Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas!

This week was good:) I am glad that we are Skyping this week! It seems like just yesterday we were Skyping and now we get to do it again:) I am going to have to get a haircut though because I am getting very fluffy-headed.

It has been a long time since I have taken a photo with a cat. I think that one makes up for the lost time though.

I am glad that I get to serve here because I am learning so many things. Elder Tracy told me that he never really cooked anything at home and he didn't really know how to cook some things because his Mom always made things for them. That’s great,  but I am glad that you gave us the chance to learn and work it out because it’s really a good skill to have. 
Baking our own bread for the Sacrament

I can't wait to open the packages on Christmas morning. I might open them up Christmas eve night because Christmas morning we will be running over to the Church to get set up for Skyping:)  Sister Tracy sent Elder Tracy some home-made jerky, some penuche, and some muffin mix, and some candy. The jerky got a tiny bit moldy but he cut the moldy parts off with some scissors and ate the rest. That was the only thing that went bad:) 

This year we don't really have a mission baptism goal. Last year we made a goal of baptizing 100 people and we got it on the last day. We don't have a set goal that the entire mission is pushing towards. We have personal goals and each person is pushing towards their own goals. Its very different.

President Perkinson has also changed some of the ways we define lessons and other things. In the past we have defined a lesson as having a prayer at the beginning, then talking about a gospel principle, then having an invitation to act, and at the end there is a second prayer. That’s a very basic way to define it. President Perkinson made another category that is called "Ammon" and that is:  any time you have a good conversation with someone and you have a chance to testify of the Restoration and of Jesus Christ and you invite them to act. It makes it 100 times easier to talk to people on the street because now we don't feel that pressure that we should pray with people on the street, which is a little weird, and we can just focus on testifying and inviting people to act on what we share with them. It makes us a lot more willing and energetic about what we are doing because we can get these little wins each day and we don't have to feel horrible about the fact that we didn't pray with a guy who really didn't want to pray. But we did tell him what we believe and invited him to learn more. In the past if we didn't pray with them 2 times then all of our conversation was for nothing. It didn't count as anything. Even if you got a prayer at the beginning of the conversation, normally the person would feel weird and walk away before you could say a 2nd prayer and then you got no lesson out of it. I really like this new small win system. It helps me stay motivated. 

My high for the week is probably that we have been having lots of lessons with Less-active members who are really great people. Hopefully we can now turn this friendship into them wanting to return to church. My low is probably that we haven't been having lots of lessons with new investigators. Getting people to come to the second lessons is very hard. Oh and another thing about less active members. We visited an old lady this week and she said that her daughter moved to America and hasn't called since last Christmas. We are trying to find the daughter this week through the internet.  We called the number she has in the U.S.A. and got an answering machine.   I then told them something along the lines of "Hi there, my name is Ryan Gardner and I am a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am here in Irkutsk Russia right now visiting your mother and she was a bit worried that she hasn't heard from you in a long time. We hope to hear from you soon" haha it felt so odd speaking in English to Americans even though they didn't answer. I hope I didn't sound too awkward on the answering machine. This lady really is feeling lonely this Christmas season and a call from her daughter would make everything so much lighter:)

Christmas tree in our branch building
This year we are probably going to have a big district dinner. Our zone isn't doing anything for Christmas; it is too far spread out. Ulan-Ude is 8 hours away on train and Angarsk is an hour by bus.   I don't think they would have time to come out just for a dinner with us. It’s really a shame but we will be okay:) 

About the AP thing, yeah we don't have APs anymore. I am not sure whether or not it will be permanent. President says that the culture in our mission is too much focused on climbing the ladder and getting a higher position and he wants to squash that thought. We are all equal and shouldn't get promoted or demoted because there really isn't such thing as promotions or demotions. I think it will be a permanent thing but I know President Perkinson has some ideas that differ from other past Presidents and other leaders. They might make him keep the position of AP because it is such a basic unit of the missionary chain of command, but they might let him make a bunch of big changes. We will see!

The missionaries that I serve with are really all good missionaries. I haven't seen or heard anything that makes me worry. We don't have any who willingly break the rules or have no desire to work hard. Each missionary understands the task at hand and although we all struggle with setbacks and things that slow us down I am confident that each missionary keeps pressing forward. It seems as if they all came pre-programmed with good work ethic and lots of love in their hearts.  

I love you so much and I can't wait to see you all so soon! 

Elder Gardner

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