Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Still snowing

Hey there! I am glad you liked the picture of us outside without coats, we were only outside for a few minutes luckily!  

Our attendance at church this week was a bit lower than we would have liked. Of course every Sunday is lower than we would like because we want EVERYONE to come! There were 15 people there this week. Not too bad, but we have seen better. 
This trip to Korea is going to be one of the last! You're right, it is pretty crazy, I can remember my very first one and each one since has been lots of fun.

It is great to see that Elder Rigs is home safe and sound. You are right, he is a very tall individual. He has a little saying "6' 4" to fit through the doors, but 6' 8" when I stand up straight". He went on almost every Visa trip with me and I really respect him. He is a great Elder and I look up to him in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense too :)

I am very jealous that you are going to visit Megan in a few weeks! That sounds great, although I don't know if she will have such warm weather like you have in AZ. I am glad to hear that you aren't freezing anymore in Arizona ha ha.  We still have some winter ahead of us - it was snowing today.  I am ready to get out of these jackets and long pants and boots. I really miss shorts and flip flops. I think I will quickly adapt back into Arizona weather.

I am glad to hear that everyone accepted me to go to college :) Out here on a mission some missionaries like to talk about their classes they took and what ACT and SAT scores they got. It is fun to compare. I honestly can't remember what my scores were and it’s probably better that way because I really didn't think they were that high.  There are some smart cookies out here.  As long as I don't tell people what my scores were they think that I smart person - but as soon as I tell them my scores they will know exactly where I rank haha.  It’s like that quote "Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt".
ASU fans are everywhere
I think I am still leaning towards BYU. I am not sure exactly why, but I am thinking that getting a change of venues will be fun. I also am still considering a career in entrepreneurship/business. Maybe something along the lines of robotics or electronics or maybe programming or web/app design.  Actually, I don't a clue haha.  But I am interested in those kinds of things so maybe BYU would be good because they have a good entrepreneurship program. Or maybe ASU would be good because I heard they have a good engineering program which would go in line with robotics or electronics.  Any thoughts?
Interesting pop up ad on my computer
I don't know if I want to be a CIA agent in Russia but I definitely have things that I want to do with Russian after the mission. I want to translate a lot of things into Russian because there are a ton of faith promoting things that only exist in English and it’s kinda sad. I really love the Russian saints here and I am surprised by how much faith they have. I want to help them and I can do a little part of that by translating some documents and other things into Russian. One example is the book "Jesus the Christ". There are maybe 100 copies of that book in Russian ever produced and it is a great book that helps better understand the life and teachings of Jesus. It would help the Russian people understand the gospel better.  That is one thing I would like to do that once I get back from my mission :)
Our investigator is good I guess... We didn't have a chance to meet with him this week. He didn't come home from work and his wife was really worried about him. They are having strained relations right now and it doesn't seem like they had a good week. There are always ups and downs, hopefully we can meet with him this week and help him overcome his concerns. His concerns are not many, although his desire is also not very big. He says that he is Christian but he doesn't really know anything about the Bible or God other than the 10 commandments and the Jesus lived and died on a cross. It is basically like teaching a non-Christian. We talked about the Word of Wisdom last week and he didn't really take it very well. He believes that it is okay to drink black tea because it is more natural than the fruit tea we drink with all the dyes and preservatives added to it. We agreed with him and said we would drink only natural fruit tea if he would stop drinking black tea. He still couldn't commit. He also thinks that a little bit of alcohol is good and he has read some studies saying that a glass of wine or other alcohol will help keep you healthy.

We then have to testify of the truthfulness of the gospel and Joseph Smith and explain how everything we tell him depends on the Book of Mormon. If the Book of Mormon is true, that means that Joseph Smith is really a prophet who translated it by the power of God. If he is a prophet then we need to follow the commandments that God gave to us through Joseph. It was hard for him, and when we asked him simply to pray about the truthfulness of the Word of Wisdom he refused and it was sad for us. I still believe that he is a good guy and willing to change. He can do it :)
This week was a really good week, we had some missionaries visit us. Elders Williamson and Mark came to visit us and work with us for a day. It was great to see them. Elder Williams is a great elder and is really good about always testifying no matter where he is. That is something I can learn from him. Elder Mark is a Russian. He lives in Angarsk, where I served about 10 months ago with Elder Brown and Cluff. He didn't really come to church often back then. He came to play the piano and to play ping pong with us but wasn't super spiritual. Then he went on a mini mission and got excited about the gospel. Now he is going on another mini mission this time he is serving for 6 months. He is really cool, and sometimes eccentric but in a good way. He has a solid testimony that won't easily be shaken.   I see such an improvement in his life ever since he started putting the Lord first. It is a visible difference. That is my high for this week.  I know that the Gospel and Atonement of Jesus Christ can literally change people. I don't really know how, but your life will improve if you put Jesus Christ first in your life.

Stay frosty there in Arizona, and don't forget to smile :)

I love you a lot

Elder Gardner

Monday, February 15, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! 
I keep telling people about how it is Arizona's birthday but people either don't believe me or don't care haha  That’s okay, I will celebrate on my own. They have Valentine’s day here in Russia, and flowers are a big thing. There are flower shops every 100 yards on the street. They are everywhere. It is actually like that all year round though.  I like it :)
Thanks for the love today! Yesterday was our Valentine’s day, and right now it is yours :) I am wearing a pink tie in honor of Valentine’s day. On Saturday we had a big party for the occasion. We had a heart making/decorating station, food, games and music and it was really great! We had plenty of people show up.  Yeah.  It wasn't awkward and empty.  The best part is that maybe half or almost half of the people were less-active members and/or non-members.

Our investigator is doing good. We were planning on teaching a lesson about the importance of Church attendance and scripture study but we got sidetracked and he wanted to know about why we don't drink black tea. So we spun the lesson to the Word of Wisdom and it turned out really well. He didn't accept to live it yet, but he is hopefully going to pray for an understanding of the principle and a confirmation that it is something that he should do. He isn't ready for baptism yet but we are praying and hoping.
In answer to your question about the broken leg - if you break your leg then they take you to the hospital and set the bone and then they put a kind of clamp on your leg to hold it all in place. Then you sit in a bed for a few weeks while it heals. They don't really have a hospital food company or entertainment or anything. They leave that up to the patient’s family to come and take care of the patient. It is the same thing with fresh clothing. We have been doing a very minor part of it all. I am not sure if the family visits the lady in our branch but we have been trying to help a bit. She loves sudoku and cookies so that’s what we brought. Maybe next time we can bring something else. Maybe not sweets, but real food :)

Crazy kids - feel the burn.

Shorts with a big fluffy jacket.
I am glad to hear that Kyle Greenwalt is getting his Eagle project done. That's so great. Maybe he could add as part of his project to get some people to go spend with the kids in the hospital. I am not sure how that would work out, but I have realized how lonely it can get. We visit people at the hospital and we realize that although we bring them Liahona magazines, cookies and maybe we show a small video to them, it isn't a whole lot. I have realized that although that stuff is really good and fun sometimes, as soon as we leave that apartment there won't be another visitor for another week. Can you even imagine? Just sitting at home, your sight is going bad, you know how to make wonderful food but you have nobody to share it with, and you have stories from your lifetime but again nobody that you can inspire with those stories. So you sit at home, waiting for someone to come talk to you, maybe you talk to the mail lady as they drop some mail off, or you can watch the TV but how long will that last you? It’s kinda sad. Time is probably one of the most precious things we can give to someone, because it can never be repaid. That time spent with the person can't come back and it lifts a person from sadness better than any material gift in my opinion.
I hope that didn't sound too sad or gloomy. But maybe this Valentine’s day we could focus on spending time with those who would benefit from it, and not just with those who are the most fun to be around!

Oh and by the way, don't forget! Grandma Gardner's birthday is coming up soon :) It’s the 17th right? I hope I am not mistaken.
Our week was good, we had some ups and some downs. Some people we visited asked us to leave and not come back, some slammed the door, some didn't answer the door but shouted that we should leave and if we didn't then they would come down and beat us with a stick. Haha.  Maybe I should have been afraid? I think Russians are mostly bark and little bite. That is my experience with them.  

My high for the week was that we had 24 again at church! Really big numbers. We are having a lot of people come. We are very blessed.  That is even more than last week. That’s 2 weeks in a row of great attendance. I couldn't tell you what it is, but I am glad that I get to be a part of it. We have some great members here and they really strengthen each other more than the missionaries can. I am blessed to be able to be serving here among great people.
This transfer has gone by very quickly.  The missionaries in Artyom will stay the same. I will still be with Elder Siebach and the sisters are staying the same.  However, the Andersons are now officially moved out. We got to spend some time with them today, helping them close up the apartment they were renting and pay the landlord and move some things out of their apartment. I will miss them, they really are a wonderful couple and they really help the people here see that the Gospel works for young people and for old people. The members here only ever see happy young Americans so they think that that’s all there is to this church, when in fact there are wonderful people of every age and every nationality. The Andersons will never be forgotten here in Artyom, they have done a lot of wonderful work here. 

I didn't get the package yet, but I have a Visa trip in 2 weeks and should be getting it then hopefully. Thank you for the love and support, especially the packages. They are a very big plus every time we get one. Every missionary loves to get a package.
I hope you have a great week and I hope you have a chance to spend some of your precious time with those who don't often have special visitors. I know that they will appreciate it.

I love you lots!

Elder Gardner


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Eating raw pumpkin

It’s always great to hear from you! I am glad to hear that you had a warm day this week :) I was thinking the same thing about us that we have been having pretty warm weather here recently.  When I say we had warm weather I mean that it was nice because you could go out without having the wind hurt too bad as it blew into your face :)
All is well, right now I am eating a raw pumpkin, cut up into small cubes and with sugar poured all over em. Pretty tasty :) We had a good week this week. We had lots of time to talk to people on the streets and to serve people. We haven't been doing lots of service projects but we have had plenty of opportunities to do good deeds daily and that is such a blessing.

There are some days when you go out with a bunch of plans. You have people set up that you’re going to meet with and they agreed to meet. Then the first person you agreed to visit got sick, so you go contacting for an hour and a half. Then the 2nd person doesn't answer their phone and they don't come to the church to meet with you. So you go contacting some more. After that you get ready to have a great English practice and you prepare everything to have a great discussion and you invite a bunch of people and they all agree to come. Then nobody comes. And you go contact some more. On days like those, it really makes all the difference when you see a grandmother and she gives you a big smile even if she is missing some teeth and the ones remaining are made of gold :) Or when you see an older person walking very carefully down a snowy set of stairs and you can come to give a hand and a smile. Those simple acts become such valuable little treasures on days when everything else goes wrong.

 34 O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.
We had a great Sunday yesterday, 23 people came to church! That’s the most we have had in a long time. It was a good day. Lots of people got up to bear their testimonies and we didn't have any awkward pauses in between people. We have been working hard to get people to be more consistent. It's great because we normally have 15 or so show up. And normally it includes random people that haven't come for a long time and then some regular members who don't come. If only we could get each member to come each Sunday... oooh boy then we would have something great going here :)

Lion :) Rawr
We accidentally visited the hospital at the wrong time this week. We went to go see a lady who had broken her leg and we were bringing her some Sudoku booklets and a magazine. We didn't know, nobody said anything either so we went at the wrong time but then the hospital workers got a bit upset at us. We told them that we weren't Russian and they understood. J  They gave us 3 minutes to give her the books and to get gone. I am glad that they were so patient because we hadn't seen her for over a week.  It was nice to see Galina. Hopefully soon she will be out of the hospital and her leg will be better. She broke it slipping on the ice.
Speaking of falling on the ice, I have fallen 2 times already but they haven't been bad falls. Both really slow. But another time we were walking along this dirt trail at night and I stepped near a metal fence thing sticking out of the ground. I didn't see it and it caught my foot and I ate it. I fell face first and landed really hard on my front hahaha it was so bad it knocked the wind out of me haha. I wish we could have gotten it on video!

Yeah we have a big 60 inch flat screen in our apartment except it doesn't have access to the stations. Well... normally it doesn't have access but we were fiddling around and accidentally figured out how to connect to the satellite. Don't tell anyone! Haha just kidding we don't watch it, even if we wanted to we couldn't. I broke the cable.
We have one investigator right now. We taught the first lesson to a new lady this week but we are letting the sisters teach her because they connect better with her. You know how girls are. :) We do mostly street contacting and tracting and teaching lessons. We haven't had a lot of time to do much else. Those are the big activities each day. Members sometimes help with missionary work but not too often.

I hope you have a good week this week, I don't really have a whole lot of news.

I love you.

Elder Gardner

Letter to Cameron.  She asked what do you keep in your pocket:

We still walk the streets every day like in other cities. We see multiple cats every day, at least 8 a day. They are everywhere!
Normally I carry a few small notebooks in my bag along with about 20 pens, family photos, the scriptures, a paper with the words in Russian written down for how to give blessings, a notebook with a bunch of scriptures written in it (a cheat sheet to remember where important verses are), a church magazine, some invitations to our church building, some of those CTR rings and a ward list. I also have my nail clippers, flashlights and sticky notes in a pocket of my bag. Then in my pockets I have a chapstick, flashdrive, camera, wallet, daily planner, and maybe some pieces of gum if I think we will be on the street for a while :)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Fluffy hat and oversized jacket

Hey there. This week was a good week. We had a chance to go to Vladivostok on Tuesday for a zone conference.

I got a letter from the Sutherland family – yeah :)  Please give them a big hug for me!
In the letter from the Sutherlands they wrote "I can imagine you reading this letter right now wearing a big fluffy hat and an oversized jacket."  I was actually wearing both of those things at that time. I had to take a picture  :)
The other days of the week we spent meeting with less-active members, learning about their lives and families. With some less-active members you have to really become their friend before moving into the gospel. People here get pretty weird pretty quick if you say "We have a message about Jesus Christ!". They will shut you down right away.  Sometimes we start with "Hey! We are volunteers here, do you know where any food banks or homeless shelters are?" That piques their interest and then we can move into the gospel "Yeah we are here as missionaries and we are looking for ways to serve people like Jesus taught. Do you believe in Christ?"
This past Sunday we had a big special class in 2nd hour about how we can follow these new goals better. We had members teaching parts of the lesson and it turned out very well. I am so pleased with our members. We have some very special people here. One woman testified about how she used to have problems all the time with her husband and ever since he started taking the missionary lessons they have been fighting less and less. The teachings of Jesus Christ can change people’s hearts. It is true!

The branch is good, lots of people are getting sick and can't make it to church and it is pretty frustrating. People here get sick all the time... like ALL the time. It is a problem. They have very cheap healthcare but for that it goes down in quality. I think that is what Obamacare was supposed to be right? I never really understood that whole concept.  J

I think people accept me as a leader - but while Elder Anderson is still here they still see him as President Anderson because that is what he has been for the past year and a half haha. I don't blame them. I am sure it will even itself out soon enough. Thank you for the leadership advice. I always appreciate it :)
We have a member here named ‘S’  who has been slowly moving away from the church. He has been struggling for a few weeks now but he is doing better! As a matter of fact, he said that he wants to come back to church. He has been talking to a girl in another town farther west and she has been helping him keep the faith. Also, the missionary who baptized ‘S’ did a lot to help him. He specifically mentioned that thanks to them he is starting to come back. It really isn't anything that we did as missionaries. Of course we have been praying for, studying for, and trying to meet with him but we weren't the reason his heart was softened. It is just so great to see him start to believe again.

Don't worry about my weight, I am looking and feeling fine!  :)  This week I made some tasty soup and some crepes, some tasty eggs and also some cookies. I got a new recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies and they are very tasty.  My favorite thing to cook is probably cookies because I normally give them away to people on their birthdays and that makes them happy that someone remembers their birthdays :) I like that.
However, soup is really the way to go, you can throw everything you want and need into it and it’s so simple. Hot water, bouillon cube, taters, pasta, carrots, onions, frozen veggies, chicken chunks, salt and you're in business! It saves fairly well and can be put on top of rice or more noodles or mashed potatoes as a nice gravy. The possibilities are really endless!

The apartment is really nice. A big tv and I have a big queen size bed. Elder Siebach wanted to be on the bunk bed so he gets the top bunk and I am across the room on my queen :) The beds are great! No complaints haha
Our Apartment
The zombie homes are kinda rough, but the more you spend your time in them the more comfortable it becomes. I always keep a flashlight in my bag because you never know what might happen in the day. I have used it a lot on my mission actually!
I didn't feel any earthquake... haha I wish I would have felt it! That would have been cool :) We don't have any missionaries out there for now. We have plenty of work to be doing here for now, our hands are full!

You asked about any good stories from this week?  Hmm... It was Sister Springers birthday this week and we got her a cake and some cookies and chocolate and after church on Sunday the whole branch sang to her and we ate snacks :) It was good. We are planning a Valentine’s day party but it is kinda hard to get people on board with it. Not enough people come to church early enough to plan all together, and not enough people stay until the end of 2nd hour to plan afterwards :) It’s okay, I am sure it will be really great.

Sister Springer's Birthday
I love you all, I know that the Gospel is true. It truly will change the hearts of those who hear it if they will let it. Like what is written in Alma 42:

 22  But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
                23   But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.
24  For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and alsomercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.

There is a law given and a punishment affixed, but we don't have to answer for that on our own. Mercy claimeth the penitent and if we turn to God with all of our hearts then we will be claimed by mercy at the last day. Repentance. We stop doing the wrong thing and we continue to do what is right. It’s really simple and I know that it works!
Have a great week this week, and when you get a chance you should read one of President Perkinson's favorite chapters. Alma 42.

Thank you for all the support, I love you

Elder Gardner