Monday, April 25, 2011

Christ is Risen!! April 25, 2011 Ariel's Letter #4

Hello Everyone!!!

Please thanks to President Hunt for his letter (what he shared about the resurrection was AMAZING! and sister Foster! I also got Aunt Shirley's , Martin and Jessi Hansen!!. Thank you all. Letters are the BEST!!!

I REALLY loved your Easter reflections, Mom! It was SO wonderful! It is SUCH wonderful news!! Happy Easter! The good news that Christ has risen is true! And therefore we will all rise also! ( John 5:28-29 "Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in the which ALL that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."

What a blessing! Before I forget... I don't remember the exact date... but Happy Anniversary to Erin and Ian!!! WAHOOO!!! We haven't been able to meet with Bacili, the man with the baby, but we have talked to him a couple of times on the telephone and he's been nice every time, but no luck yet. Please continue to pray for Alexander though. He hasn't been able to stay clean from smoking yet, so we are going to do all that we can! After the lesson this week with him, i just felt such an overwhelming love for this man, and I desire to help him so much! President Nechiporov told us that this is his 3rd time meeting with the missionaries. He said that it's a miracle that he wants to get baptized. His brother was at the lesson, and was kind of a bit like the devils advocate, as he isn't a member. I don't think that it helped the spirit very much, but Alexander stood up for what we were teaching and the gospel which was really good.

As we taught the lesson the spirit really testified to me about D&C 29:34 which says, "Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created."
God's laws are spiritual. Our bodies are the temple of our spirit, and for the Holy Ghost. However, in order for the Holy Ghost to be with us, the temple, our body, needs to be clean and undefiled. And the Word of Wisdom is the way that the Lord has showed us we can be clean to receive the Holy Spirit! I think I had understood this before, but it just clicked and made so much more sense!

This week I have just felt such a strong desire to talk with everyone and share this message that we have! It's been hard because I don't feel like I can say anything, but the desire is so strong! I see people on the street and just wish that I could speak with them and have them listen!! Also this week as my companion and I have been reading Preach My Gospel I have felt SO much of the truth of what is contained in that book! What a blessing to have such an amazing book all about Missionary Work!

This week we were able to teach a new member lesson to Cvetlana and Viktor. Wow! They are SO great! We talked about the temple and challenged them to prepare to go there together by reading the scriptures together everyday. We framed a little picture of the Ukraine, Kiev temple and wrote, "Together forever" or something like that in Russian on it! Well... Cectra Undezjorova did that!

This week I have been wanting to be more involved when we teach lessons, so I will try to figure out what I want to say before hand and then have Sister Undezjorova translate it for me. I try to memorize it and present it in the lesson. Luckily my companion is wonderful enough to do this for me and the people are patient enough to listen to me!

We had a wonderful service project this week! We helped a younger member named Anya clean up the grassy area in front of her house. There was quite a bit of trash and it took us about 3 hours, but was SO fun! I can't tell you how wonderful it felt to just get outside and get dirty doing yard work! I know dad... you probably never thought that you'd hear me say this, but I love yard work!!! :) Anya's mom is not a member, but she made a REALLY yummy beet, pickle, bean, etc. salad for us after our work. She is a great funny lady, but I couldn't understand barely ANYTHING she said because she talks SO SO fast!! I think that I'm beginning to understand more... but I still can't understand a lot. I'm hoping that I'll keep getting better!

So, I forgot to tell you, but we had a street contact come to church last week!!! And he also brought his sister!! They said that they don't understand the Bratislavian church. We gave them both Books of Mormon and I can't tell you the joy that I felt that they had come!! Wow!! It was SO wonderful!! They didn't come this week, but we talked to her the other day and she said that she has read some of the Book of Mormon. She doesn't understand it and so has written some questions for us!! I hope that we can meet with her SUPER soon!

This week I have been able to study some of Elder Bednar's talk "Of Things that Matter Most." It is SO amazing!! He taught us to focus on the four fundamentals of getting to know and serving God, Family, Fellowman and getting to know ourselves. One of the quotes I like is this, "The reason we return to these foundational principles, to the pure doctrines, is becasue they are the gateway to truths of profound meaning. They are the door to experience of sublime importace that would otherwise be beyond our capacity to comprehend. These simple, basic principles are the key to living in harmony with God and man. They are the keys to opening the windows of heaven. They lead us to the peace, joy, and understanding that Heavenly Father has promised to His children who hear and obey Him!" I love this quote!
Alma 12:9-10 says: "And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of His word which He doth grant unto the children of men,according to the heed and diligence which they give unto Him. And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of His word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of His word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full."

I love how as we are obedient we come to know God more and to understand his mysteries. And that's what we do as we change and make goals in our lives!! And that's what we do with investigators when we ask them to keep commitments! It opens the doors to more knowledge! I also LOVE Helaman 3:35 which says: " Nevertheless, they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God."

What a blessing that we have this opportunity to grow and learn and become more and more purified and like the Savior!!

This Sunday we went with the members and handed out little Easter things with Book of Mormons! There's a picture of us singing! It was fun to see the saints ( members) involved!!

love you all!
Cectpa Cunningham

An excerpt from Sister LeBaron's letter (Ariel's companion from the MTC) explaining how the Russians celebrate Easter.

"It was cool because we learned a little more about the russian orthodox church.  they do this thing where there is an eternal flame that is in jerusalem and the batushka (priest) from the church in moscow goes to jerusalem and gets the flame and brings it back to moscow.  then all the batushkas in other cities in russia go to moscow and light their lanterns and bring it back to their cities.  it's supposedly like a magical flame, too, that for like 5 minutes after it's first lit it can't burn you or something so people run their hands through it and rub it all over their bodies and it doesn't hurt them or something...  but anyway, yesterday one of our kind-of-investigators wanted to take us on a little tour of taganrog, so he took us to the main russian orthodox temple in the city and the timing was just right that when we got there, the batushka was just returning from moscow with the flame so there were TONS of people outside the temple waiting.  then after they took the flame inside, everyone went inside and lit their own candles and took them back to their houses.  it was kinda cool to watch."

Service!  Love it!

 My mom asked how we got around in Rostov.  Well, little did I know
but Russia has actually reverted to a means of transportation that I
didn't even know existed!  It's not by foot or by car... It's
definitely not a Numbus 2000, but it works! hehe!  Props to my
companion for this picture!  Notice the beautiful lawn that we
We were set and ready to work! Anya is in our ward and her friend
Koste is in another ward in Rostov.

The yummy salad!  I know! Marissa will LOVE the pinkness! :)

This is Natasha and Nastia.  They had me braid their hair because
they like the way that I've done my hair a couple of times!  Natasha
works in the mission office and is almost 21 and Nastia is 15!  They
are SO great!  This is in front of our ward building.

This is after about one day of being out and about.  Kind of like
Bau tou huh Ammon?  Super dusty!

This is us singing at the park.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Letter # 3 from Russia April 18, 2011

His Work Will Go Forth!! April 18, 2011

Hello from Russia!

Oh, and I'm sorry. I was misinformed, I had heard that we are able to have people that aren't family e-mail us and then we can snail mail back, but I was wrong, so only snail mail or dear elders! Sorry about that! I had our Assistant to the President check on it....Wow!! This has been a CRAZY AWESOME STRANGE WEEK!! Well, it started off with a Family Home Evening lesson in a part member family. We read about the importance of the scriptures in our lives by reading Alma 37: 39-47! I asked Mom to write the scriptures in the Book of Mormon etc. so you could read them. I know you all have the Bible so you'll have to look those scriptures up!! It says:

44 For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which
will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for
our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them
a straight course to the promised land.

45 And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as
surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its
course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow
their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better
land of promise.

46 O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the
way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them,
that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The
way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.

47 And now, my son, see that ye take care of these sacred things,
yea, see that ye look to God and live. Go unto this people and
declare the word, and be sober. My son, farewell.

It's awesome! Read it and apply it to you too! The dad is not a member and during the lesson he said that he wanted to get baptized because he knew that many blessings would come and he wanted to go to the temple with his family!! WAHOOO!!!! Ya!! So this week we set up another appointment and taught the first lesson. At the end we challenged him to prepare for baptism on May 22 and he said......... YES!!! Cectrpa Undejzorova then asked if he had any cigarettes and if
he could give them to us and not smoke anymore. It was the coolest thing to see him bend down underneath his bed and grab a box of cigarettes and then get another box from a shelf and give them to us. Wow! We had a member with us who had also had to quick smoking and it was powerful to have his support and testimony too. Alexander wants a new life and wants to change and become better. Unfortunately he did smoke this week, but we are going to work with him and with the Lord's help anything is possible!! He will gain the strength. He came to church this week though with his family!! :)

As we were contacting this week my companion stopped a lady and started talking to her. As I walked up, she spit at us. I don't think she was actually aiming at us, but spit at the ground near us. At first I was just totally appalled but laughed. How could she do something like that? As I thought about it though, I thought about our Savior Jesus Christ. He was also spit at, but as it says in D & C 19:18-19

18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to
tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer
both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup,
and shrink—

19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished
my preparations unto the children of men.

He endured everything to bring about salvation for us. I thought about this woman who had spit at us and felt so sorry for her. How low and down she must be feeling to have done something so degrading to someone else, and how the gospel of Jesus Christ can lighten her load and help her change and become clean!

Then, I was apparently wearing a very American outfit this one day. We were contacting and the man realized I was from America. He was totally normal and not drunk, but then suddenly he grabbed both my shoulder and started coming toward me to kiss me!!! AAAHHH!! I don't
think he was going to actually kiss me on the lips, but on the cheek. I still yelled "NET" (no)! haha ya... kind of strange. But later we were walking on the sidewalk and this man came up to us and said, you're from America and started talking to me in Russian telling me not to trust my companion because she's Russian, and then these two boys came up at the same time saying hello in English, and then at the same time this girl came up asking if we needed help!! HAHA We were
surrounded by 4 people and had NO idea what was going on! oh well!

On our way home from a lesson we were riding on the Marshootka and my companion likes to flip to random verses and read them. She flipped to 3 Ne. 8:13. It describes Russian roads to a tee! It was very funny! It says: "And the highways were broken up, and the level roads were spoiled, and many smooth places became rough."

This Saturday we went to a garbage clean up with some of the wards in the area. We definitely didn't get everything, because there was a TON! But it made me think back on the highway clean ups in Rhinelander and the home made hot dogs from Bishop Lindner and when Anne and I found that Fishtank!! haha Do you remember that Anne?! :) Good times.

I was pretty frustrated with Russian this week, just really feeling like I couldn't say anything and wasn't doing any good. And then I lost my language graph with all the case endings. I really need it and I couldn't find it ANYWHERE. As I knelt and said my evening prayers, I asked Heavenly Father to help me find it. Immediately the image of my pillow came to my mind and I kind of saw myself placing my pillow back on my bed with my language card and dictionary in my hand
and then accidentally setting them all on my bed. Sure enough I reached under my pillow and it was there! Wow! It was SO cool to get an IMMEDIATE answer to my prayer!

My companion told me one morning this week that she woke up to me laughing in my sleep in the middle of the night... haha! Maybe i was just SO glad I found my language card!

The Elders asked me if I would help sing at a baptism this past Sunday, so we practiced I need thee every hour about 15 minutes before the baptism. It was a little hurting, but the 3 of us pulled through and it was nice to be able to serve! So I have to go, but really quickly. Here in Russia for Easter they greet each other by saying "Jesus Christ was Resurrected" and then saying "He truly is Resurrected." And so we've been thinking how we can take this common
greeting that is said by everyone and turn it into a chance to contact people and talk about Christ! This week I read 1 Cor. 15:12--22 and loved how it talks about it!! If Christ is not risen then there is no resurrection. Also verses 55--58!! But He is risen and death has no sting because He is risen!! And as we go about doing good works our labor is not in vain!!

I feel like in Acts 4:13, I am plain and weak and unlearned, but I hope that like Peter and John I may also be bold and people will be able to see that I am working at knowing my Savior, and hopefully know Him enough in some small degree that I can share that knowledge with

Love you all!!
Sister Cunningham

Yes God does exist! What a glorious message! There is Sunshine in My Soul Today. We like to sing this song often!
He looks like President Monson huh? Our yummy pancake crepe place.
Sunset near where we live. Muddy and awesome... but great members!
The dog skull we found.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Ariel's Companion's letter April 11, 2011

Hello to all my favorite Americans!

I have been here in Russia for 2 weeks now and am allowed to officially call myself a Russian. Well...maybe not. But I say that I can. I LOVE it here still. Every day something happens that I'm just like " wouldn't see that in America..." but that's why I love it so much. It's so different here! But sometimes I see things that remind me of America too. I still can't really understand much, but I feel a lot better about things than I did after my first week. I was actually really frustrated for a few days that I couldn't communicate with anyone... but it will come! I'm studying really hard and my companion Sis Kuhn is really good about helping me to learn the language. Also the members here are SO nice! They think it's so cute when I try to speak Russian and they help me as much as they can.

A few really funny things happened this week that I hopefully have time to write about, but first...a little more about the overall Russian experience. The food here is really good. I had some authentic Russian food this week. Borscht, which Sis Leavitt made which was AMAZING!!!! Ohhhhh my goodness. When I get home, I am making borscht and EVERYONE is invited. It's soooooo good. We also had blini (Russian pancakes) that we got from a little kiosk near our apartment building. Their pancakes are more like crepes and they put a lot of random stuff in them. Also, they eat sour cream on EVERYTHING. And I didn't understand...until I tried their sour cream. It's sooo tasty. It doesn't really taste like American sour cream at all. It tastes more like some kind of fruit dip or something... Yum. Now I eat it on everything :) Also the cheese and the mayonnaise is better here. I dunno what it is, but it's super good. Their milk is kinda gross though... oh well. Oh, and also their ice cream is amazing. We don't really eat at members houses ever, so we mostly just eat whatever we prepare for ourselves, which is kind of nice...because Russians do eat some kind of strange things... But I haven't come across anything really gross yet.. Oh, and we eat a ton of chocolate...because it's pretty cheap and it's the yummy European chocolate and we're girls so... enough said :)

We found out a couple days ago that today through Thursday they're shutting off our water, which is LAME, but that's Russia for you, I guess. That was nice of them to warn us because I hear that sometimes they don't. So Saturday night we went and bought a bunch of gallons of distilled water to use for cooking and drinking and then we filled our bathtub with water last night to use to spongebathe and flush the toilet. So...that'll be an interesting experience.

So one of the funny things that happened this week was I told a lady that we were Jehovah Witnesses.... Haha whoops... We were contacting in the park and we went up to this lady and I stopped her and asked her if she believed in Jesus Christ and she said something that I didn't understand so I was just kind of smiling and nodding, because that's what I do, and then Sis Kuhn jumped in and was like, "No no, aklsdhfowjef" and said something else I didn't understand and then the lady said something else and walked away. And then Sis Kuhn's like "Don't worry about it, you didn't know." And I was so confused because I didn't know what just happened and so she told me that the lady had been like "I know who you are, you're Jehovah Witnesses." And I smiled and nodded (haha) and then Sis Kuhn had said we weren't, but then the lady was like "You're friend already nodded her head, you can't trick me." And then she walked away. Hahaha oh my goodness, I thought it was so funny. I try harder to pay attention to what I'm nodding at :P

Also when we were contacting in the park this guy came up to us, while smoking a cigarette because EVERYONE here smokes, and he's like "Where are you from? You're beautiful." So we told him we were missionaries from America and he's like "Cool, can you come drinking with me?" Haha we were like "uh...that's a little bit against the rules, but here's a pamphlet about Jesus Christ." And he actually talked to us for a little bit because he seemed genuinely interested, but then he didn't want to meet with us again so whatever...

Um so something kinda creepy happened this week that I debated on whether or not to tell you about because I don't want you to freak out... but I'm going to tell you anyway. So we were walking to conference on Saturday morning and we were almost to the Church building when there was this guy that was in the middle of the sidewalk up ahead of us. As we got closer to him, he stopped us and asked if we knew what time it was. We could tell he was drunk, so we just kind of watched him for a second and then Sis Kuhn looked down at her watch. As soon as she looked down, he started walking toward us and reached out to grab Sis Leavitt. Instinctively, Sis Kuhn and I stepped to the sides, so now we were behind the drunk guy and he was facing Sis Leavitt. She stepped back and he tried to grab her again and then she tried to step to the side but he put his arms out like he wasn't gonna let her pass. Sis Kuhn and I stepped back toward him and Sis Kuhn was closer to Sis Leavitt so she grabbed her and pushed the drunk guy and we just like ran away. Luckily he just like went the other direction. But we were all like did that really just happen?? We were so creeped out. But I dunno what that guy was thinking. There was 3 of us and only 1 of him...and we were in the middle of a really busy shopping area. . Anyway, we are usually able to avoid drunk guys because you can see them staggering around from a mile off. They are everywhere here.

So apparently our area here in Taganrog is the most successful area in the mission right now. We have 6 progressive investigators, where many areas don't have any or only have 1 or 2. I'm really grateful for that because it means that we don't have to spend a lot of time contacting because we are able to have appointments most days. We also do a lot of work with the members because they are all fairly new and sometimes unmotivated to do Church things.

Two of our investigators are a mother and daughter named Nadyezhda and Karina. Karina is 15 and her mom is paralyzed because of doctor malpractice. She had a surgery a few years ago and something went wrong and now she's completely paralyzed below the neck except she has the use of one of her arms. It's crazy...there are so many people here that suffer from the effects of doctor malpractice... People really just don't care about other people here. All they care about is money and alcohol. It's really sad. Anyway, Karina and Nadyezhda are so awesome. Karina has a baptismal date for May 7, but we dunno how serious she is about it. She's afraid about what her friends will think. Which is a common problem here, because when you join the Church you often have to give up friends because of the things they are doing... And EVERYONE here is into smoking and drinking and being immoral and so it's like a big deal to NOT do those things... But we're trying to work with her to understand why it's important.

Um...I think that's all, I'm about out of time, so I hope you all have a nice time this week and that you enjoy having running water and being able to take showers and drink from the tap ;) Love you all!

Love, Sister LeBaron

Back to Work!!! Ariel's Letter #2 from Russia April 11, 2011

Hello Family!

So, I found out also that Dear Elder is one of the best ways to send the mail. They get here almost weekly... or so! :) ya! So, at the beginning of this week I was in Tagenrog with the 3 other sisters who are serving there. It was really fun to be with them and kind of like a big party all week! haha There shower is totally crazy, and it only stays hot for about 30 seconds after turning it on, so I basically showered out of the tap for a week! And sometimes the water was so cold it almost gave me a brain freeze! :) It was really good to be able to serve with Sister Kuhn. She was able to teach me some good ways to work on the language. It's great to hear a native speak the language, but Cectpa Undejzorova can't teach me how to learn it because she has never had to learn it before. We made Borsch this week and it was SO good! I will have to learn how to make it so we can have a Borsch party when I get home! While in Tagenrog we taught a lesson at the home of a young girl and her mother. The mother is totally paralyzed, but is so happy and a wonderful lady. The health care here is so poor that many people can become paralyzed from doctor malpractice. We also taught a lesson to another girl and for part of the lesson I was able to share an experience about prayer! ya! It took me a while to memorize how to tell the story, and it was extremely simple, but it felt good to be able to participate a little bit!

Kind of funny.... we were in a park and this man came up to us and asked what such beautiful girls were doing? He then proceeded to ask us if we wanted to go drinking with him... haha... But we gave him a little handout and maybe he'll get in touch with us about coming to church!

On Friday Morning Cectrpa Undejzorova returned from her visa trip and I can't tell you how happy I was to see her again! I'm finally back in my area and feel like we can get back to work! I feel like we haven't been able to work for a while with all the travel and everything! It has been kind of rainy, so I went knocking for my first time... haha! Most people don't even open the door as they have little camera's and a speaker system that they talk to you through! and if they do open the door they pretty much hear the word missionary and close the door, but we did meet a nice man in the stairwell who we talked to for a while!

We went tracting in the rain also the other day. There weren't very many people out, but we did meet some really nice muslim men. They stop and talked with us, but we aren't allowed to teach them as they can be killed if they join another religion. It was sad because they were so nice!

Yesterday we taught a lesson on prayer to a less active member. She lives in an apartment that is probably about half the size of our full kitchen at home. It has one bed, a low small table, a sink, and another small room that's a bathroom. The mother, her daughter, and her mom all live there! We sat and read and talked about prayer. She is a neat lady and I'm hoping that we can work with her every week and help her come back to church. I know that as she lives the gospel, like was said in General Conference, it will bless her. Paying tithing does not mean that we will become wealthy, but we will be able to live better off of 90% of our income than if we had had the full 100%! (Remember Malachi 3:10--The windows of heaven will be opened to them and the Lord will provide for them. It works!!)

As we left her house we had the coolest thing happen! We were walking home and I asked if we could contact a bit on the way home. My companion said that if I wanted to. I did and so I talked with a man, one of the first ones that passed us on the sidewalk. After the first usual introduction he asked if he could tell us a story. He told us about how his wife had just had a baby girl, but she wouldn't let him see her. He would buy and bring things to her house and drop them off, but his wife wouldn't accept them from him! He just wanted to help and see his new baby! Cectrpa Undejzorova taught him how to pray and committed him to pray. We also go his number and he said that he and his friends would come to church on Sunday! Wow! He was SO cool! I'm hoping though that we'll be able to teach and talk to him during this week and then have him come to church! Pray that he's open to our message! His name is Vaciili. It was really funny though, because I'm still trying to get used to the way people interact here in Russia. They really don't have a personal space bubble and so the whole time he was talking to us he was like 2 inches from my face! haha ok, not that close, but I really wanted to take a step back, but couldn't because that would be rude! He also kept touching my arm! lol... ok... totally not appropriate for him to touch a sister missionary, but he didn't know that! The whole time he kept touching me, Cectpa Undejzorova was just laughing to herself! oh well!

This week has been really neat as I started reading in Alma 53:2 in the Book of Mormon, a Second Witness for Christ (with the Bible). The Book of Mormon contains the history of God's dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the American continent. In Alma 52:2 it describes the love between, Moroni, a great general and one of his leaders, Lehi, which says:

"And Moroni went to the city of Mulek with Lehi, and took command of the city and gave it unto Lehi. Now behold, this Lehi was a man who had been with Moroni in the more part of all his battles; and he was a man alike unto Moroni, and they rejoiced in each other’s safety; yea, they were beloved by each other, and also beloved by all the people of Nephi."

. It says how Lehi was a man like unto Moroni. Moroni is described in Alma 48:11-17

11. And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect bunderstanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;

12. Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the awelfare and safety of his people.

13. Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had asworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.

14. Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught anever to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.

15. And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger;

16. And also, that God would make it known unto them awhither they should go to defend themselves against their enemies, and by so doing, the Lord would deliver them; and this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; bnot in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity.

17. Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the bdevil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men."

I want to develop those same qualities and like it says in verse 13, we have also made this covenant! to give our ALL to this work!

It was SO wonderful to see General Conference! and to see the BYU-Idaho choir! I for sure saw Suzanne Briggs and a guy named Ben from my Freshman ward. I think I also saw (but it was pretty fuzzy so I couldn't be sure) Breanne Davis, Kira Kennedy, and possibly Abigail Briggs... But it was SO fun to hear from them! Way to go BYU_Idaho! Also, it was a pleasure to see Trisha in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and I think that I saw Alaina in it too! Am I right?!!

Wow! General Conference was SO amazing and I have been thinking about what we were taught! I loved what President Monson taught about temples! If we truly could understand the importance of these ordinances, it would not be a light thing to go to the temple! The story of the man working for 6 years total to get his family to the temple was SO inspiring! I hope that I will never take the temple for granted.

I also loved Elder Bednar's talk on revelation. It is so comforting to know that we may not always know if we're following the Lord's will, but as we are obedient to His commandments and take that step of faith on the road to Damascus (as President Uchtdorf talked about) we may have our confidence wax strong D&C 121:45 which says: "Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God..."

I hope to get a copy of the conference Ensign so I can study their talks more! Thanks for the tape also! IT was fun to hear your voices!!!
I love you all! have such a fantastic week!

Cectpa Cunningham P.S. If you are interested in looking up ath etalks from General Conference that Ariel mentioned in her letter, and other subjects like temple etc. go to

More Chalk drawings as we contact people to teach them of Christ.

My companion Sister Undejzorova from Estonia.

This is the apartment we live in. SUPER SNICKERS!
The inside... just to make you all jealous.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Letter from Ariel's Companion Sister LeBaron - April 4, 2011

Family and friends,

So nothing really exciting happened this week. Just another boring week. Oh...except for the fact that I came to RUSSIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOO!!! Haha tricked you... this week was WAY exciting! :)

OH my goodness, I LOVE RUSSIA!!!!!!!! AHH... I have so much to say I don't even know where to start... and I only have time to say like a sentence about everything so you get the basic gist. So here goes...

The night we got here President and Sister Nechiporov met us at the airport and brought us to the mission home. We were all soooo scared to meet them because their pictures all looked so scary and they are Russian and they used to be pretty prominent Communist leaders (especially Sister Nechiporova) so....we were scared. But they are SOOOO nice!! And so funny. Oh my goodness, I love them. At zone conference in a few weeks they are going to tell us about their conversion story and everything so we're pretty excited for that. Also Sister Nechiporova made us a wonderful dinner of meatloaf and she also made us breakfast the next morning. She's an amazing cook! It was all soooo good. Especially after 3 months of MTC food and 2days of airplane food. Bleck...

The next day after breakfast, President met with each one of us and told us where we would be serving and who our companions would be. Right now I'm in a city called Taganrog. It's a small city an hour to the northwest of Rostov on the coast of the Sea of Azov. It's a really small city, and me and my companions (I have 2!) are the only missionaries in this area right now. It actually just recently reopened to missionary work again, so there's only one companionship here. My companions are Sister Leavitt (from Draper, UT who's been here for 3 months, the whole time in Taganrog) and Sister Kuhn (from Bountiful, UT who's been here for 7 months). Sister Kuhn speaks excellent Russian so she does most of the talking... and Sister Leavitt knows everybody here because she's been here for so long... and I'm just kind of here... haha. Oh man, I cannot understand ANYTHING. It's so funny. But I'm working on it and I'm trying really hard to learn so that later on I can help in the teaching. Right now I can just bare a VERY simple testimony. Which works for now, I guess :)

There's only one branch here in Taganrog with about 40 active members (if the weather is good... if the weather's bad there's only like 20 active members...). The weather has been pretty good since I've been here. In the 50s and 60s most days. The past couple days has been super windy and cold though. But not cold enough for a heavy coat or anything...

The first night I was here when we got to Taganrog, we had an appointment to go teach the first convert to join the Church in Taganrog. They went inactive a few years ago and refused to meet with the missionaries (the elders...) but when Sister Leavitt called to meet, he said he would. We taught him and his wife about prophets and challenged them to come to General Conference and they said they would. It was kind of frustrating though because they told us that they knew the Church was true, and they felt the Spirit while we taught, and they loved us coming over, but they didn't want to come back to Church. So I dunno... we might meet with them again. Oh, and as for conference. We'll watch it this next weekend in Russian at the Church building, and then they'll give us a recorded copy of it in English that we can watch at our apartment. So we'll get to watch it eventually :)

We have Church in the back of an ooooooold theatre building. It's pretty cool, actually. There's this huge theater and the church just owns a little hallway in the back of it with like 5 rooms that they've like renovated and made to look all church-like. It's super simple, but it's clean and it's pretty. We have to walk through a labyrinth of hallways and doors though to get to it. With like all this crazy artwork and graffiti on the walls. It's super cool though. I like it!

My apartment is really old and ghetto and our fridge smells funny, but I love it so much. It's so small and just awesome. We have poor water pressure, the shower doesn't work sometimes, our washer sounds like a spaceship is trying to take off in our kitchen, we don't control our heat so sometimes it gets REALLY hot in our bedroom, but oh man... I seriously love it so much. This is the best place in the world!!! Ah. Russia's the best :) (and I'm not even being sarcastic... haha I'm serious!!)

My first experience contacting was a fun one. We walked up and down the busy road by our apartment talking to people and I didn't understand a word anyone said. I'm pretty sure a lot of people were laughing at us and thought we were crazy... this one guy was actually really rude to us I'm pretty sure, but I just thought it was so funny! I was laughing like all day because Russians are so funny. A lot of Russians are really animated when they talk and they make crazy facial expressions and hand gestures and it's just the best! I can't wait till I can understand the words coming out of their mouths... haha or maybe I don't want to... they're probably just swearing at us a lot... :P

Oh, I've also made a few observations about Russians in general... all the girls wear mini-skirts and boots. ALL the girls. Everyone here LOVES shoes. Babushkas yell at you if you're not wearing a coat...even if the sun is out. Everyone has gold teeth. Everything is really dirty here...there's mud and dirt everywhere. Everyone's really skinny...probably because all they eat is vegetables. There are no traffic laws...people just drive where, how, when they want to. It's scary.... Everyone LOVES pictures. I take my photo album everywhere so I can show people. Umm...and some other things I can't remember right now.\

Probably my favorite thing that we did this week was teaching English to some children. Once a week we do service for this teacher Sister Leavitt met. She teaches English at the elementary school and her students come and just practice speaking English with us. It was soooo fun! They are adorable and it was so cute to hear them speak English. It was awesome to be able to actually communicate with some people. They also sang us a song which was super cute. It was some country song and it swore in it, which was funny... but yeah. That's my favorite thing ever.

Umm I'm out of time! Ah... I had so much more I wanted to write. But I will try to remember the good stuff and write about it next week. Or I'll just tell you all in 15 months when I come home... haha :)

Anyway, I love you all! The Church is true! RUSSIA IS THE BEST!!!! I'm staying here forever. ....ok actually I'm not... But I really really really like it here :)

Love, Sister LeBaron

Oh My Goodness! I'm in Russia! - April 4,2011

Moa Cemya!! Xello!! :)

Wow!! THis has been quite the adventure already! My first impression and experience seeing President Nechiporov are kind of funny... So I walked down this platform with my luggage and he comes up to me and says, "Sister Cunningham," with his Russian accent, "You don't look anything like your picture, but that's good, you look much better!!" haha! It made me laugh! They are so great! I had a wonderful first nights sleep in an extremely comfortable bed and then the next morning all of the new missionaries and the Assistants to the President gathered for breakfast. They eat a TON of "cmatana" it's sour cream here. But their sour cream is SO VERY different from what we have in America. IT's like a sweet yogurt yumminess!! We ate it on pancakes, which was heavenly! Sister Nechiporov is a FABULOUS cook! I was the first to go in an interview with PResident Nechiporov. He asked me to tell me about myself, why I came on a mission, etc. He then told me that I had 2 questions that I could ask him.... me... of course, being the over thinker that I am, I was trying to think of these really deep quesions, wondering what he was looking for. He kept saying, "Sister Cunningham, that was a really good question, but you still have 2 questions left." haha :) Kind of embarrassing. I finally realized that I needed to ask who my companion would be and where I was going to serve!

Well..... drumrollllll............. I am serving in Rostov in an are called Oktoverski. My companions name is Cectrpa Undejzorova. She is from Estonia, aka SHE SPEAKS FLUENT RUSSIAN!!! President said that this would be my first challenge. He said that she is kind of quiet and does not speak very good english. Well, this was it!! My Russian would HAVE to improve! It turns out though that she actually is very fun and her english is EXCELLENT! haha She has only been out in the field for 3 months and so is still kind of a greenie too. We are kind of doing a pilot program I think. The goal of the program, excepting my language skills of course, is so that I will be ready to train after 2 transfers. After everyone was interviewed and we had a quick meeting about some details we headed off to the office to get our new companions and fill out paperwork. It was wierd to say goodbye to the Elders and Sisters that I had been with every single day for 3 months, but exciting and new! We headed home to our new apartment, which is pretty awesome... haha! It has some fun little quirks, but I don't mind! And our landlord is the CUTEST old man ever!!

We went out contacting that first night. I was SO scared to say anything, and really didn't understand anything anyone said... So, the next day I decided that I was actually going to open my mouth and speak. How can the Lord help me to learn Russian, and how can I help invite people to come unto Christ if I never talk? So, I did. I would at least usually do the introduction, but then my companion would take over the rest. Many times people just say net net net and keep walking. Or they ignore us (I remember Martin's stories about that, so I just say hello to my compaion! :) and one time this man said something. I didn't know what it meant, so I asked Cectpra Undejzorova what it meant. She didn't know what it meant in English, so she looked it up and it meant "heathen or pagan." haha! I couldn't help but laugh that someone had just called me that! oh well!

The other day on the way to the mission office I had my first fall in Russia. i know, I'm a klutz, I was just tripping over nothing on some steps! Thank goodness for nylons, so it only got a tiny scratch and then a scrape. And this of course happened right in front of the statue of lenin! The other day we went to a long sidewalk that is really pretty... kind of like a trail in the city. IT was near a library and many people just stroll along it. We met some elders and did a chalk drawing of the Savior on a cross and then a scripture from the Bible beneath it, and then a picture of the Savior appearing to the people on the American continent (i should be able to e-mail some pictures next week) with a scripture from the Book of Mormon. The elders were REALLY good at drawing and it was fun to have people stop and ask what we were doing and ask them if they had heard about the Book of Mormon.

One of my new favorite dishes is this crepe like thing adn they put chicken and a cheese sauce in it, or sweet sauce! SO DELICIOUS!! I don't know what's on this website, but maybe they'll have pictures of it, it's

It is really hard to contact ALL the time. We taught one lesson to a 9 year old this week who's grandmother is a member. I have to admit I didn't understand like ANYTHING that was said... :( We have to contact to find people to teach, but so many rejections occur. Every once in a while we are able to talk to someone for a couple minutes and bear testimony. I look into these people's eyes and see SO much light and potential! When these rare events occur, it makes it all worthwhile. I try to understand what my companion is saying, at least the topic, so that I can say something, but I ahve to admit that many times I don't say anything because I don't know what's going on. They talk SO fast! But sometimes I get a feeling to say a simple sentence, and I'm trying to be better at just interjecting and saying what I felt I should say, even though many times they look at me and say, "What did she say?" man....

We taught a new member lesson to cbetlana and biktor this week. They are really great and had me say the opening prayer and read some excerps from the Liahona with my very battered Russian! They were so nice and patient! In church I really didn't understand anything, but the members were all really nice. There were about 40 in attendance and about 4 men. Pray that the Lord will prepare strong and stalwart men for us to find and teach! We need leaders and good men in the church!

I'm actually in a new city right now with Cectpa LeBaron, Levit, and Kune. My companion had to go to Latvia to renew her visa, and so I am going to be in Tagenrog this week with the 3 some of sisters. It was SO strange as I arrived this morning. I am not trying to be disrespectful as I explain this, but Their next door neighbor had just died (this is just all so new and strange), and so their was the top of a casket just outside the apartment building leaning up by the door. Then, as we walk up the stairwell, they're filling it with flowers. When we get to the door of the ladies home, the door is wide open and we can see her laid out in a casket and family and friends are constantly coming and going! I didn't expect to see a dead Russian person my first week in the country! Wow! Super crazy to get to this new place and have a deceased person in the apartment next door!

I also had a fun surprise as Alicia's, Uncle Kerry's, Presiden Liou's, and Aunt Shirley's letters from Dear Elder weren't lost afterall! They had sent them to the mission office and so I had mail waiting for me when I got here!! Send all mail to the Mission office, the address is

Russia Rostov Mission
Bolshaya Sadovaya 39/4
Rostov-na-Donu, Russia

The sisters say it can be as fast as 1 month to recieve mail, and as slow as 3! Well, i'll send some letters out and hopefully they'll make the safe journey to America!

You can also write me by sending letters to Simply find my mission, write the letter and they will email it to my mission. I love letters!!!

I love you all!! And if anyone has good contacting ideas and what to say to grab peoples attention! Please pass them on!!

Cectpa Cunningham

My Russian name tag. Chalk drawings! We love RostovEveryone needs the Gospel! Rainy Day tracting!!