Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Rabies Shots - ouch

Hey there :) I am glad to hear from you, it always is the best part of my week! We are getting pretty warm here in Russia, pretty soon we will stop wearing our jackets. It feels like I was just in Angarsk a month ago with Elder Brown but I realize that that was already last summer. Time flies really quickly.

I got the package last week about 5 minutes after I got off the computer haha but I did not get any letters yet. They will be here soon though, they should be anyways. The Phase 10 cards are a BIG hit here! The entire Artyom Branch says thank you. This week was a good week, and we were doing a lot of work on the computer. We have been trying to finish this Branch History project and work on some other projects going on. It is pretty boring working on the computer just typing up information all day, I hope my job never consists of doing that because I might go crazy!

We got our transfers this week and Elder Siebach is leaving for Ussurisk. I am staying and getting a new companion named Elder Bates. I have heard lots of good things about him, he came in with Elder Tracy and apparently speaks really good Russian. I am excited! You only have 1 transfer left of school and I have 3 left on my mission. That's so soon. I can't believe how fast time flies.
This week we had few people at church, there were 3 sisters and 3 brothers plus the missionaries. Two of the sisters left after Sacrament meeting and two of the brethren left also. It’s not about quantity though it’s about quality. I think we had a really good lesson in 2nd hour with our member and he learned a lot. We filled some water balloons up for our lesson. One we blew up with air. The second was filled half-way with water and the third was full completely of water. We said that we are the balloons, the water is the Holy Ghost and the lighter that we held up to the balloons was temptation. It helped show that we need the Holy Ghost in our lives if we want to avoid temptations and sin. The air-filled balloon popped right away. The one with half water didn't pop as long as the fire didn't touch the top half where there wasn't water. The balloon full of water though didn't pop at all. I think the lesson turned out pretty well :)

Any cool experiences? I have been pretty stressed this past week. We were trying hard to get a lot accomplished and I was trying hard to fight back feelings of "We aren't getting anywhere, this is frustrating" and then on Saturday one of our members started yelling during the lesson and cussing. Haha yeah that was also stressful, but I really know that prayer works. I really couldn't explain it but sitting there and taking a second to say a prayer really helped. Thanking God for all that he has given me and for all the good things that have happened recently helped me stay sane. I know that God wants to hear from us and we will feel comfort when we take the time to turn to him and tell him how we are feeling.
So now... I know everyone wants to know... What about the monkey?

Well my friends, there was a little reptile exhibit here in Artyom recently and we decided to check it out. It was Elder Siebach’s last P-day in Artyom so we wanted to make it special. We went in and saw a monkey sitting on a cage, a couple lizards in glass boxes, a huge crocodile and some other random animals. The monkey was the center of attention of course. How cool is that? A monkey! Well I squatted down next to it to take a picture and he started to get interested in me, and started pulling my lips open to see what I had in my mouth. He wanted my gum. I let him look around but he didn't see the gum so he gave up. A few minutes later we came back to the monkey and I held out my hands to play with it. He was acting like a cat and was trying to bite my fingers, cutely at first. I thought it was playful so I didn't really think anything of it... and then he got a hold of my pinky finger. The rest is history. Just watch the video and you'll see what happened after that :)
He bit through my skin and we washed it off with alcohol and put a band-aid on it but went to the doctor’s office just to be sure. I got 2 shots, one in my back right below my left shoulder blade and another in my left arm. They do shots basically the same way as in America. The lady didn't warn me that she was going to put the needle in me, she just started talking quickly about what the shots do and why I am getting them to distract me while she stabbed me with drugs. I only cried for a few minutes:p  I have 5 more return appointments in the next 2 weeks to get more shots and then a final shot will be in June. I am cleaning my finger every day with alcohol and some green colored liquid that smells like a doctor’s office. I am also wrapping it with some sterile bandages just to be on the safe side. It’s all very precautionary, the cut isn't big at all but we are doing this all just to make sure I don't get RABIES! I have noticed though that now I am doing everything very fancily. I have a lot more etiquette and class. (See Photos Below)

I forgot to mention it last week but last week we got stuck in our elevator for an hour and a half. The power just went out and we couldn't press any buttons. The lights were still on for a little bit longer which was nice but after 40 minutes or so they went out. They ended up pulling the elevator somehow from the first floor up to the 3rd floor and letting us out on the 3rd floor because the second floor and first floor doors wouldn't open. It's always an adventure :)
This transfer everyone is leaving Atryom except me. 
Remember how I said we went to the pottery place here in Artyom? Well they cooked my cups and they all turned out nicely :) We went back and dipped them in milk and after a 30 minute cook they were done and turned out really nicely! Maybe I will send them home and you can drink from and enjoy them.

Other than that though I am not sure what happened this week. I hope you have a good day today and I hope you didn't worry too much about me yesterday! Not the best birthday present ever haha.

I love you

Elder Gardner

Monday, March 28, 2016

Bit by a Monkey

I am sorry, I don't have a whole lot of time to write right now. We will write more later.
Don't worry I am perfectly fine:) I am fine other than the fact that a monkey bit me today haha! It drew some blood so to be safe they are taking me to see the doctor and get a shot I think.  My pinky finger is the only part that got bit and it doesn't hurt at all - but we are being careful:) 
I love you and will be writing more later! We will keep you updated. 

Elder Gardner

Friday, March 25, 2016

It is a beautiful 10 degrees outside

Happy Spring from Artyom, Russia! It is a beautiful 10 degrees outside and I broke a sweat standing on the bus today! I guess I am finally getting used to the weather.  Pretty soon we won't be wearing coats anymore. We are stuck wearing coats though because we are trying to fit in and most people are still wearing coats. Besides, if it gets cloudy though then it can get quite chilly in a hurry.

I got a call from the pottery place that my 2 cups are out of the kiln and survived! One of the guys at the place was worried that they were too skinny but they survived and I am very happy. We are going back tomorrow to put a milk glaze on them. For all my potters out there you might be wondering "Elder Gardner, what do you mean 'Milk Glaze'?" Well my dear friend, it is an ancient Russian tradition to use milk instead of glaze on pottery. You fire your pottery once in the kiln and then it becomes hard. Then you take it out let it cool, dip it in milk and bake it in the kiln once more. That makes the clay turn dark brown and it looks like a beautiful dark wood. It is very cool:) Skim milk is bad, and won't really change the color of the pot. Use whole milk.

I am not too worried that you never taught me to skin a fish, because Elder Siebach got to teach me and now I know! I remember all the times we went fishing at the lake by our house we never caught anything. A Russian trick that I heard is to cook up some potatoes. Fry them in a pan like you were going to eat them yourself. Then take that with you to the lake and crumble it up and sprinkle it in the water to attract the fish. I haven't had a chance to try it yet but maybe you can give it a shot for me.

We didn't do anything for Saint Patrick's Day. I actually didn't even know it was Saint Patrick's Day - and I forgot to wear green. Luckily nobody pinched me! It sounds like you had a great celebration at school! I miss those days at school, they were my favorites.
This week we had some lessons with less-active church members and we also had a chance to take the Sacrament to a lady who is sick and couldn't come to church. It was a nice opportunity to spend some time with her. I miss getting to take the Sacrament each week to Kaitlin's grandpa with Chandler. That really is something special and I am a bit sad I didn't recognize it fully at that time.

I am reading right now in 3rd Nephi about the Saviors visit to the Americas. I think it is interesting how he, in chapter 17, told the people to go home and to pray for understanding. He didn't tell them to pray to know the truthfulness of the message. That is what we normally do as missionaries, we invite people to pray to know if the message is true like in Moroni 10:3-5. The Savior invited them to pray to understand the message better and I feel like if we understand the message of the Gospel better then we will come to a knowledge of its truthfulness. I have met lots of people who become disenchanted with the gospel and the church. When they explain why it often times comes from a misunderstanding or something that wasn't very clear. I have been thinking about that for a while.
I am not sure about any Russian traditions other than the typical greeting is "Christ is risen" then the other person replies "Truly he is Risen". I wish I could help, I am drawing a blank right now. Easter isn't a big holiday here, not like New Years or Christmas. Maybe you could talk about how we have our family tradition of eating peeps each Easter. Easter is all about the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ. This past month we have been talking about Prophets and Apostles and I am starting to realize how many prophecies were given about Jesus Christ and his birth and Death. I would like to think that I understand the atonement a little bit better now than I did at the beginning of my mission and I would attribute that to Preach My Gospel and the Pamphlets that we use to teach. Everything is written out very clearly and it might be useful to read those. I am not sure how well the church members understand the atonement and why it was necessary or why it had to be Christ and no other. Maybe they understand that all really well, maybe not. I hope I gave you an idea or 2. Good luck!

President and Sister Perkinson were at our Sacrament meeting and it was a pretty good meeting. 20 or so people showed up and we had a combined lesson for 2nd hour. Elder Siebach prepared a really good lesson about Prophets and Apostles. We had lots of little things to do this week that didn't include too much contacting. We had to get some new toner for the printer, a new cartridge, we had to do some expense reports and got to send some forms at the post office. We got to stand in line for an hour or so and we had an audit this week also. We just have too much fun here in Artyom! Hope you have a good week this week and stay frosty :) 
I love you,

Elder Gardner

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Their testimonies are strong

This week was a good week. I really enjoyed the zone conference and learned a lot.  I am grateful for the Perkinsons, they really work hard to make sure we are on the right path and are happy. They are wonderful.  
The branch is doing good, although there weren't very many people at church this week. 14 people showed up. If we aren't counting the 5 missionaries then only 9 members. Very small. It was Fast Sunday because last week was the conference in Vlad. We had almost everyone get up and bear a testimony during sacrament meeting which was wonderful to see. But imagine 14 testimonies taking up the whole sacrament meeting hour. There were some big gaps between testimonies where people were just sitting there in the silence waiting for someone to get up. I am grateful to those who got up. Even though we have small numbers in this branch their testimonies are strong.
Thanks for your concern about the motivations of some single girls.  Thank you for calling me cute, but I really haven't had any problems with this. There have been a few times when girls giggle at us on the busses and say hello in English, but that's really it. I can't recall a time when this was a problem :) But I will keep my "Joseph in Egypt" shoes with me from now on! Don't worry about me.
We met some new people and got behind some walls. I am excited to see what will happen from here. We finally found a place to do some pottery and we took our lunch hour the other day to go make some pots and make some friends in the process. The place is called Istoki and we met a guy who works there named Evgenii. He was really interested in us as people and why we were in Russia. We didn't try to push the gospel on him, but he seemed to enjoy talking about it. He speaks English pretty well and has traveled around Asia doing pottery. He believes in God but doesn't really do anything to worship him. I was able to show him some pottery tricks and things that we did at my school and he showed me some things that I didn't know and it was a good learning experience for both of us. We are inviting him to English practice tonight, hopefully he can come.

Our lesson with Nikolai was a really nice lesson. We were not able to visit him on Thursday like we had wanted, but we were able to go on Friday instead. Little did we know that Friday was the day that the sisters were going to visit Looba, his wife. It wasn't a problem though because we just sat in different rooms and didn't bother one another. I feel kind of bad for him, he tries to be a good father and help his kids do the right thing but he isn't sure how to do it, and even when he does good sometimes his wife gets upset at him for punishing the kids. We were talking to him about his sons who were drunk and he was pretty upset that they were always drunk. We talked to him about the importance of family and having a loving atmosphere at home. We talked about if he had a hard day at work he could go and get drunk and that would calm him down, but that's really not a good way to relieve stress. Or if he had a stressful day at work he could come home, play with his kids and spend time with his family and that would be such a more productive way to deal with stresses in his life. Then we told him that he was the head of the house and if he wanted something to happen then he would have to set the example. A little bit later he said "Well drinking a little bit really isn't that bad". Oh Nikolai No! We testified about families and the Word of Wisdom and hopefully he gets it a little bit more. He's a great guy but needs more support to change into the person he wants to become.
We had another good experience with tracting the other day. We met a guy who was pretty young and said he knew the missionaries in the past. He wasn't super interested but we asked him if he needed any help with anything. He asked if we knew how to skin and clean fish. I said no, but Elder Siebach knew how so we came in and talked with him for a little bit while Elder Siebach cleaned some fish and showed him how it’s done. He was pretty grateful and we made a new friend. It’s pretty easy for us to make friends right away but getting a second meeting with these people is hard. I am not exactly sure what to do, it's frustrating sometimes.

I gave my self a haircut.  What do you think?
The thing about the Russian sense of humor is true. They have a really weird sense of humor. I learned a few jokes that Russians really enjoy but I don't think they are very funny:
1- A woman came up to a lake and saw a man in the lake swimming in his jacket. She says to the man "Why are you swimming in your jacket?" and he replies "I am cleaning it". She says to the man "That’s not needed I have a washing machine at home you can use". The man answers "No that would never work, I would get too dizzy".

2- A man was with his wife one night when she told him that she wanted to have snails for dinner. He went to the store to get some snails and while he was at the store he saw a group of his friends who invited him to go drinking with them. He said no, but after some coaxing they got him to come. "Only one drink" he said to them. Next thing he knows, he wakes up in a strange house a week later not knowing where he is. He eventually finds his way back to the store only to find that all the snails are gone, they only have live snails to buy so he gets those and runs home. He sets the snails down on the ground in a row and then rings the doorbell of his home and his wife comes to the door. When she opens the door he says to the snails "Hurry up! Are you going to take another week to get into the house too?"

I don't find those super funny but Russians laugh their heads off :)
The high of my week was having 2 Oreo milkshakes. Yum. The low was that I tried to do a workout the other day and I couldn't pick the weight up off the ground and it was pretty embarrassing :(

Thank you for all the support you give me, I love you so much!

Elder Gardner   

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Visa Trip to Korea

Hey there!

This week was a great week:) Started off the week with a trip to the airport to pick up an Elder who was staying with us named Elder Nielson. He was in Irkutsk with me for a little bit. Then the next day we all left for Korea and I had more than 5 smoothies and shakes because they don't have those here in Artyom and I chose not to exercise any self-control:) We were so very blessed to be able to do 3 sessions in the temple. I wasn't expecting it and I am so grateful we had any early flight in to Korea because that gave us plenty of time to enjoy the Temple. I learned a lot.
Yes, I did get rid of all that Korean money :) However, I still have a ton of coins that I haven't gotten rid of because they are 10 won coins. They aren’t worth much.  If you want to buy even a pack of gum it will cost you around 1000 won – that is about a dollar.  So basically I have a ton of Korean pennies (if you want to look at them that way). I might just have to keep them - they will be good souvenirs.

Lunch at Zone Conference
We were walking down the road in Korea and I saw a piano on the side of the street. It was painted and decorated and I am not sure why it was there but I took the opportunity to play Hymn number 26 because it is one of the first ones I memorized and I can play it fairly well.  As I was playing a girl came up and made a video of me playing and after I finished she walked away very quickly and we didn't have a chance to talk to her. So if you see a video on YouTube of a young man in a white shirt and tie and wearing a big fluffy leather jacket playing Joseph Smith's First Prayer on a busy street corner in Korea, it is probably me.
Oh yeah, I wore my big jacket to Korea but that was a mistake. It was a bit chilly but I would have been fine in a short sleeve shirt, I was sweating pretty bad.

More Zone Conference
After getting back from Korea we went with Elder Hess to take him to the bus station so that he could take a bus back to his assigned area. We were waiting for his bus for maybe 30 or 40 minutes and while we were waiting a man came up speaking English asking if we could help him. He was dressed normally, it didn't seem like he was homeless or drunk, but we were a bit hesitant. He said that he was stuck in Russia and wanted us to get in touch with the US embassy and wanted us to help him get to America. This often happens but normally it is a Russian asking if we can get them to America. We started talking to him more and more trying to figure out the situation and he said that he was born in Korea, moved to America and grew up in Southern California. Right now he was living in Korea with his mother and came to Russia for a small day trip to see what it was like. He ended up riding the train too far and landed in North Korea where he was subsequently put under arrest. He said they treated him really well in North Korea and gave him a nice play to stay and good food to eat. They respected him but of course kept him in custody for some time to figure out why he came to their country. After a few days they let him go and he had been just wandering around the streets in Vlad and Artyom looking for a place to stay when we met him. He said he wanted to go to America but we couldn't really help with that. So we offered to let him use the church computer to email his family and get something arranged. He emailed his mom and then got in contact with his aunt who lives in Southern California.  

Within about 15 minutes he bought a plane ticket and was very very relieved to be going home. The next morning we met up with him again and took him to this good noodle shop near the bus stop and we all got some tasty noodles. Then we went to the airport and sent him off. I hope he made it all the way to California because he didn't speak Russian and had a 24 hour lay-over in Moscow before he flew to NYC. Hopefully he made the switch and everything is good with him. I am so grateful that we had the chance to help him out. We even talked with him about the Restoration of the Gospel and the Book of Mormon and gave him a copy. He was very interested and said that he wanted to come to church in California.

On our way home from the airport we were sitting on the bus going home and a guy got on the bus with a bunch of ski equipment. We started talking to him and turns out he is from Calgary, Canada and we helped him get on the right bus. He wasn't supposed to be on the one we were on. Lots of little opportunities to serve and it is such a blessing:) I am grateful to be here in Russia.
That is crazy that I already have a place to stay in Provo and I am signed up for classes. It is all becoming a reality haha. I can't wait to see Elder Riggs again, it will probably be super weird to start calling him Nick instead of Elder Riggs. I might just call him   "Фура". It means Semi-truck in Russian but could also be translated as Big-Rig!

That is so cool that everyone is doing so well with their studies. I am not jealous at all though haha I don't have to study anything expect the Gospel. The most applicable subject you can study. I never understood how learning the history of Delaware would help me in my daily life, or when I would ever need to know how to take the integral of a function. But the Gospel is applicable in all aspects of life and never gets boring:) I am a lucky individual.
Our investigator hasn't been doing too hot. We haven't seen him in over a month. He has been drunk every time we have a lesson scheduled and we haven't been able to teach anything. Ironically the last lesson we taught before this whole deal started was the Word of Wisdom.

I have been eating very well recently except for in Korea. I had lots of junk food there. I got your care package full of goodies and snacks. I have been trying to give some of the cookies away because there was plenty to share.  I know my whole district was grateful for the Girl Scout cookies!

Yes, we now have Assistants to the President again. I think we didn’t have them for just one transfer. They came back pretty quickly – I was still in Irkutsk at that time.  Everything is constantly changing but really the only constant thing in this life is change! I love you all and hope you have a successful week, whatever your idea of success might be.
Thank you for all that you do and I am grateful that I have parents as wonderful as you :)

Elder Gardner


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

I love our members

This week we had the APs come into town - Elders Lyman and Cluff. They are great elders.  I was with Elder Lyman when we went to visit a less-active member of the church. Her name is Nadya. She is very wonderful and her two kids always come to activities even if she can't always make it. She is normally very busy with work and other things. We went over and got to spend some time getting to know her better and teaching the family a bit. Then we got a call that one of our other church members needed help getting down the stairs. Luckily this older member who needed help lives in the same apartment building so we just went up to the 9th floor of this building and helped her down the rest of the way. It was a slow process but I was glad that we got the opportunity to help her. 
On Sunday we had a slow start to our church services. At the time when we were supposed to start there were only 3 members in their seats. It’s a little bit difficult to enthusiastically say "Hello brothers and sisters, we welcome you all to our sacrament meeting"  when there are very few people staring back at you. But it’s okay :) I am just very glad that we had those 3 because they are some of the nicest ones I know. I am glad that they had the strength and faith to come to church here.  By the end of the opening hymn we had around 18 people seated and that was nice to see.  Now if only people would come on time or even early!  That would surely be a miracle. 

I got the chance to give a lesson in priesthood about faith and we did an object lesson. I put a Soviet Union coin in my big fluffy hat and asked someone to come up and tell the rest of the people what he saw in the hat. That guy was the prophet. Then we had people say whether or not they believed him.  Then I told the class that this guys is only 14 years old, he doesn't know what a soviet union coin looks like. At the end we showed that there was a coin in the hat and we talked about faith and how we choose to show our faith. We don't just expect faith to appear one day, we need to act on what we hear from the prophets and apostles and pray to know the truth. Then we read the talk from the last conference about the Openshaw family by Neil L. Andersen. I think it turned out alright :) I am grateful for all of our church members. They show so much love and faith by coming to church often. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for them, but they consistently come and I am very inspired by their example to me. 
I am grateful for your letters :) Thank you very much for you constant love and care. I know it seems like a small thing and you are probably thinking "Of course, why wouldn't I write you a letter each week?" but it is very much appreciated and I love you.

This week was a good week, we worked with one of our members to help improve his house. He lives out in the woods and is a really simple guy. He loves the trees and nature and we spent some time out at his house doing some work. I am grateful for hard physical labor. It is always nice to get outside and move some heavy logs and stuff and use your brain. There is no substitute for picking up a big heavy log and pulling it a hundred feet or so. It feels pretty manly haha. We don't often get to do that so I am grateful for that experience. We also got to meet with some of our less-active church members. Spending time with them and learning about them is truly wonderful. Each person we see on the streets has a history of their own and feelings unique to them and it’s something special when a person will open up to you and you can help them see why living the way Jesus would like us to live is a good idea. I know that not only happiness, but real joy comes from living the commandments of God and helping others to do the same.
Right now in our Branch we are also trying to put together a branch history and send it in to the Church. I am not sure if you have ever seen one done before but there are lots of little pieces and they are all very cool. Maybe you could ask the bishop about it and you I am sure he would let you see the photos and read the stories from the Lakewood ward history from years past if you asked. I never even knew about it, but I am sure there are some really great memories written in them.

I love you all and hope you have a good week this week. I wish I had more time but Elder Siebach needs to get on. Maybe I can find some time after to write more, but if not just remember that I love you and miss you a lot!

Elder Gardner

When do you go to Korea again?
I leave for Korea in about 24 hours. We fly out tomorrow around noon and I can't wait. It’s crazy that this is the second to last Visa trip. I am bummed that Elder Riggs won't be there with us! He's always been with us and I am sure we will miss him a lot.

What is your favorite part of your Korea trip?
I mean I should say the temple. And of course every time that we are able to make it there in time for a session it is the best part of the trip.   However, out of all my trips there we have only made it to a session 2 or 3 times.  Don’t tell but one of the best things about our visa trips is all the junk food we get to eat. The Burger king, the McDonalds chocolate shakes, the Jamba Juice, the Baskin Robbins ice cream, the Dunkin Doughnuts. I’m just saying that it is possible that on my last Visa trip we hit all of those…in the span of less than a day... It was the holiday season, can you blame me?   J

When we met Elder Riggs he said the weirdest part of being home is having his own cell.  What do you think?
I can't even imagine having a phone that I won't have to share with someone else, let alone an iPhone.  That would be very weird.  We share an Alcatel 205D phone. It is very basic but it works.