Well hello again!
Feels like about a year ago that I wrote you, but about yesterday that I did at the same time. Time is starting to move here. Ok some business stuff first: I am doing pretty well temporally, especially with my recent discovery of hot pockets and chocolate milk in the vending machine in the basement. AND by the way thank you so much for the christmas package. I am embarassed that I got rambling and completely forgot to say anything about that. We made our room very festive, and thank you gma and gpa nielson for the treats. It has been greatly appreciated and utilized.
Ok so now for the week. I don't know where to begin or where to end. So much going on here. The Russian is slowly but surely coming. I can pray relatively well and we are beginning to feel more comfortable going into our lessons. We are very limited on what we can say, but everyone understands the language of the Spirit. That has been the first thing that I have learned this week. What power there is in simple testimony. We teach our poor investigators that have to endure a broken up message. However, we always close out or bear testimony at some point in the lesson. All we can say is "ya znayou schto..." (I know that...) about so many gospel principles but that's all we need. If that is all I can say, and I feel it for myself, in comes the Spirit to do the rest. What a lesson for my mission and the rest of my life. The ups and downs continued through the end of last week, sadly with a lot of the downs prevailing. It is interesting that I now realize how self inflicted they really were. As I said, I was having various thoughts and feelings which were very unwanted. All of this plus the stress of learning a very difficult language was not the best. All of this kind of came to a pinnacle on Sunday with a little bit of a breakdown. I do not break down, so as you can imagine it was a little rough. However, I am so grateful it was then because it needed to happen. We learned on Sunday about having faith in Christ rather than ourselves. I realized that my faith was completely misplaced to being in myself. Yes I did have faith in Christ, but not completely. Heavenly Father helped me realize this by letting me experience these downs over the course of those few days. I believe that is the refiner's fire. I have been ground down to the depths of humility in a way that is only good for me. I thought I was demonstrating faith in Christ by giving my all for Christ. I thought that pushing myself at a pace that I wanted to and trying to learn Russian at the fastest pace possible was giving my all for Christ. Although my motives were correct, it was completely a misplacement of my faith in myself. Rather, I must be giving my all TO Christ. It is not the language of Russian that I must learn to convert. It is the language of the Spirit. By placing my faith in Christ, I will do whatever He wants at the pace He wants and in the manner He wants. This is giving my all to Christ, not simply for Christ. The way I can do this is learning to take upon myself that character of Christ which Elder Bednar spoke on. What a blessing that talk was that will now influence the rest of my mission as well as my life. That character of Christ is simply overflowing in charity and humility. If I am to in essence represent the Savior to the people of Russia, it only seems appropriate that I love them in the humble manner which the Savior does in the manner which the Father directs. Simply coming to this realization does not mean in the least that I am good at it, but rather has become the aim of my preparation to serve. What a blessing those last few days have been.
Now the happy part. Since having this divine chastisement, I have been happy. I have more energy the last two days. I have a reason and a source of help to learn Russian. And the key to that has been this recognition of how much I need my Heavenly Father and my Savior in my life. I hope that stays. I started to write each night 10 things I am grateful for as my new year's resolution. What a contribution to my happiness this makes. As we begin to recognize God's hand in our lives it truly does make us happier. This causes and allows us to turn outward as Elder Bednar taught.
Well, not too much stuff in the way of the actual course of the day is very noteworthy. Pretty much days full of class, Russian, and more Russian. It is all good in this hood. Oh and by the way I got a hymn book from that elder that I had told you about. Kinda funny that he got it for me and had it passed down since August to me. It was super nice to get and I will definitely thank him when I get a chance. I love the hymns. Singing in Russian is also a joy. Each Friday night all of the Russian elders gather for the 15 minutes we have between class and the time we have to be in our room, and sing a few hymns in Russian together. What a blessing that music is. It is extra special to sing in Russian. That is definitely one of my favorite things of the MTC. Sounds like you guys get some updates from our secret spies in the ward down here. I feel like I have some underground network that I'm able to get secret messages to you guys. It is so refreshing to see people you know, just adding to the happiness. What a blessing I have to participate in this work. I feel that Heavenly Father is beginning to shape me into the missionary that I should be. Not the one I would like to be or think would be good but rather the one he wants me to be. What a blessing I have to teach in the Russian language. It adds meaning to my testimony, however simple it may be, to bear it in another language. I hope all is well at home and the Spirit continues to be there. I love you guys and think about you often.