Good Morning to ya family!
Well it has been just another week of pounding the pavement here in good ol' Zavodskoy. I'll try to update you on what life is all about here in this neck of the woods. We are a little more settled in now and will not be doing quite the travelling that I would do when I was with the district leader as a companion, but nonetheless who knows what to expect in the good motherland of Russia. First, I will try to describe the pics sent last week. Isn't that fun? The one with the lady is Jamala that we had met in Taglyatti. I was there with those other two missionaries, Elder Glad and Elder Wiseman, while Elder Christensen was on a visa trip. Holy cow that was a solid two months ago probably now. Man I sure loved her she is the Uzbekistani version of Kim Jensen that I had described that we found a while back. Her little daughter there was so cute. She had six of them, that one being the youngest. Supposedly she still asks where Nielson is. :) She's awesome. The other pics were of course us at the mosque in the Kremlin back there in Kazan and then Elder Taylor and I with a couple of the members, Sasha and Oleg. They crack me up. And then I also believe I had sent the priesthood from up there in Kazan. Just to fill ya in on that.
As far as the new pad, it’s a pretty nice place. I'm not complaining for sure. The "neighborhood" is right across from the market, so I think we might have market day today. Fresh ties. Boo ya! The branch here is the coolest. They are so loving and it is more deep Russia then the melting pot of Kazan if you will. They have been so fun and it's been fun just getting to know all of them. They are so willing to help and are very endearing to the missionaries. Saratov is one of the strongest points of the church here in Russia. This is where they have hopes of building the next Stake up! There are about 50 that regularly come and probably 300 in the branch. But those that are strong, are as strong as anyone. A lot of them have been members for 10 to 15 years which is so awesome, and they understand how important it is to help out the missionaries. It's definitely not perfect, but man they sure make up for it. There is definitely some work to be done to build up the church that's for sure. It was a doozy of a week that we had. We spent a lot of time doing some good old finding. Gotta find to be able to teach! But holy cow we were so blessed. There were some pretty random people that came outta the woodwork that had met with missionaries about a year or more ago, that we are so excited to meet with.
We meet a lot with a guy from Azerbaijan named Kacym. He cracks me up because he speaks a little English and it sounds like king Julian (Madagascar) to me. He is in the process of reading the Book of Mormon because he thinks that is what he needs to do to be baptized. He's a good guy. We also have family night tonight at Stas and Galina's house. They are a couple with a 12 year old daughter and they are the coolest. They have a couple friends who want to come, so we are going to go give the spiritual thought tonight at family night. I am going to send a picture of a couple that we met named Valentina and Vitali. They had met with missionaries and just wanna talk with us and drink some tea. (EVERYONE here drinks tea) They were funny, so we got a picture. We hope to just drop by every now and then to keep in contact with them and hopefully help them decide to think about the church. We also met the coolest lady also named Valentina. She works at the carbonated water stand on our way to the branch. We were talking to this guy and we could see her watching us. So we waved, and when the guy left we went over and talked to her. She gave us some soda and speaks English. She is so darn cool. She is like 65 and retired, but thinks it would be boring to just sit inside, so she works a little drink stand and likes to talk to people. She took a Book of Mormon and we say hi to her every day on the way to the branch. She will have some days off and wants to meet with us then! She's the coolest. We want to meet her husband too who works right now as a cook at the kid's camp. Ha they are the coolest sounding people. And she is seriously interested and so we are so excited.
We also had zone conference this week just in the center of the city. Holy cow I don't know if I've said much about my mission president. Man I love him and his wife so much. They just make ya feel so darn good. We had some good stuff that we learned and it is always a good boost to have. They then came and helped us (Elder Cowley and I) on a lesson on Saturday! Man they are so good to have. They also got to meet Valentina which was cool. It made us feel like champs to do some translating for them and to translate the lesson we had. It was good to feel like you actually kinda do understand stuff, but man there is so much to go still that's for sure on the language. Well I believe that about does it for another week on the mission! Man it is so good to serve. We talked a lot in zone conference about conversion. What a blessing it is to think that we are able to progress and become better thanks to the infinite sacrifice of the Atonement. Even better, we can make mistakes and receive forgiveness...and even after all this still be blessed with the chance to continue to get better every day. As my thoughts reflected on this, I was hit with a tender realization of how the Savior has done this with me personally. What a blessing it is to realize that we can be at the lowest of times and grow to become a converted, and new person through the Atonement. Only our Savior knows us personally and can help us in our own unique problems and challenges to grow into that which He sees in us. Man I love you guys and hope all continues to be good. I am glad to hear that all is good and pray for you! Love you!