Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Good Monday to you all!
We had a good week this week and it just continues to all roll on pretty well around here. It sounds like you all had a sweet trip down to California and things and sounds like you’re right back in the swing of things.
I wanted to first answer a couple questions from momma, just a few things about it out here. First, as far as Easter goes, we actually still haven't had it yet. I can't remember if I said that, but the Russian orthodox Easter is going to be on May 5. Kinda funny, they do the same with Christmas, I don't really get it. But, they love carrying their eggs around and give out their boiled eggs. The main thing would be that everyone you see on Easter says, "Christ is resurrected." They don't even say hi or anything and you could probably walk past the same person about 20 times, and they would say "Christ is resurrected" each time.  
I would say one thing that Russians love is to be dressed up and feel fancy. Walking around here, you would think that everyone was very well off by the way they dress, and nobody just walks around in sweats. Women are always in high heels- always. Anyways, they love to go to their little plays or operas or different shows and they just get decked out for that. There is definitely a difference. Then, when you are at the plays or the shows, they just love getting into it and things. And then when they really like something, they all clap so loud and then start clapping in unison. It's kinda strange but it cracks me up. They love that whole fancy arts feeling and getting dressed up for it- however there is not really programs to teach people music and things so either people are playing the piano on the big stage or singing, or they can't sing at all. But they love to sing, we sing at the beginning of Sunday School and at the end and always have some kind of hymn for everything, but they kinda struggle a lot to keep a tune. I don't know that was a bunch of random things.
One other funny thing is that they close everything with "in the name of Jesus Christ, amen." For example, if somebody makes an announcement or at the end of the branch business or anything, it is always closed that way even if there is nothing spiritual whatsoever said. It's pretty funny. It seems like I say that about 50 times at church every week. I can’t really pick out my favorite thing, I just love those little quirks that are different from things we do, there are a lot of them.
One hard thing here is just that religion is pictured as nothing but a patriotic symbol and a superstition. The Russian orthodox church has just become the "Russian church" and anything else is just a "sect" or it's the "American church". Everybody thinks that we are Catholics because they think that we are from America so we are Catholic. And then for any Middle Easterns here, they say "I am not Russian" when we ask if they have faith because that is their way of saying that they are Muslim.    There are about four common statements that you hear in every conversation with somebody: "God is one, faith is different" "Most important is that faith was in the soul" "Don't need it" and "I am Muslim, that is a sin to hear about Christ". I don't really know how to translate them, but they are the most broad statements that they make towards the fact that faith is something real and not just a claim to belong to a nationality or just some superstition that when things go bad I pray and it gets better. 
As for my companion, he's so great. Me and him are pretty much the same person, like identical. We both move at the same pace and have the same views on things and so it makes it super fun. He's kinda a Tanner Jensen. Of course, because we both work at the same speed and take control of everything that is our only down fall, but we get along super good and it's been super good to work with him. We'll be friends for the rest of my life.
Anyways, I'm running short on time, we have to do our office meetings today. But things are going good. We have the same investigators and Grandma Sher (Svetlana) is doing well and came to church yesterday. We will have a good week and I'll talk to you next week!
Elder Nielson

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