Monday, January 25, 2016

Zombie Homes

Hey there!

This week was a good week, we did lots of tracting. It is kind of scary going up into a 9 story "Zombie home" at night to go tracting but we have had some good experiences :)  We call them Zombie Homes because there normally isn't good lighting and there is only 1 stairwell that goes up the middle of the apartment building and a hallway that stretches along with all the doors. It looks kinda scary but they are fun! We have been trying to tract instead of talking to people on the street because there isn't a ton of people on the street because of the extremely cold weather.
Zombie House
I don't know if I showed you my boots that I got a few weeks ago. They are very warm but I kind of just got them for the souvenir/fun factor. They would have been nice in Irkutsk -  but now I don't need them as much.  They still help a lot and I wear them often.
New Russian Boots
This week we spent going around to all the people on our Branch List and trying to meet them. Not many were home but we left little invitations saying that we missed them and hoped to see them soon. One man is named “Iv” and we visited him and left him a little invitation in his mail box.  Two days later he showed up at the church! Crazy, it worked! Well... sort of... it turns out the Sisters went and visited him the day after we did and he was home that day. He told them to go away but then he showed up at the church anyway.  haha.   Anyways, we asked him to go with us to visit another less-active member that he knew and he agreed :) We visited “Ig” (the other guy) and it was great. That all happened on Friday. On Sunday, Igor showed up to church! He even showed up earlier than we did, and we showed up really early to get some work done before Church started. He set up the chairs for the congregation and he also prepared the Sacrament for us:) He really is a great guy, he just hasn't been coming because he had some head problems. He got hit by a car, but is feeling better and is starting to get back on his own two feet.  

My hat captures snow, too
We didn't do a whole lot this week other than try to talk to people. We had a few lessons with less-active members whom we haven't met yet. We had one lesson with our investigator “N”. He is doing good, working hard trying to take care of his family. They have a lot of kids and although the kids are mostly grown up they still live with him.  He currently works around 60 hours a week but pretty soon he will be working  7 days a week from 8 am to 8 pm (yes that puts him over 80 hours a week). He is a welder and he is really a cool guy. He told us that he helped build the foundation for this new 14 floor building they are building near our house. Guess how deep the foundation is. I don't know how deep it should be, or how deep we usually make our foundations ( I really don't know anything about construction and maybe the way they do it is fine)  but he told me how deep they make the foundations two meters deep for a  14 story buildings.  That seems like a small number to me, but then again I have never seen any buildings tip over so they must be on to something :) I have never felt unsafe in a Russian building so I wouldn't worry.
Russian building under construction
The Branch here is good. For now we are seeing the same results that we have had in the past. Some members come every week. But most don’t.  I would say overall though we have a good branch. But it is really hard here. Our primary teacher lives an hour away by bus, so she has to take a bus for an hour to get to the center of town and then she has to get on another bus and take that to the church. She got sick last week and couldn't come. She wasn't deathly ill but she understood that if she went to church and got even sicker then she would be down and out for at least a week of work and their family needs the money so she couldn't afford to risk it and come to church.

Elder Siebach and his friend
I don’t know of other missionaries serving in leadership positions in the branch. They might kick me out soon haha. I think some prefer having a senior couple serve in that capacity.  It is possible that they will make a technical change with someone from Vlad but I will be the one here on the ground working with the members.  That’s fine with me.
Our eating is good, we should be getting a reimbursement soon.  With Visa trips they used to give us money for the Korea trips that we could spend there but now they don't. I am not sure why the change. Anyways last time I went to Korea I spent a bunch of money and didn't budget well haha. It was the holiday season J  Anyways we have been eating out less now and are back on track.  But for a few weeks  we were eating a lot of ramen haha :) We actually have been expanding our meal repertoires recently. We have made some salads and pasta with lots of vegetables. Here in Artyom veggies are really cheap so we are doing better about that.  I weighed myself two days ago. Now I’m 164. I was 190 before the mission. They call me the Lean Mean Preachin' Machine!

I wish I had more to write but hopefully something crazy will happen this week and I can write about it next week :) I know the Church is true and the more I learn about life and the more I learn about the way families should be run, the more and more grateful I am that I have the church.
These pictures tell a fun story. Word to the wise - don't do this.  Ha ha.
Thank you so much for the support and I love you so much :)

Elder Gardner

Monday, January 18, 2016

Taking Care of the Basics

Hey there! 
Artyom is pretty good.  We had a good week, lots of work to do. We have been meeting with all of our members and trying to figure out what’s going on with some of them. Many haven't been coming. Just taking care of the basics :)  This week was a good week at church. There weren't a ton of people at the beginning of Sacrament meeting but more showed up during the opening hymn.

The goals that you read are from the Europe East Area Presidency. They created them for us. They sent them to us and we told our branches about them and now we are all working on them. Hopefully we can keep our members interested and excited.   There are pretty good friendships already made here between some investigators and missionaries and also between some people that we stop by often and some store owners. I think it’s pretty great that the missionaries have worked so hard here in the past that makes our job a whole lot easier now. Of course not everything is easy, there are plenty of people who don't really like us and want us to leave but that happens everywhere.

Our daily routine hasn't gotten a whole lot different with the new calling. Of course we have new things that we have to do but I am not worried at all. We are learning and it really isn't too much to take care of.  I am very thankful to Elder Anderson though. He is very helpful and we wouldn't be able to do everything without his help.  Hopefully he sticks around long enough to teach me all his secrets – ha ha. We had a crazy P-day today and there was a ton of snow everywhere.  Before now there has been dirt and stuff everywhere and we were joking how we wanted to make a snowman out of dirt but now we can actually make one out of snow:) I don't think that I have made one out of snow yet on my mission! Now would be the perfect time.
My Russian is pretty good.  Being able to speak fluently definitely helps develop relationships. I am learning a lot about parenting because there is little of that that goes on, too.

Oh by the way Elder Vincent says hello :) I am with him right now in Vlad, we came down for the day to see what we could get out of our suitcases. We went to Vlad but got stuck there for awhile because there was a lot of snow today. The buses were running late. 

My new companion is good, I am learning patience and how to be a better teacher/leader instead of just doing everything myself. He’s great!

The spelling of Artyom is spelled in Russian is --------- Артём ----------- The A is an A. The P makes an R sound. T is a T. E with the 2 dots over it makes a "yo" sound. And the M is an M. So sometimes you would see different spellings, they don't have one "correct" translation for Russian words using Latin letters.
I am excited for Dad! The Legislature is always the fun part right? How many bills are you trying to get through? I am glad to hear that the Cardinals won! I told some of the missionaries here but I don't think they care very much. Haha

I miss the Farnsworth’s, how are they all doing? Is Sister Farnsworth’s neck still bugging her?

I remember researching the translation process of the Book of Mormon a lot and it is so impossibly intricate that nobody could write it in such a short amount of time. That’s pretty great that Brother Farnworth talked about that from the pulpit. Even though our belief is based on faith, it is nice to have some logic to back up what we believe.
We have lots of exciting things coming up, hopefully we can get some good results out of this Artyom branch.

I love you all and hope you have a great week :)

Elder Gardner

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

On to Artyom

This week was a good week!  I am tired.  We were busy all week travelling and spending lots of time with different elders all going across the mission to their new areas. It wasn't very hard for me to say goodbye to all the people in Irkutsk because it was all so quick.  I didn't really get a chance to tell everyone goodbye. That probably made it easier. I miss them though. 

Russian cool
Artyom is a really cool city. I have been to Artyom a few times with some of the old missionaries and I like it here.  It is very small, there is maybe one small mall and some stores but nothing like Irkutsk. Irkutsk was crazy. That place was always full of activity but now our p-days will be more peaceful.  Maybe next week we will take a bus to Vlad because it is close enough to get there in 45 minutes on a bus. I like the weather a lot here in Artyom. It is very warm and I could probably go without a jacket if I wanted to ha ha. 

The airplane seatbelts were made in Phoenix
Elder Siebach is a cool elder, he is really funny and always positive! He is my first counselor and Elder Anderson is the 2nd Counselor. The Andersons are a senior couple that lives in Vlad and they come to Artyom for church.  They work in the office in Vlad for the rest of the week. They are really a great couple.  They are so helpful I couldn't do anything without all the help I have been receiving. I am so glad.  As President it is my job to make sure everything runs smoothly, I know I won't succeed if I am trying to do this all on my own.

Ready to go to work
My first Sunday as Branch President was good. They announced it in front of all the members and then I gave a testimony.  I think this is going to be a good experience. I am really ready.
The branch here is pretty great. I am excited to be spending a lot of time with them.

I am rooting for you all the way with the Firefighters. It seems like you’ve been fighting that battle for a while now, hopefully it will all come to a close soon enough. That is fun that Tina moved back in. – she is a good dog.  

I love you a lot! I wish I had more to say, you have all been a big help to me so much and I am so grateful for it!

I love you and can't wait to talk to you again.  

Elder Gardner


We received this letter from Sister Perkinson (the mission president’s wife):

Dear Brother and Sister Gardner,

Happy New Year! Today we met with the missionaries in Artyom Branch and felt of their goodness and their desire to serve The Lord in more ways than they initially had ever expected! Change is always a part of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and it certainly is a part of Vladivostok Missionary work too!

Thank you for your prayers and support! The greatest gift for our mission truly is doing the simple things that the gospel teaches! Support by sharing stories with Elder Gardner of your own personal life that will uplift him and strengthen him is this endeavor! He truly will need that more than any material gift sent across the Pacific Ocean! You know what I mean, tell him about what you learned at Sacrament meetings so that he can apply it to Artyom Branch! Tell him some ideas of great Family nights that he can use for the branch members! Tell him every time you go to the temple, and go often, then remind him of the covenants and blessings you felt while attending! Those gifts will make a huge difference in HIS life & will help him see the eternal truths and the eternal love you have for the work he is doing! It is hard here but HARD can be so wonderfully good because thru our life's challenges we seek for guidance and help from above! This is a mission like none other that I know and I am grateful for Elder Gardner and his desire to Serve the Lord faithfully!


Sister Verna Rae Perkinson

Vladivostok Russia

Monday, January 4, 2016

Getting Transferred

Hey there!

It’s kind of surreal that it is already 2016. I graduated in 2014 and by the worlds standards I haven't accomplished much.  Nevertheless, I am glad to be here on a mission, it really is quite a journey and not a very straightforward one at that. This past week was full of activities and work like always. We had a meeting with President Perkinson and had a great English Practice where we talked about Goals and Bucket lists. What kind of goals did you set this past year? Which ones did you actually accomplish? I learned how to balance a soccer ball on my foot (the technical term is "stalling" a soccer ball) I also re-learned how to juggle. I also learned how to make sugar cookies and cobbler and bread and I learned how to spin a basketball on my fingers. I didn't set any of those goals at the beginning of the year but I learned them anyways ha ha :) 

We made sugar cookies without cookie cutters.
The 10 days after New Years are pretty slow. Not a ton of people are out and about but we are still trying to do what we can to find people and teach them about Jesus Christ.  The New Year’s festivities were fun although limited. We worked like usual but there weren't a whole lot of people out on the streets to talk to. They were all in the park where they set up big ice sculptures and a gigantic tree with lights and booths for photos with Father Frost and it was all cool to look at although we didn't dare approach the crowds. We haven't completely lost our minds yet J   Only one more week until everything is back to normal.
Hanging with Father Frost
We spent a lot of time this past week with President Soolemanov. We helped him at an orphanage and we hung up a new plaque for their building. We also made a fun video with the kids there and Father Frost came and wished them a happy New Year! A few days later we went and played soccer with the president  and his professional team. I actually didn't play I just filmed it but Elder Tracy played and it looked like a lot of fun - even though it was negative 25 degrees. After that we went to visit the lady that we always help. We help her clean her house. We went to wish her a happy new year and she brought out a big bottle of champagne for us to drink. She said it was just juice, but she wasn't fooling anyone! We showed her the alcohol content and then told her that we wouldn't drink it. We brought some juice with us though so we all drank juice together and she gave us some chocolate :) Then we all sang hymns and bought her some bread. I will miss her.

Helping at the orphanage
Oh yeah, I am getting transferred out of Irkutsk. I have been here since June and now I am going to be serving in Artyom. Right now I am over 1,500 miles away from Vladivostok. In a few days I will be serving in a city that is only 25 miles from there. Oh and I won't be Zone Leader anymore. I will be the Branch President for the branch in Artyom.  I think the Lord is just trying to make me stretch and grow.  I will miss them all so much. I love Irkutsk. 

I love the people of Irkutsk
I did the best I could as Zone Leader. I communicated everything that I needed to as quickly and clearly as possible and tried to be as much help to President Perkinson as I could. Now I will have different responsibilities of course. Artyom is a small branch and I hope I can strengthen them with the Lords guidance. Of course I am not really worried. I understand that I can't do everything on my own. I will be doing as much as I can and I trust the Lord to do his part. 

Playing soccer in 2016

This is the soccer field.
My new companion will be Elder Seabach and I think he is great! I met him when I was in Vlad a few weeks ago and he is such a card. He is a lot of fun :) He will be the district leader and there will be 2 sisters in our district. One sister is Sister Hawley, she is right now with us in Irkutsk and we are both getting transferred to Artyom. 

Elder Burningham is a stud, this cat is so crazy haha it tries to eat everything that moves

I fixed the coat and got a bright gold zipper on it. Pretty great! The Ruble is now at 74 or so right now :) I heard that it will go over 100 soon.
I miss you all so much! I hope you have a great week and enjoy the photos I sent.

Stay Frosty

Elder Gardner