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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

SEPTEMBER 12, 2012 (email to family)
No more speaking in Spanish for me. Its getting really confusing when i try to throw in Spanish words like pero or tambien to fill the awkward silence...But my Russian is getting better! I can officially make sentences when writing but not speaking. You have to conjugate the verbs and the nouns and the prepositions, etc meaning when i got a colored case chart it was pretty much like Christmas. Now to laminate it and stick it on my key chain so everyone can tell who the crazy Russian speaking missionaries are! I love it. This week we had a lesson on setting goals, planning etc so I decided to be really ambitious and have the First Vision memorized by Sept 29th, a month in the MTC. Then that afternoon our second teacher came in and challenged us to have it memorized by this Saturday! For those who don't know, its like a whole paragraph so that on top of all of the other stuff we are supposed to learn and do, we are seriously trying to learn it while waiting in line for lunch or while working out at the gym...Its kind of intense but I can do it!

Oh and a quick run down of my schedule if that helps anyone picture my day. I’m up at 6:30 to get ready, breakfast at 7:10, and then usually class at 7:40. Sometimes that changes if we have gym first or service, which means mopping staircases! Honestly, I've never enjoyed mopping so much as a break from class. Our classes are 3 hours long and we also have one hour of "personal study" from the scriptures. Lunch is at 11:45 and then depending on the day, we have language study for an hour, TALL lab for an hour, which is kind of like Rosetta Stone but with really fast Russian speakers where i have to listen to sentences probably 20 times before i can do it.  In the afternoon or at night we have another 3 hour class. And in class its either Russian or teaching us how to be good missionaries, i enjoy those lessons, like goal setting because they are in English! Sundays are nice breaks because its church and we have breaks in the day to go sit outside the temple...and do Russian grammar. I make it sound hard but it really is awesome. To think two weeks ago i just knew a few words! Although my charades and pictionary really are getting better, I challenge anyone when i get home!

Sister Christensen and i are teaching two new investigators this week, one is a super well-read religious man who before we said anything started asking questions about the Book of Mormon, and the other is a Muslim who wants to know more about Christ but doesn't believe he is the Savior. Both of these "investigators" are our teachers which is embarrassing knowing they know how bad we really are in real conversations but I know its the only way to grow and I really do learn a lot each time!

Last night, being Sept 11, Elder and Sister Carlson spoke to us. He was a general in the Pentagon on Sept 11 so it was awesome to hear their perspective of faith. During times of crisis, praying and reading scriptures makes all the difference. Another lady also talked about how tribulations lead to patience, which leads to hope and faith in Christ. Good point I thought. I also got to watch a replay of "Missions are Forever" by Elder Holland which was soooo good. It makes me want to work hard, all day every day! I know my mission will change my life for the better and am so glad I'm here! 

I love you all!!
Sister Allison
Amber's district in front of Provo Temple.
The sisters in Amber's district in their classroom.

With her companion Sister Christensen

SEPTEMBER 5, 2012 (email home)
Ok here's a rundown of the first week. After I was dropped off my "host" sister walked me through all the newbie stuff, getting my nametag etc (which is awesome in Russian!) Then it was literally straight to class for 3 hours or so. We practiced the alphabet, which it did help me not be as overwhelmed the first day to have the jist of it before. At this point, I'm not sure if Rosetta Stone helped much but I do know words that not everyone else knows, like cafe and museum haha.  Thursday was another full of class, all in Russian, except a one hour workshop with all the new missionaries about our purpose of bringing people to Christ. Our teacher told us at this point that we would be teaching an investigator the next day, which we all were expecting but it didn't make the surprise any easier to take! That night we met our branch presidency, the branch pres. President Cranny was a mission president in Russia so its fun to hear their stories. And of course means we sing and pray in Russian... You can imagine. My companions name is Sister Christensen and she's so sweet! She's super obedient and always pushes me to be better and try harder. I was called to be the senior companion, which says nothing about me but it did surprise me a little because I feel like I have so much to learn from her!!

All of the missionaries learning Russian in the MTC are like groupies. We travel in packs and always eat together so its been an easy adjustment to fit in. In my district there are 5 sisters and 4 elders and I feel like half of the Russian speakers are sisters so whenever we have group meetings I always forget how many more elders there at the MTC! The schedule here isn't super hard to stick to. To all who were concerned, which was probably just me, I have plenty of time to get ready in the morning, at night, and after gym haha. But there are 6 showers and 8 bathroom stalls which seems a little backwards to me, just saying! The first few nights, I didn't get much sleep at all. My brain seriously felt like it was in finals weeks, were you have so much info going through your brain, it seems like you cant turn it off. I woke up i few times and the first things that came to mind were Russian phrases. By Saturday I was so tired, and I finally got some sleep and had my first dream/nightmare. It involved me coming to the MTC to learn Russian in the morning and Mandarin Chinese in the afternoon. I felt like Shia LeBouf in transformers 2 with all the symbols running through my brain. Sunday was much needed rest, involving church in English!!! Mission conference, a meeting with the whole MTC was super uplifting, and I feel like the overall theme that I've needed this past week is that Heavenly Father doesnt want me to fail. As hard as the language is, I know He loves the Russian people and wants them to come unto Christ and will help me as I try my best to be able to convey this message to them!

A little about our invetigator, who is really just a teacher here. When i say we had a lesson, we taught him more through charades, overdramatic gestures, and drawings than Russian but it got the job done! Our first one went ok and the second one was awesome. We really didn't understand everything he was asking or what we were saying but we knew how to testify of the things that we know so the Spirit was there. The third one on Monday was so much harder! We vaguely knew questions he had, but for the life of Sister Christensen and I, our Russian was limited we couldnt figure out how to answer. It was super heartbreaking knowing that someone with a real desire to know the truth who had questions to be answered and yet we felt so helpless. Needless to say, it was at this point that I broke haha.  At least I waited a few days into right! I reassured the elders in my district that i cry when Im happy/sad/stressed etc so not to worry haha. Tuesday we taught him again and it went so much better as we stressed less about the language and more tried to understand his concerns and answer them. 

More than anything, since being here, I've grown so much and know more than ever that my Heavenly Father loves me and wants me to succeed. I know I'm in the right place and that Heavenly Father will use me, my faults and all, to bless the people of Russia.  I love getting up each morning to serve the Lord and know that if we try our hardest we will be blessed!

I love you all and miss you tons!!
Love Sister Allison

Sunday, September 2, 2012

And she's off. . . . .

Bryan and I dropped Amber off at the Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, August 29th.  She is now Sister Allison for the next 18 months.  As you can see she was happy and smiling.  What you don't see is all the tearful goodbyes which came the weeks before.  It was hard saying goodbye to all her work associates, friends, and especially family, but she is excited for what's to come.

The goodbye at the MTC was like a bandaid being yanked off.  It was so quick that I didn't have time to break down.  I was on the verge, so it's a good thing.  We will hear from her when she has a preparation day which will occur weekly, but I don't know yet which day.  Thanks to all of you who have influenced her for good over the years.  She's awesome and will be a great missionary!