Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sunday in Sakhalin


This week on the island was a good one. We taught a lot of lessons and our investigators are progressing well. We had a few lessons planned with investigators and new members and they invited their friends to the lessons. We made some new friends this week and I am grateful for the chance that we have to teach people about the happy message of the gospel. I am so grateful now and I didn't realize how blessed I was earlier in my life that our family is so strong and together. It is something that not every person has in their life and I am so grateful that I have it. Thank you, Dad, for being a good father. Good fathers seem to be few and far between. 

That is so great that there are lots of changes happening in the lives of our loved ones. Change is definitely not always easy but its what we need I think. I can't imagine staying at the same point I am at right now and being happy with that. I hope I never stop changing, learning and growing. 

This Sunday we had a special Sunday. During sacrament meeting we had 2 people get up and speak to us about self-reliance and then our 2nd and 3rd hours of church were focused on starting the church's Self-Reliance program in the Sakhalin branch. It was fun learning about that kind of stuff. It seems like really useful knowledge and something that I will need in the very very near future:p 

I was sitting next to some Americans who live in the branch and translating for them. They work for Exxon. So their living situation is pretty sweet. The company Exxon pays for their living arrangments and electricity and basically everything they need to live except for food and clothing. The company really takes care of their Americans who work for them here in Russia. So they have a really really great thing going for them. These Americans don't really need to learn about Self-reliance, they already are rolling in the dough so we just chatted the whole time. We talked about jobs and life and what they do for a living and what I think I might want to do for a living. One man said the starting salary for someone coming into Exxon would be around 100k. I don't know if that's exactly right because that seems very high... but he would know better than I would!
I mentioned that I liked pottery but wasn't sure how to make a living and support a family off of pottery. They told me that I had a few options. I could get REALLY good at pottery and become the best at that in order to support my family. Or I could get another job that I maybe didn't like as much as pottery and use that to support my family, and do pottery on the side as a hobby. Or I could become a teacher and do that until I could figure out how to make a pottery business lucrative. Or I could keep my options open and try lots and lots of things my first years of college and see what else tickles my fancy as much as pottery. He said maybe I just like working with my hands and would be interested as well in welding or some other activity similar to pottery. I think I still want to keep my options open of course. I am a fan of lots of different things in life, I don't think I have found my niche yet. I think it will come though in college. 

I mentioned that I liked robotics and programming too, that I thought that was a cool area. I also told them how I was on the underwater robotics team in highschool and we did pretty good. He then started telling me about these underwater robots that they use on oil rigs 5,000 feet deep in the ocean. Now THAT sounds cool! Haha he also said that the robotics field is in need. They have such a long ways to go in that field and there is a lot to be discovered, but there just isn't a whole lot of interest in that field or there aren't enough people to work in that field so he recommended that I keep that as an option. I think that would be very cool. I could move back to Sakhalin at age 25 with my wife and be making big money and working on robots 5,000 feet deep. That isn't the worst idea I have ever heard. Of course there are a lot of dominoes that would have to fall into place to make it happen but I could see that being a real possibility. I don't know... I feel like I need to dream bigger though... That plan I laid out is just too simple, too easy. I can do better, but I don't know what I would do yet. 

Anyways, my high was probably getting to talk with the American guys about work and life. One of them told me that he really really wanted to be a doctor and that's what he tried to become, but it didn't work out. And he is now working for Exxon and wouldn't go back and change it if he had the choice. It's interesting seeing how their lives worked out, what dreams they had and how it all unfolded to get them to where they are today. When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up? My low was probably that we didn't get to go tracting as much as I would have liked to but that's not the biggest deal. We still found 2 new investigators.  

I haven't eaten anything super interesting recently but we are planning on having some dog... Wish us luck! 
I hope you have a great week and don't forget to learn something new:)

Elder Gardner

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sakhalin is Great

Hey there.  I am really enjoying Sakhalin! It is a great place, there weather is good and there are great members of the church. I am so glad to be here. The Branch President here reminds me of our Branch President in Irkutsk.  He is a really good guy!
I am not jealous of Cameron at all - I don't want to do summer school. It will be good though. I think back about the opportunities I had to study harder or do more things and I regret not doing more. I was kind of lazy and I wish I would have used my time more effectively.

That is great to hear about Austin and Mikal. Those pictures were very cute.
I believe that President and Sister Perkinson are coming to Sakhalin in a few weeks so I will hopefully get the package soon.

I like the topic of service and the program called "Justserve" that sounds pretty great. I had no idea that that it existed. I think there are some really great blessings hidden in service. I really hope we can all serve more each and every day. No matter if we are taking big or small steps, we need to be taking steps in the right direction every day :)
This week was a good week. We had a few lessons with our investigators and they are really great. One investigator named Elena is progressing really well. She asked us a bunch of questions about what rules we have at our church and what you need to do as a member. It hit me this week that she sees our church just as we see other churches. Let’s say that we see a protestant church or a catholic mass. We probably think... Hmm that's interesting I haven't seen that before. A thought I have had before at a protestant church "Oh that's interesting that everyone is standing up and speaking in tongues praying". But for those people, that is their form of worship. That is what they have grown up in, that is probably the only way they know to connect with God. Same thing with our church. When new people come to our church they probably think, why is everyone being so quiet? Why isn't anyone walking around the stage and speaking in a loud, powerful voice preaching to us? Why are they letting 13 year olds hand out the sacrament? Where are the guitars and drums? Where are the statues and crosses? It’s fun to notice the differences and try to see our church through other people’s eyes. Try it some time.

We also met with a few other people this week and they are all doing fine, nothing big is happening in their lives though. Some are trying to avoid the temptation to drink coffee, some are trying to figure out what they believe in. Some are battling to overcome their lack of faith and some are really doing great and they are feeling the happiness that comes from living the Gospel.
The Branch here has about 50 people coming every week which is one of the biggest branches in our mission. It is great to see how strong these members are and how dedicated they are to doing what is right. The members here so far seem to like me. I am replacing a Russian Elder that served here and I think they miss him. That's okay, I am feeling loved and and already having lots of opportunities to serve them.

Thank you for the support you give me, and I hope you have a great week :)

Elder Gardner

Monday, May 16, 2016

Transfered to Sakhalin

Hey there,

It was a bit odd to hear you all call me "Ryan" while we were skyping this past weekend! Haha its been quite a while since that's happened.   This last Visa trip was a good one. We got put on a later flight than half the other missionaries. We caught up with them later in the temple. The past few times I have been in the Temple I have grabbed a Bible and started reading. Each time I just randomly opened it up and each time the same page opened up and this same verse stuck out to me, it's in Isaiah chapter 57 verse 21. 
I flew out with the Sakhalin elders and some others. It was a good time getting to see them and spend time together. I got to Sakhalin on Friday night. Now I am on Sakhalin, it’s pretty great that I can be on an island. It isn't warm but it’s also not cold. It’s like a nice autumn day each and every day. I don't know a whole lot about the heritage of Sakhalin yet but hopefully I will learn a lot more. On Saturday early morning we got the chance to go do service with the branch. We went to a riverside, some river bank and cleaned it up. We picked up dead branches and garbage and raked up leaves and it looked really nice after we left. We got to wear helping hands vests and I felt pretty official. J

Another big plus is that our investigator came and helped up clean up. She is so wonderful, she is already fitting in to the branch and becoming a part of it.
I didn't know Austin was getting married. Is he still going to be living in Vegas doing magic? I haven't heard about him for a while. Speaking of the Brian and Jane family, our apartment smells like their house does... haha that's kinda random but I had that thought yesterday. It’s pretty crazy that everyone is growing up so fast! I can't wait to see them all again, I am worried that I won't recognize them all! Do you have a countdown clock going? It feels like the closer I am getting to the end, the faster time is moving and that's kinda scary haha. I don't want to miss these last few months. I have a lot to do and I am staying focused.

Turns out that Elder Hess has a girl that he likes and she is serving in the Tempe Arizona mission, so if you see any pretty sister missionaries in the ward you'll have to ask her if she knows Elder Hess!
This week was a good week and it was a lot of travelling and packing and getting organized. I had to leave a few cat shirts in Artyom sadly, I didn't have enough room in my suitcases. I also left some shorts and Elder Cluff's brown suit that I snagged a month ago. That's okay though, it wasn't the best quality still. It was a bit old.  :)

Elder Turner is a great Elder. He is still learning Russian, but so am I. I really don't think I will be finished studying it, ever... haha I want to keep going with the study of the Russian language when I get back home. It is such a rich language. I hear new words every day and I don't think I will ever get to the point where I will understand everything 100 percent haha. It's so great! That means I can always get better and that is great.

About your dream (Ryan’s dad had a dream that his father told him that Ryan’s mission is much harder than he lets on), that's very interesting. I personally very much believe in dreams and that they can be a way to recieve further light and knowledge that we each need. Grandpa Gardner is a pretty smart guy, in your dreams too he is spot on. I mean... yeah it's hard, but was there anything in life worth getting that didn't require hard work and sacrifice and a little bit of suffering?   Maybe not suffering... that sounds a bit too harsh but I don't know what other word to put in place of it. There is no growth in our comfort zones, and there is no comfort in a growth zone. I struggle but that's really the reason we came to this Earth. It doesn't mention in the scriptures anything about God's weekends or vacations he took. It talks about his work and his effort to help us and his constant care for his children. I am enjoying this whole mission, and I am so grateful every morning to be able to be a part of it.
I love you a lot and am grateful for all you do for me, even when it isn't noticed.


Elder Gardner

Monday, May 2, 2016

Love the Borsch

This week was a good week. We had a big meeting in Artyom on Thursday, it was a big District Meeting with all the cities driving in for it. Nakhodka, Vlad, Ussurisk all came down. This time I didn't have to do anything, I was grateful. We spent a long time before the meeting cleaning the branch. Scrubbing the walls, washing dishes, beating the carpets out. It has been a long time since the branch had a good scrub down. It looked really good though after we were done with it. Our job was to be good hosts, we ordered pizza for dinner after the meeting and had enough juice to drink. Pretty simple:)

Our branch was great this week we had 15 people show up and after 2nd hour we had a big dinner all together. We had rolls and Easter cake and choco-chip cookies and the sister missionaries bought juice and another member named Katya made borsch. It was a really great dinner:) I enjoyed it. Now we know how to make borsch and can make it for you when I get back. I would recommend borsch for the missionaries when you feed them this week - I am sure they would love it :)  
The people at the homeless shelter didn't particularly ask for anyone to play the guitar, they just said that they had one if we wanted and I really wanted to play on it haha. It wasn't super great but I am trying to be a wise and profitable servant and not bury my talents in the ground.

And about the winter gear, I will be sure to bring it home. It is all in good shape still. And besides they hold all my winter memories. I haven't decided how I will get it home yet, but I will figure it out:)
Can't wait to get the mail! Especially that birthday package :) Thank you so much for sending it! I can't believe that I am going to be 20 years old soon. I feel like I am still 15 years old. I still look the same anyways haha.

The internet in Artyom went out today and there aren't any internet cafes in Artyom so we came into Vlad today to write home. I really have no time to write this week, hope you have a great week!
I love you so much. Can't wait to skype next week!

Elder Gardner