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Saturday, January 19, 2013

email to family January 13, 2013

Yesterday was Russia's  Old New Year, which seems like an oxymoron but its from the old calendar. Definitely not as big as New Years, but there were some random fireworks and an interesting bus ride home at night. But we lucked out enough to have a lesson planned at a members and her mom was cooking for the holiday. So we had the most delicious things I've ever tasted. It was basically delicious beef and onions wrapped halfway in dough and fried so like a scone but the dough was so good and unfortunately like all things delcious, she doesnt measure anything so I have no hope of replicating. But I've also kinda learned blenie, which is basically crepes. I'm determined to be able to learn how to make a few Russian dishes and then I can celebrate Russian Orthodox Christmas and Old New Year with Russian food for the rest of my life. Who wouldn't want a longer holiday season? 

With our new goal of teaching "other lessons", we have been meeting more with less active and active members. I definitely think its good for my language but it does feel a little strange to not be on the street as much. I see why President wants us to do it though...We literally cant be outside for more than 45 minutes or so and people don't really want to stop and talk and I don't blame them! so during our training a few weeks ago President talked about how we need to become better teachers so we know how to teach when we have investigators. We counted up the ladies in the branch who we at least have contact with and there are 25 or so less active women that have at least been nice to us. So we are determined to build up the Relief Society, which would make a huge difference and help when we brought investigators to church etc. And the members are awesome at helping! Saturday was Missionary Saturday again, so Sis Huber and I went with our 1st Counselor/ward mission leader to go visit a 14 yr old girl who got baptized in Spring. (Intro to Russian apts, most apts have codes on the door to the stairwell, like gated communites where you call people and they let you in. The one I live in has 10 metal buttons that you press the right ones to let you in, so no phone. And then you have missionaries' least favorite, doors that just use keys. And this girl lives in one of these, so we always stop by and then cant do anything.) So same story Sat. and Sis huber and I kind of look at each other like "now what" but Bro Victor was already going around knocking on peoples windows til someone answered and he asked them to open. Sounds super simple and we had joked about doing it but leave it to the Russian to get it done. I know, we're such girls. Anyway we finally met her, and then she came to church Sunday and we are going to a members to have an FHE with her tonight. Hopefully we can help her and if anything we are 2 girls closer to her age than any of the other members. 

We have also been visiting a lady from English Club who is super nice and we are kind of going to start practicing the lessons with her. She super believes in God and that he has a plan for her, and when she gets baptized she'll have an awesome story about how she was led to english practice/church after looking for it and running into elders on the street, we just need to help her realize that just cuz we are young we can help her. So any advice on teaching someone who thinks she is teaching us I'm open to it. Really being missionary is so much more than teaching the lessons (although thats the only place to start Dad!) I meet so many nice people every day and wish they could understand how much better their lives could be. I think I'm learning more and more how much this gospel has blessed my life and how I literally would be nowhere without my testimony. Every single thing we teach makes people so much happier if they understand and embrace it. And then I look at myself and realize I could learn just as from myself if I would embrace stuff. I know that following God's will is literally the easiest and happiest way we can live life! And he wants us to be happy! Missions are awesome and I'm learning so much more about myself and the gospel than I even thought I could learn. I love you all and hang in there during the cold Utah and AZ winters:)

Sister Allison 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ice Sculptures in Khabarovsk. 

Pizza on New Year's Eve!

email received Jan. 6, 2013

Today is Christmas in Russia! I'm definitely celbrating 2 Christmases forever. It will be my excuse for another holiday like 3 Kings Day:) At 11, we went to a kids activity at the church where theyhad the Russian version of Santa Claus and his grandaughter. There were 3 kids there so small but they had fun. There was 1 friend of a member who brought her daughter and she said she would come to English Club so maybe something good will come of it. Thats probably the biggest thing we have to do with a lot of people is build a relationship with people, through activities and english club. People here are super wary so in time I like to think a lof of the people we know here will get it and be awesome members.

New Years was rather uneventful. We heard fireworks, I finished the Book of Mormon!, we set goals about how to have the Spirit in our companionship more, made delicious pizza, and ate way too much candy, and even bought a pint of baskin robbins cookies and cream! Unfortunately i didnt eat much ice cream and the next day we gave it to our elders b/c we are going off suger at our house. We decided its ok with others cuz so many offer you tea and cookies but we would get rid of stuff at our place. New Years day we just handed out a bunch of english club cards. and i only know when someone is drunk when they smell like it, so it took me awhile to figure out why everyone was so happy and receptive...So maybe i am a little sheltered...So ya it wasnt a very productive day for us but maybe someone will find the card in their purse later:) 

The next day, we had district meeting and Elder  hutchings had just gotten back from zone leader council in Vlad, which Sis Brinton called War Council. Awesome I know. We set goals about each companionship getting 1 more person back each week to try and build our sac meeting attendance from 13 (including 6 missionaries) to 25 by the end of Jan. We had a Break-the Fast after church and from calling the entire list of women, had 2 less actives come! Success! We had 21 in sac too. What!! Haha we are going to start having weekly activities and I feel a little singles wardish but whatever works. We were able to find 2 more less actives this week and meet them so slowly but surely we'll get there!

Oh and story of the week. Mom, you asked about my red face. So that night after talking to you, my nose turned white at a bus stop. Like not pale but i guess like it looked like i had cream on it. So the member we were with got mad at me and made me cover my face. Then later, a less active's mom asked what kind of lotion i used and explained that moisterizer is the worst thing i can do here cuz the wind takes all the moisture out of your skin and then it can freeze on your face or something. So i bought new "protectant" lotion. Maybe it will help. Anyway, its a funny story to me. 

Hope you all are doing well!

A guy playing the accordion on the street at -19C degrees

Christmas dinner with the Khabarovsk district
Photos received in email Dec. 30, 2012
email received Dec. 30, 2012

Hello family!

I hope you all are enjoying the rest of the Christmas season and happy new years!! Tonight we have to be in by 6 and we can stay up til 12. We realized though that a 2nd story apartment is a little rough to see fireworks but we'll make food and eat candy or something:) Speaking of eating, last night, we were visiting a less active teenager and her mom fed us as soon as we came in. She heated up leftovers and then brought out sala, which I learned is literally pieces of fat that Russian eat, cold. So she cut it like you would cheese, and she gave us spicy mustardy sauce and then you just chew and try to swallow. I mean i guess bacon is sometimes basically the same concept but at least that is fat with meat and not meat with fat. Think about that while eating your leftover Christmas cookies with delicious frosting! 

This week has been super busy. Tuesday was Christmas where we were at the Church eating chicken, which was cut with a spoon since our Church is sadly lacking utensils, and funeral potatoes and cookies. We made wassail too which is like cider. We watched the First Presidency Christmas devotional and then had a district meeting. That night we made cookies for our neighbors! Some didn't open their doors and said it wasn't needed, I don't think they understood what we were doing. But we did meet some super awesome people so it was fun and Christmasy. Then Wednesday I got to talk to all of you!!!!  That night we had a meeting with a former who has had 2 previous baptismal dates and taught lesson 3 and at the end I extended the baptismal committment! Definitely was as scary as a thought it would be. She said she wanted too but not right now. The member we had with us was super awesome and testifed but then we starting talking about church etc so we never could really bring it back to setting a date to prepare for but in all we were happy with her questions and participation and sincerity. 

Thursday we got up at 5:30 to catch a flight to Vlad. I ate my first Russian pizza in the airport, meaning ketchup and mayo instead of tomato sauce but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Then after waiting in vlad for a while everyone for ussurisk came which meant sister Christensen!! We rode back, just me and her while everyone else went to Korea. It was definitely a tender mercy to see her again. We had the whole ride back, like 90 minutes  with our mission driver, to talk and while of course I would be super happy if she was fluent and had 10 new members, it was at least reassuring to know we were in the same boat. So it was funnyy to see how similar our experiences have been so far. The biggest difference though is my trainer has been here a year and hers is on her 4th or 5th transfer. So i feel super blessed to have Sister Huber both for her missionary skills and her Russian:) In ussurisk, we passed out a bunch of English Club cards then, helped a new member write a talk, which basically means bring True to the Faith in Russian and then provide moral support and she wrote her talk. The next morning after studying, we took a bus back to Vlad and then waited in the airport a while til our missionaries landed and we went our separate ways. Really we didn't do anything too exciting and it was only like 24 hours together but it was definitely needed. 

Then Saturday, the Brintons were here with their daughter and son-in-law and we had a 3 hour training. We had pizza (with tomato sauce) for lunch and after we finished eating, the elders let us know one of them was cow tongue. I hadn't tried that one just because, but I think Sister Brinton was shocked.. for training we focused on finding and teaching, and the biggest things I think we need to take from it is how to make English Club more effective as well as finding through less actives. Sunday we heard from the Brintons, our APs were there too, and Sis Brinton played an awesome piano number!! It was a little overwhelming having them talk us up about how awesome they want us to be, the branch to be etc. Which makes me sound like a baby haha but we're excited for the new year to get the work going. The field is white!! Literally! Love you all and happy new year!!

Sister Allison
Check out the icicles on Sis. Huber's eyelashes.  Only happens when it's humid.

Christmas Party with English Club

All the doors are frozen this time of year.

The Relief Society Pres. with her Christmas centerpiece!
These photos were received in an email Dec. 23, 2012
email received Dec. 23, 2012

You know how you say once its over 110, you cant feel a difference. I tried telling myself that about the cold, I think my nose can tell a difference though...

 email received Dec. 16, 2012

Hello family!

As for the week, it has been another good one! I had my first "first lesson" haha with a girl who met with missionaries about a year ago and the lesson started with her asking about the end of the world. Is that something people are concerned about in the US? But eventually we were able to get it back on the right track. We pray that she actually wants to know truth and isn't just curious about asking random questions about energy and stuff like that. We are continuing to teach the 9 yr old. And when we came back the time after singing "once there was a snowman" she had it all memorized! So we promised to find another fun one for her. Some of the songs dont work quite as well with the translations but we figured we can just make up hand motions and she wont know the difference. 

On Saturday, the branch had Missionary Saturday where all the members were supposed to show up at 4 and help us visit less-actives and talk to people in the streets. Well...President and his wife were there. After he had cleaned the whole building, which I'm pretty sure he does every week. 2 of our elders weren't going to come if there werent enough elders so they didnt have to use time going to the church but he called them to come and 6 missionaries and the president and his wife opened with a song and prayer and spiritual thought. At first, i smiled to think we had some one conducting music and everything but then I realized how much this man was magnifying his calling. He pointed out that while there werent many members, it was still a special day because it was "misssionary saturday" and we should treat it as such when we were talking to people. Basically, he's awesome. Later, Sis C showed up to help us teach a less active but when she didnt show up, Sis C was game to go contacting with us! In super cold weather. And it totally went better than when its just Sis Huber and I. She can be your typical bold, firery Russian and we testify about how our message was NEEDED! It was so fun! Im not sure we could have her do it again soon since her feet were frozed by the end but thats ok. Someone at English Club told me it would start getting cold this week. I'm not sure what they call what its been...

I think thats about all but know that I love you all! And while there isn't much of an all-around Christmas Spirit here (its the music they're missing out on, seriously) I know we celebrate Christs birth and that by focusing on that, we will be so much happier! I'm so grateful for all of you and to know that Christ is my Savior and the Savior to all who don't even realize it. Love you all! (Talk to you next week, noon my time!)

Sister Allison

email received Dec. 2, 2012

Hello all!

Well, I'm still alive! The flight was ridiculously long and by the
time we got to the Brintons we all just wanted to crash. The next day
we had a women's conference so all 12 of the sisters from the mission
were there. It was lots of fun to get to know everyone, and it was in
English!  Anyway, that night after some meetings with President and 
our trainers, we went out and contacted on
the street for an hour or so. English Club is pretty big here so
usually we just start out talking to people about that.

Friday morning we got up at 4:45 to catch a flight to Khabarovsk. The
airport is super small but nice, it reminds me of the airport in
Cusco. On the plane I sat next to a man who lives in Khab. and while
he wasn't interested in the Church he did tell me about the city and
we got to know each other, he was super nice! And I found out that
after the new year, they do ice sculptures here which are really neat.
And we're only a few miles from the Chinese border so apparently a lot
of people come over to see. Right now, there is much snow on the
ground but its still so cold and windy. When we got in, the taxi
driver said it was -19. Im not sure if thats F or C but either way.
Also, because of the price of luggage on Russian airlines, I could
only take one suitcase of 44 lbs. Luckily the Brintons were coming up
the next day to bring some of my heavy stuff in their carry ons but I
definitely feel like I'm living off of basic necessities. I left my
flats and wool coat in Vlad b/c they said I would only need boots
(which I bought) and my huge Michelin man coat. Its true. When we were
walking around Friday I realized that it is possible for your head to
be cold through your hat and down into the insides of my ears! Its
such a weird feeling!

Sister Huber is also new to the area so we don't have any investigators 
but we were able to meet the members yesterday.  There were probably 12 
people at church and I played the piano so I felt like I contributed a little. 
A lot of them speak really good English so the lady sitting next to me 
basically translated testimony meeting haha. Last night, we
visited with the RS president which was quite the adventure, because
we are both new to the area we kept taking wrong turns and didn't have
her number so we were half an hour late. Interesting fact about
Russia, they dont care how the outside of the buildings look so it
looks super ghetto and then you get in and realize the apt is super
nice. We don't have much in our apt since we are new to the area but
Sis Brinton is helping us. When we were shopping for beds, nowhere
carries 2. Its basically what they have on the floor and cups and
everything come in 3s. You can imagine the surprise when they find out
how big our family is! While we don't have much to work with right
now, Sister Huber and I are excited about working hard, getting to
know the members, and helping them however we can. And of course lots
of finding people! The city is huge so its just a matter of talking to
people! Its awesome to finally be in Russia and talking to the Russian
people! Everyone has been super nice so far and I wouldn't want to be
anywhere else. I love being on a mission and hope you all are doing
well! Love you!

Sister Allison
email received Nov. 14, 2012

Hello all!

Another week down and another week closer to Russia! This week we sent off all the missionaries going to moscow and Ukraine which means two of my good friends Sister Snell and Sister Pharris. It's sad to see them go but more exciting to think they are actually in the field and will be teaching real Russians today or tomorrow! We got up early to see them off tuesday, which meant for a long day from lack of sleep but it was fun.

This week we had the chance to meet two of our Senior Couples going to Vlad. We ran into the Walkers in the cafeteria, and we've been trying our whole time to meet any of them going to our mission. They came up to our class later and we pulled all 10 or so missionaries going to Vlad from the other districts and they talked to us for a few minutes. They said they would be CES missionaries traveling to all of the cities setting up Youth After Hour programs or something. I guess they have them in Europe, a place after institute where YSAs can hang out, do homework, etc They were so energetic and enthusiastic, and said they've been skyping with the Brintons, and were just so excited to serve with us and take care of us!

Last Friday was In-Field Orientation. While we're not leaving they had us to all the departure activities to stay on schedule. It was a little anti-climatic knowing we were actually going to be on a plane soon like they kept saying but it was a good reminder and good tips on working with members and tips like that. Then Sunday we had our last combined District Meeting with the other district in our zone where they went over different white-handbook rules about not being able to pick up children(sad:( but i guess legal stuff makes sense). Sister Esplin of the Primary Presidency came to Relief Society, and tender mercy of the Lord, she talked all about her recent trip to Russia! She went to St. Petersburg and Yekaturinburg and road the train with member to the temple in Kiev. So she experienced a lot of Russia and met a lot of members and said they are all converts and cant wait to share their conversion story with you. She talked about how her driver told her people would think she was crazy because she smiled so much but she said, its ok if they think that, I'm gonna smile anyway! So that's happening. Later Sunday night, we had our departure devotional with the presidency of the MTC and they had people stand up when they called your country or state. Because all the Russians come in every 6 weeks there were 3 whole rows of us and everyone was shocked. Gotta love it! 

We have also met the Knigards (not sure how to spell that) another couple going to our mission. They aren't actually missionaries yet but they come for a week of language training and leave in dec. So if i'm worried about my Russian I just need to remember some people go with a lot less than me. Last night, Elder Foster spoke at our devotional and talked about John Tanner who donated a bunch of money to the church in its early days. It was an awesome story of faith and living a consecrated life. He also gave us the tip to pray every night like its our last night as a missionary and he promised that would help us not waste any time as missionaries and would improve our selves every day. Which I think is good advice for life in general. As you all know, I tend to procrastinate occasionally...But I know through the Atonement of Christ we can be better with His help than we can be on our own and accomplish more than we can on our own. I'm so grateful to be at the MTC right now and to be blessed with an awesome family! I love you all! And happy thanksgiving prep!

Sister Allison

email received Nov. 28, 2012

Hello mother and father! 
Just a quick email to let you know I made it in safely.  The flight was super 
long but the airport in Vlad was surprisingly easy to navigate. The Brintons 
were right there to greet us, take us to the mission office, go over logistics 
and then to the mission home for a delicious meal by Sister Brinton! My new 
companion will be Sister Huber! And we will be serving in Khabarask. I made that 
spelling up but its an hour and a half flight north of Vlad on the Chinese 
Border. We have a Sisters Conference tomorrow with all the sisters in the 
mission where we meet our comps and then off to khabarask friday morning, where 
we will both be new to the area! I'm super tired but soooo excited to be here 
and get to work! I love you both!
Sister Allison
email received Nov. 21, 2012

We officially have our flight plans! We aren't leaving the MTC til 1:30 on monday then our flight leaves slc at 5:30 i think and then we have a 5 hour layover in lax. so as far as calling im not sure when it would be better for everyone. maybe i'll try in slc and then if i need to call back we see. If you have preference I should get dear elder on friday but after that its RUssia here i come!! I cant explain how excited i am! And thanks for all the well wishes everyone! I'll respond to emails in a letter but I don't have much time on here. 

Some quick stories from the week. Because our class schedule is kinda crazy they have let us help prep for the Thanks giving day service project which will be putting together kits for people in Mali or some other African country, Crystal can probably spell it. Its been nice to do something that I feel like I can accomplish so its been super fun and I'm excited for Thanksgiving here, and possibly an apostle:) 

Yesterday morning we got to skype with a member in moscow so we prepared a short little ten minute lesson and it was so fun! Her name was katya and she was a college student who had been a member for 3 years. I love hearing everyone's conversion stories and I'm so excited to meet these people that I love so much. While doing service President McIff told us more of the background story to the church in RUssia. I guess after the Soviet Union broke up there were problems again about getting representation in Russia and not just the former soviet countries like Ukraine. So yearly or something, all of the christian leaders across the world get together to discuss issues and that year everyone wanted to know about Russia. And the Russian that was there basically said, right now there is nothing you can do unless you are like the LDS church and got grandfathered in. Apparently the church had spent lots of time and money trying to figure this out and we didn't even realize we were good to go until this guy said we were just grandfathered in because of how we filled out the original paperwork. Coincidence, i think not. The Lord seriously does know what He doing, even when we don't know why. 

Last thought and then I have to go, on Sunday we watched a talk from the 2009 GC, i forget his name but you all should watch it haha. but he talked about how he served in finland and they prayed for Russian to be opened so they could take the gospel to his mission president's wifes home. and then his son got called to st petersburg and how missionaries today are answering prayers from long ago. I know the Lord works in his own time and that if we give ourselves to him he will use us as an instrument in his hands. I so grateful to be able to serve and love the Russian people and am grateful to all of you for being so supportive. my testimony is strengthened every day by your examples and i love you all so much! Happy thanksgiving! And eat seconds for me! Say hello to everyone else! Love you all!

Sister Allison
email received from Amber on Nov. 7, 2012

Hello family!

An update on the visa situation. Apparently we had visas, because we all signed them but the Church is trying to get us "preacher" visas instead of educational visas which means we only have to renew every 6 months officially. Which is cool that the church would be recognized for reals in Russia! The first few days were rough mainly because our teachers were acting all excited  and talking about how awesome it would be that our districts would be split so we could teach the new Russian missionaries but tender mercy number 1, on Sunday our branch president came and said he talked to our teachers about their ideas for us and he vetoed their ideas because he wants us to be able to continue progressing in these next few weeks. So we think they will be able to find us a class room and just go to the other classes when we can help. Which I love that idea. Also, he said he's going to try one of the days to come to a half day seminar about language study in the Russian BOM which would be awesome! We wont have teachers after next monday or tuesday so lots of personal study time which i'm excited for! 

Last wednesday, we did How To Begin Teaching with all the new missionaries. It was so fun!! The first was a stereotypical uninterested woman who was super unresponsive, didn't give us much information about anything and the second was a sweet old man who was so nice and open about everything. The first was super good practice for what I'm sure I'll encounter in Russia but the neatest part of the night was realizing I loved  them both the same and that Heavenly Father loved them both the same and that the gospel could bless both of their lives so much! I'm so excited to be able to talk to real people about how this can change their life for the better. We also had 2 opportunities to do a Plan, Study, Teach, cycle with some of the younger missionaries. Basically, we walked them through a 3 hour block of doing a short personal study, comp study, language study, and then teach with them. We prayed for opportunities to work on improving as missionaries and not worry too much about the language and Heavenly Father has blessed us with chances to do that. It was neat to see that our language has improved (a little) since then but more than that how much we've learned about planning for our investigators etc. And this next comment is for mom and dad: after our second time teaching with these sisters their teacher commented that I spoke really fast Russian for still being in the MTC. While I'm sure my grammar was nothing to speak of, at least my fast talking will pay off for 15 months and that the Russians will appreciate it:) 

Saturday night, we wrote our testimonies like we were saying them the first Sunday in Russia and then said them to the class. It was so neat to think someday we will actually be there! And then Monday night we practiced talking after knocking on doors which is super nerve racking to think about! But it was so fun!! Finally real life application is happening!

 I'm so grateful to be able to serve the Lord right now! I know I need to work each and every day to become like Christ and that I still have a long way to go. But how grateful I am for the Atonement so I can repent every single day! I love this gospel and love you all! Have a great week!

Sister Allison