.  The President taught that if there is an argument, we should be smart enough to say "Alright honey, you’re right I am sorry". It doesn't matter who is really right or wrong. That isn't important. It is important to avoid the arguments because they don't lead to anything useful. We thought that it was a fabulous lesson - something the branch could really use. Then last night we went to visit a member at their house and the husband said something and the wife said the opposite. Turned out that the wife was right and the husband was wrong. Elder Tracy jokingly said "Hey this is like what President taught us today!" The husband then said "No she is still wrong and needs to apologize to me".  It is quite frustrating... But we are focusing on the member’s strengths and trying to compliment them when they do good. I will let you know what the results are in a few weeks :)

I totally forgot that this week is Thanksgiving! We are getting a party together for this weekend for the branch. Some members want to play some turkey ball but there’s nowhere to play it :( We will have to come up with something.  I am not sure what Russian dish you should make for Thanksgiving.  Sour cabbage soup is big, borsch too, maybe bread and butter and caviar, or holodiets. I can’t think of much more... They don't have a giant variety here :) 

I love you all! I hope you are all doing honest self evaluations often to find out what you each need to do better. I know that I often do it and I am a bit disappointed each time to see how much farther I still have to go. Clarity is power, so we can't expect to progress if we aren't being honest with ourselves on what we can and should do better :) See you in 5 weeks or so on Skype!
Stay Frosty.

Elder Gardner



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