Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Russian laws are a changin...

Hey there,
You’re probably on the road right now. Maybe you’ve already made it to Cali. Tell Kreston hi for me! And if his team wins then I will buy him a big glass of that Russian soda! I am so jealous that you are having such great adventures in California. It seems like you are really enjoying having us gone. It's probably a lot easier to travel now that you only have one kid to haul around with you. Pretty soon it will be just you and Mom and you can have some really crazy adventures.
Zone Conference

Happy Ryan

Teaching the zone at Ryan's last zone conference
The new Russia law is pretty hot news here as well. We haven't received any big reports from Moscow yet. Moscow is the center of the Church in Russia so that's where we get all our important updates from. So at first we thought that the law would ban all religious activities outside the church building. We now know that it only says we can't preach to people of different faiths outside the church building. So that's nice. That still means we can visit members in their homes and have family home evenings. We however won't be able to find in the conventional way. We can still live here as foreigners (they aren't kicking us out), we can still go to church, our members can still do all of their church responsibilities such as home-teaching and so forth. I really am not worried about this law and in a way I am happy that this is happening. When we have gone out on the streets to talk with people about the Church, or when we have gone tracting, I have felt like it isn't the most effective way to work. I feel like it is a bit awkward and not exactly how the Russian people respond best. They aren't super open to chatting with complete strangers on the streets. That's understandable. I would feel weird if two foreigners in white shirts and ties tried talking to me about God haha.


I am sure there is a better way to work, and I think this law is helping us to expand our horizons. I feel a bit as if we are stuck in old habits and bad routines of street contacting 24/7. It is a lot more effective getting to know the people and then easing the conversation towards the Gospel. There is a saying that is very applicable. "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." That is a great truth and I think we will be moving towards that style of work soon. Maybe we will play basketball with guys on the street and from there build up a relationship before inviting them to Church to know more. Or maybe we will do something completely different to meet people before inviting them to learn more at the church. I have no idea what the plan of attack will be, but I have full trust and confidence in our leaders. I am very sad actually that I don't get to be a part of this phase of the work. I wish I could stay.

The members were worrying quite a bit that this would be the end of the church in Russia and that the end of the world was soon too. Haha I think they overreacted a little bit. They were worried that they would pull all volunteers out of Russia and then the church would fall apart. Now that they understand the law better they are starting to be more optimistic. They are still worried about the state of the country and they are worried about the other parts of the law more than the volunteer work. That is the feeling I was getting. They are worried about the data privacy that they are losing and they are also worried about the inability to share the gospel. They won't be allowed to even mention in passing to other people that they are part of a church. That will be against the law now. I am saddened but I know that the Russian soul is unconquerable and our members are very resilient if they choose to be so.
My companion is good! We are eating a lot of veggies and its super great.  We didn't do anything special for the 4th of July. The Jones family invited us over for some food but we decided to wait and have an extra special dinner on the 24th in honor of Pioneer Day. The American families here are so great! They really help us to feel at home even though some of us are about 6000 miles from home.

Our lessons were good this week, although they could have been better. It turns out we didn't teach the lesson about the Apostasy and Restoration well enough. We mentioned to one of our investigators that in the temples you can do baptism for the dead and she said "Oh that's so wonderful. But I don't need that. All the members of my family already got baptized so we are all set". Aww man, she was doing so well and accepting everything we taught. We thought she was understanding everything... I guess not :( She still loves meeting with us though so we have time to better explain the doctrines to her.
Overall it was a good week and I am glad that we have the chance to serve here in this wonderful country. I love Russia and the culture and the people. I hope you don't worry too much about me. All is well!

Thanks for the support each week! I love you
Elder Gardner

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