Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ariel's First Email from Russia! March 29, 2011

This was the first email from Russia!!! Ariel left at 8:30 am Monday morning and we received this email at 2:30 pm Tuesday afternoon!!! We figure about 30 hours of travel!!! They got to Moscow about 1am our time (11 am Russian time) and then they had to go through customs, take their luggage into Moscow to the embassy to get new visas and then return to the airport to buy tickets to fly to Rostov. We know they are exhausted but have many adventures to tell already!!!

Following is Ariel's email from Russia. Note her excitement that her mission president is not as stern as she thought from his picture!!!

Well, I just have time to drop you a quick line, but we made it safely to Rostov!! President and Sister Nichiporov are AMAZING and SO nice! Sister Nichiporov threw her arms around us and President Nichiporov has a great sense of humor and great smile!! They fed us meat loaf and mashed potatoes and now we are off to bed! I will meet my trainer tomorrow and get off to work! I can't tell you HOW happy I am to be here! This is the beginning of a new and FABULOUS adventure! I also love Lisa, their 15 year old daughter! She's great! didn't have time to read the whole e-mail, but i'll be in touch probably in about a week!! good night! love Cectpa Cunningham

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Letter #10 *~MTC~* March 22, 2011

Hello Family!

Wow!! this is it!! the week is here!! it's SO crazy! And this past week has been really crazy. So many amazing and strange things have happened. I didn't get to mention that we have a progressing investigator named Dmitry. Last week when we taught him, we taught him how to pray. We had him kneel with us and say the closing prayer. Even though it is our teacher, acting as if he is a man he knew from his mission, it was an amazing experience to watch him pray! This past week in teh TRC Cectpa LeBaron adn I had a wonderful lesson. We were able to teach a returned Sister Missionary from St. Petersburg, in Russian of course. We got to teach her as herself. We committed her to re-read Moroni 10 and recommit to pray and strengthen her testimony of the Book of Mormon. We also committed her to give a Book of Mormon to one of her friends, or someone that she meets. She said that she would! It was SO fun!! Cectpa LeBaron said after that it was really cool that I didn't let the language barrier keep me from being myself. I had made a couple of Jokes in Russian and it was funny because it took them a little bit of time to realize what I was saying, adn that I was making a joke. It reminded me of dad right after he had had his stroke, and he would always be trying to say something and then we would realize taht he was trying to make a joke!! haha! Dad! I now know how you feel! But when they finally get it and laugh, the struggle to make the joke is all worth it!! :)

This week while we were standing in the lunch room line, one of our Elder's hearts (Elder Bullough) started going crazy, so he went into teh ER to get checked out. He related the experience and said that it was the coolest thing because as he sat in the Health Clinic, feeling TOTALLY fine, he realized that he wasn't going to the ER for his heart. He turned to Elder Hill and siad that he really felt that they needed to go back to their room and get some consecrated oil because he felt that they were going to need to give a blessing. They grabbed teh oil and then were taken out of the MTC to the ER. As they were sitting there, Elder Bullough was reading about faith, feeling that he should prepare for the blessing that they were going to give. Then a girl ran up to them and said, "Elders, will you please give my brother a blessing?" What a cool thing! I'm SO grateful that our Edler's were worthy and willing to be in the right place at the right time to administer to one of God's children!

Unfortunately that has not been our only ER experience this week in our zone. Cectpa Stiles, one of the younger sisters in our Zone, hit her head on a drying last p-day. Not just hit it, but literally stood up into it and hit it so hard that she was immediately pushed back to teh ground. She gave herself a concussion! I woke up, I believe it was Thursday morning, and heard a guys voice on our floor. That is a very abnormal thing. So I climbed... well, moreso fell out of bed and opened my door adn stepped out into the hallway. Sister Stiles room is right next to ours. The view that met my eyes was really scary. THere were about 5 emts on our floor and sister stiles was lying on the floor looking pretty unconcious. One of the EMTs was asking her questions trying to keep her awake. I didn't want to get in the way, so after making sure her companions were alright I stepped back inside my room and Sister LeBAron was awake waiting. I had woken her up as I half fell/half flew out of bed! We sat there and listened to what was going on. There was a knock on our door from one of teh EMTs because I'd left my key in the door, so we stepped out of our room and gave teh sisters hugs just as they were leaving for the ER. We couldn't believe it, but no one else was awake. It had kind of shaken me, seeing sister Stiles like that and I felt pretty sick to my stomach. After a minute Sister Bullough joined Sister LeBAron and I in the hallway. We talked over what had happened and I seriously felt like I was going to throw up. I asked if we could have a prayer. WE all knelt and each said a prayer for Sister Stiles. I can't tell you the amazing power of prayer. I felt SO much peace and comfort, adn even though I didn't know what was going to happen, I felt at peace. It was an immediate affect. We woke up Sister Dawson, who is our "Coordinating Sister" and told her what had happened.

I was able to get a little sleep after crawling back into bed, but woke up again at about 3 am this time. I heard the sisters and so I went to check on them. IT was frustrating as teh doctor had really done nothing or told them anything. Sister Stiles, after having a couple more instances like this, having to call the EMTs is now feeling much better and is going to class again! Wow!! I am so grateful for prayer and the peace that it brings. I know that God is teh director of our lives and we may not always understand why things happen, but if we stay close to Him, we will have peace in our lives. I feel like Nephi in 2 Nephi 4:19, "And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted and he goes on, My god hath been my support and led me through mine afflictions! What a blessing to have the gospel!! My last day to recieve Dear Elder's will be Friday night, so don't send anything that won't get here till Monday or so! Wow!! Less than a week left! It's going to come fast! I lvoe you all!!

Cectpa Cunningham

and it was SO good to accidentally see Katie at teh TRC this week!! it totally made my week!! I love you girl!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Letter #9 *~MTC~* March 15, 2011

Wow family!! So many miracles happened this week! THis Saturday our teacher gave us the opportunity to prepare a lesson in English. We would pray throughout the week and try to prepare a lesson to help someone. Wehn Saturday came we had about a half an hour. The first 5 minutes Cectrpa LeBAron and I prayed adn got our lesson plan a little more ready. We didn't know who we would be teaching, as part of this lesson was we would go out and try to follow the spirit to find someone to teach who needed the lesson taht we had prepared for them. Sister LeBaron felt like we needed to recommit them to read and pray about the BOM to strengthen their testimony. We both felt liek we should use Alma 5:45-46. Like the prophets who wrote the Book of Mormon, we can also gain the same witness of it's truthfulness. It was awesome that we both felt like we should use this scripture. We wandered aroudn teh MTC campus for about 15 minutes or so with no luck. We couldn't find anyone to teach! We ended up asking this one girl, but she was in too much of a hurry. We h ad both felt really strongly that this lesson was really important, and we really wanted to be able to help someone out. I felt like we were looking for a NON MISSIONARY but she felt that we were looking for missionary. I was discouraged, and it was almost time to go back to class. AS we were walking a man walked out one of the buildings. I said, should we do him? and sister Le Baron agreed. We walked up to him and asked if he had a minute that we could talk with him. He said sure. We then asked him what his thoughts were on the Book of Mormon. He looked at us and then said, as he held a Book of Mormon in his hand, "I actually just received my first copy!" I looked over at Sister LeBAron totally stunned! Not only was it amazing that we found someone who wasn't a missionary. But we had just run into an investigator who had just walked out of the TRC!!! We read teh scripture that we had chosen for him and as he read he stopped and said, that is what teh missionaries keep telling me to do! (fast and pray). We bore testimony that the lbook that he held in his hand was teh key to happiness and peace in life. We we bore our testmonies of how we had known it was true and he siad that he was going to go home adn read and pray about it!! WOW!! It was one of the most miraculous experiences ever! To be able to bear witness of the Book of Mormon to someone who didn't already know it was true. I know that that is what we will be doing out in the field everyday, but here in the MTC, we ahve been teaching peopel who already know it's true as they act like real people that we may teach! The spirit was SO strong and my joy was definitely full!!!

This Sunday in Relief Society one of the counselors in teh Primary General Presidency shared a story that she ahd heard while she was in Russia/Ukraine. A lady and her husband, after having a child, were talking about how they wanted more for their child. Tehy wanted religion, but at this time it was still dangerous to have religion, as teh Soviet Union. One day she was on a metro and saw two young men dressed up in suits. They shone and she knew that they had teh truth. She ran up to them and said, " You have the truth, I know it." She realized because of this scary time that she could get into a ton of trouble if they were mafia or anything else. So she ran away, but as she ran she said my name is Maria and I live 10 stops from here! find me! They looked and looked for Maria and after several months of asking everyone they finally ran into her father in law who maria lived with. he took them to her and they taught her and her family the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Maria had been in a coma earlier in life, and while in that coma a messenger had told her that she woudl know the truth when she foudn this, and she saw the Salt Lake City Temple! As teh missionaries taught her about temples, one of them held up a picture of the Salt Lake City Temple! She knew that she had foudn the truth and her family is now faithful members!!

I am going to this country and I hope that I will be able to have people see that we have the truth because of the light in my face!! What a blessing!! We listened to part of a talk from Edler Holland yesterday and I realized that this work really has nothing to do with me! This week as I strive to speak 100% russian it will be really hard, but ultimately i'm doing it because I love the Lrod (John 14:15- if you love me keep my commandments). And I want to share this message with his children!

I hope this e-mail made sense! I'm so rushed today! But fwi, I saw Elder Weier from WI goign to slc in the MTC this week!! Fun! I love you all SO MUCH!! Wow!! only one more p-day and then we're off to Russia! If you ahve any mission stories like this feel free to share! Have a fantastic week!!

i love you!!
Cectrpa Cuningham

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Letter #8 *~MTC~* March 8, 2011


Mom!! You are ABSOLUTLEY fantastic! Thank you SO much for the care package this week! We enjoyed munching on the animal crackers and the cookies (which are AMAZING btw) during our weekly district game night! :) Thank you for always being SO thoughtful and doing so much for us!

This week has been another fantastic week, but, as usual, so much has happened that I will have to try to focus on the main points. First of all, I realized that I have not really talked about my Companion very much! Cectrpa LeBaron is from Sandy, UT. She took 2 years of Russian in high school, which has given her a bit of a head start on all of us. It can be hard sometimes because she picks up on things so much faster and easier than I do, and can remember things so much better, but it has also been a great blessing and help to have her help me with the language! She loves to laugh and finds joy in the little pleasures of life, and we share in our love for cookies!! :) This past week during our companionship inventory (where we talk about strengths in our relationship, things we can work on, and make goals) we had decided to be more open in communicating. It was amazing to see how much our companionship was strengthened. We were more on the same page and able to teach more effectively and be more considerate of what we were both struggling with! She is amazingly great!!

The other day I was re-reading in Genesis 39. I absolutely love the story of Joseph of Egypt. His faith and example is exemplary for all of us. I especially love verse 23 where it says that the keeper of the prison trusted him in anything that he was in charge of , "because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper." I also hope that as I work hard and go forth to serve, the Lord will make everything that I put my hand to prosper.

This week as I studied 2 Nephi 2:6-8 it really hit me. I love how it talks about the atonement of the Savior, and that only through Him can we receive redemption, but we must come to him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And then in verse 8, "Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is now flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah." And this is my job as a missionary! This is my message to the world, and in particular to the people of russia, that the Savior lives, and did redeem all mankind. And, as we come unto Him, we can be saved! The reason I am here on a mission is to help bring people unto Christ! In 3 Nephi 11:31-41 Jesus Christ outlines His doctrine of faith, baptism, repentance, and the Holy Ghost. I love how He tells us that the Father bears record of Him and that if we believe in Christ, we believe in the Father also, and that the Father will bear record of Jesus Christ unto those who believe in Him through the Holy Ghost! What a marvelous blessing that everyone can receive this witness through the Holy Ghost. I love verse 41 as it specifically spoke to me, as Dad so often tells me, to "Go Forth." Go forth and declare these things unto the ends of the earth! What a blessing to be in the most important work in all the world!

Yesterday we had a workshop on Russia and the importance of inviting people to come to church. In Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church or Bratislavian church is very prominant. Going to one of these great Cathedrals where you walk in and burn a candle to a small rented and renovated school, or the upstairs of a rented building over a grocery store is very different. But the reason we go to church is to gather together with the Saints and worship God. Whether there be 4 members or 20, they gather together to worship, and instead of a very impersonal distant way, it is very personal and intimate as they join together and learn together in the small, humble church meeting house. However, where the meeting is held is not important. We come to feel the spirit, partake of the sacrament, serve each other, learn the gospel together, and rejoice in the spirit of the Lord! We have been told in the past that Russia is very closed to the gospel and not to expect much success, but a lot of the success depends on me and my faith, my obedience! I want to go into Russia with happiness and joy and boldness to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ! In sacrament meeting this week one of the new elders was talking about how he had researched Russia when he had first gotten his call. one thing that he learned was that Russia had a fairly high depression rate, adn since he had been here he had noticed that all of the missionaries going to Russia were extremely happy and enthusiastic people! We have a message of hope and happiness! And as we go forth to serve, I hope that the people in Russia will feel of the joy that the gospel will bring into their lives! This is a fantastic work! Russian is hard, but it's coming. We gave 2 lessons in Russian yesterday, they were each about 30 minutes or so. I don't understand everything, but as I try to listen and bear testimony of what is true, the spirit can carry the truth to the hearts of those we teach! Have a great week!! Less than 3 weeks left!!! :)

Cectpa cunningham

Letter from Ariel's MTC Companion - March 8, 2011

Hello dearest family and friends,

This week I don't really have too much to talk about because I honestly don't remember much of this week because my time here at the MTC has started to blur together... But I'll try to remember as much as I can! I usually make a list during the week of everything that I want to write about but I didn't this week because I got lazy... Oh well.

Anyway, though, I now have less than 3 weeks left here at the good ol' MTC!!! Can you believe it?? I can. I've been here FOREVER haha. I was talking to this elder the other day who is leaving the MTC tomorrow. He's been here for 9 weeks preparing to go to Spain and he was like, "Ya know, the first couple weeks at the MTC are really really hard, and then weeks 3 through 7 are just really great and they fly by and you enjoy everything about them and then once week 8 hits you just go completely nuts and your brain starts to turn to mush so by week 9 they just have to kick you out of here." And then he like paused for a sec and was like, "I have no idea what happens at weeks 10 through 12.... You're pretty much doomed." Haha! It was so funny. We were like wow thanks... But I kind of understand what he means about your brains turning to mush... Yesterday when we took a break from studying we played with a motion censor in the hallway for like an hour. It was quite entertaining. Oh the crazy things we do to entertain ourselves at the MTC :)

Also yesterday we moved out of our dorms and into another building. Our first transfer! It was kinda good because we got a chance to weigh our bags and see how much stuff we need to send home before we leave. Also it was really good because we moved out of the ghetto and into some 5-star dorms!!!! Well, not really 5-star, but they certainly feel like it after where we were living before... And the showers!!!! Oh, the wonderful showers in our new building. It's the most amazing thing... when you turn them on, the water comes out the temperature that you turn the faucet to. No longer will the warmth of my shower be determined by the flushing of toilets!! It's soooo awesome. I love our new dorms :D

Earlier this week my teacher Brother Porter, who served in Rostov, brought in a bunch of pictures from his mission for us to look at, so we got to see a lot of the cool places that we'll get to see when we get there! That was soooo sweet, but it made us all so anxious to get out of here! It's kinda crazy but next Monday we start our SYL (Speak Your Language) program where for the last 2 weeks at the MTC you speak ONLY Russian. So that's going to be an adventure... But we've started trying to speak Russian a lot of the time anyway, so that should help. Also next week we'll get our travel plans!!! WOOOOOOO!!!!! I don't have my visa yet, and I don't know if the MTC has my visa yet, but if there were problems getting it I'm sure they would've let me know already, so I'm not too worried about it. I'll probably get it NEXT WEEK! :D

Ohhhh! Also this week, I discovered a new talent that I have. I can sing! My companion has been kind of giving me singing lessons because the Sunday before we leave our district is planning on doing a musical number in sacrament, so since my companion sings, she's been helping all of us improve our singing and I am quite impressed with how good we all sound. We're singing the EFY Medley of Army of Helaman and As Sisters In Zion in RUSSIAN (my teacher helped us translate it) and there's this part that I pretty much have to sing by myself, which is TERRIFYING because I've never sung by myself before in my life, but it's gonna be cool. I think God has given me the Gift of Musical Tongues since coming on a mission, because I have discovered my singing voice since being here! Also, one fact that I am quite proud of, is that I discovered this week that I can hit the high F. I want you all to go to a piano this week and punch the high F key so you can just be super impressed by this little talent of mine that I never knew that I had. The Church is true.

Ummm... I think that's really all to report this week, so I'll just share a little spiritual experience I had actually before I even got here. It was the Thursday before I came to the MTC and I had taken the day to myself to spend some time alone before I had to spend the next 18 months with a companion, and I went by myself down to temple square and did an endowment session at the Salt Lake Temple and then walked around temple square for a while and then went a watched the Joseph Smith movie at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. But while I was in the Celestial room at the temple, I was sitting and thinking about how scared I was to go on a mission and how I felt so inadequate and like I just had too many weaknesses that would prevent me from being a good missionary. I remember saying a prayer and saying something like, "Heavenly Father, I know that you want me to serve a mission, but I'm scared and don't feel like I can do it. I KNOW myself and I know that I don't like doing hard things. I'm afraid I'll give up when it gets hard." And as I sat there in the Celestial Room of the Salt Lake Temple, thinking about every weakness that I have and every un-Christlike thing about me, and feeling afraid to serve a mission because I know how I handle hard things, a thought came into my mind that said something like this, "Mandy, the Savior knows you better than you know yourself. He knows that you have weaknesses. He knows that you're scared. But He also knows what you can become, and He's not going to make you do this alone." I remember sitting there and just feeling so grateful for the testimony that I have that this is true. That Christ knows me and that He won't leave me alone. And I know this is true for all of us.

The Church is true! I love you all :) Have a great week.

Love, Sister LeBaron

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Letter #7 *~MTC~* March 1, 2011

Hello Family!!

Wow!! These weeks sure do fly by! I forgot to tell you about our teaching last week! We have now taught at the TRC twice in Russian! So, we go in and for the first 10-15 minutes we have a small task that we do. We have to buy clothes, order food, help pick up household items... all in russian! Then after meeting the person we will be teaching we have about 5-10 to revise our lesson plan and then we go in and teach them for about a half an hour. It has been hard, because I definitely CANNOT understand a very big chunk of what they are saying, but Cectpa LeBaron is great and we are able to keep the lesson rolling. We now also teach on Monday and Fridays in Russian. I know that my grammar is most likely HORRENDOUS, but I think that they can usually get the jist of what I'm trying to say... well... at least they act like it! :)

I forgot to mention last week that we had a bit of a scare. Cectpa Tunney woke up at about 6 with the words, what side is your appendix on... oh dear... well, no worries after a TON of pain and thinking that she might have a kidney stone, which we named Kirt, I think that they figured out that she had a urinary tract infection... so Kirt is no longer hurting her! Good news! This week I also came into my room and found a fantastic suprise on my desk!! Elder Johnson, an Elder in our zone had received a box of fruitleathers from his sister. He doesn't like them and so he had Cectrpa Bullough deliver the box to me because of my very evident love of them!! Cectpa LeBaron and I had a good time taking some pictures with the box. We also received our nametags that we will be taking into the field this week! Mine is pretty much AMAZING!! Super cool Russian letters in my last name! I took a picture but still need to develop it, so I will send it along soon.

This past tuesday devotional was really great!! IT was a member of the 70 and his wife. Elder Patrick KEaron. Sister Kearon talked about a question that she had heard asked at a mission conference. "If someone had been taking a video of your last 24 hours, what would it look like? Would they be proud of you? Would you be proud to show it to your parents?" During our district review, Cectpa tunney made the comment that our parents, our heavenly parents, can and do see what we've been doing the past 24 hours, and are we proud of that? Would they be disappointed in us? It made me really think about how I'm using my time! I don't want my Heavenly Father to be disappointed in how I use my time!

This past Sunday Elder Rodriques-Vargus and I did play a violin Duet in church, accompanied by Sister Bullough. It was wonderful to be able to play again, and to bear my testimony through music. It has such a powerful affect! I don't realize how much I miss it until I take the time to play, and then, suddenly, I feel better and healed! Music has such a great power of healing and peace! About 2 weeks ago a new counselor was called into our MTC branch presidency. His name is Brother Cranney,and he is the former mission president of the Moscow mission. He and his wife are STELLAR and we all already ,love them SO much! sister Cranney spoke on Sunday and quoted from one of their favorite Russian Novels, "The Brothers Karamazov." In the story there is a Christ figure. The way that he responded when a boy hit him and bit him, as he was trying to provoke him, was really powerful. The boy mearly kept asking what he had done to deserve this treatment, for surely he must have done something HORRIBLE to this boy for him to treat him like that. He never acted in anger or unkindness and simply wanted to know how he had hurt this boy because the punishment he was getting must have been deserved. I thought about that little story and how I want to be more Christlike. I hope that in my actions and the ways that I react to those around me, I can act in love and understanding, no matter how they hurt me.

Sister Dibbs came and spoke to our relief society on Sunday. She is the daughter of President Monson, and so it was fun to hear some stories about him and his life. His love of laughter and service! He is always joking and loving life. I want to be more like that! To love and enjoy everthing that i do! At the end of her talk she was talking about her dad and how he had been able to visit the holy land and walk where Jesus walked. He was talking of his experience bein there, but ended with something like this, "What means more in my life (than walking where the Savior walked while He was on the earth) is to walk where Jesus would walk today." I loved that! We all can do that in our own lives NOW!! Where are those that we can serve, lift, and love! Where would Jesus walk, what would He do, who would He serve if He were in my shoes and walking where I am walking today! Not just as a missionary, but throughout my whole life I hope to be able to live this principle and walk where the Savior would walk!

A quick kind of funny story! So.... in Russia the people are only allowed to be named certain names. They literally have a list of names that they are allowed to name there children. Brother Porter, my teacher, always tells us about the name Vladislov because it sounds like (What is love?) with a Russian Accent, so he always jokes that he would tell peope in russia that there name was in an American song and then he would commence to sing... "Vladislov---Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more!" hahaha. I don't think that he actually ever did it, but I think that when I meet my first Vlacislov in russia, I will ahve to try very hard not to laugh! :)

I hope that you all had a FANTASTIC week!! Things are going by CRAZY fast here! We will be leaving at the end of this month!! CRAZY!!

Cectpa Cunningham