Monday, October 31, 2011

Music NIght October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!! On the actual day this time!! :)
We had a slow week with lessons and things because we used a lot of time to get ready for our music night.  Sister Zamorina has been working REALLY hard on putting together a play!  So, most of the nights I had my favorite Russian lessons with my favorite Sveta or called people on our list while they practiced! :)  But this week we met with a new investigator.  To be honest, at this point I'm not so sure how normal he is.  It's always hard for me because I don't always understand everything, but Sveta was like, it doesn't matter, just trust your feelings.  He showed me his passport when I went to write down his number and then on our lesson he brought us a resume of his life!! :)  Well, we know all about him!  And he really got into our FHE game on Monday!  They love fruit basket mom! Thanks for the idea!

I absolutely love the people here!!  I hadn't worn my coat this one day this week as the sun had been out and it had looked warm... well, it definitely wasn't!!  We contacted with the elders and I basically just danced and jumped around the whole time to stay warm.  But we had a miracle as a man that we have met about 2 other times road by on a bike.  We called out to him and he stopped and talked to us.  We invited him to our music night!!  (And mom we used your chalk you sent Sister Zamorina to draw Moroni burying the plates!!).  He had a box of milk on his bike and asked me if I liked milk.  I said yes and then he handed me this thing of milk!! haha!  It was funny to be walking around with a bag of milk after that!

We went and visited a member this week that we had never visited before.  She is pretty quiet when she comes to church and I have tried to talk with her a little bit and have asked if we could stop by sometime.  She always is just like "No, I don't want you to come."  Well, on Sunday I started talking with her and about her son who had lived in America for awhile.  I asked again if we could come by expecting a no, but she said yes!!  We were a little late getting to her house and we weren't exactly sure where to go!  Well, we found it and she was out wandering around looking for us!! She is a wonderful lady with bright blond hair that she wears up on the top of her head in a bun and she wears bright red lip stick!!

I've been running in a little park area by the road and this week this man stopped his car on the busy street and asked me if I was cold and then drove off!! it was funny and like 6:45 a.m.! :)  This week I also used dad story of flying off his bike into the sewer on his mission for a spiritual thought for our drawing night!  I think everyone enjoyed it and I got to practice it earlier with Sister Zamorina so that I knew how to say all the words.  Sewer and such are not the words I usually look up in the dictionary!! :)  The APs were in town this week and so at our district meeting they told us our transfers and Sister Zamorina and I get to serve another transfer together!  I'm WAY excited and am hoping that i can stretch myself a lot with my Russian this transfer as it will probably be my last, at least for a while, serving with a native! I feel SO blessed to have another transfer with a native!!  Throw out any ideas you want of how I can take better advantage to learn the language!!

We also drew another time this week.  We were drawing Joseph Smith (the pic. of him reading the Bible) and I stopped a lady to talk with her.  She was a Jehovah's witness.  Usually they just want to debate.  But we had a good 30 minute conversation and she listened and shared what she believed!  It was REALLY cool because I understood almost everything and she understood what I was saying and I know that she needed to hear what I was saying because I could feel the Holy Ghost helping me!! I think I may have even used more correct grammar because the right endings for words just came more easily into my head!! what a blessing!

Our music night went AMAZING!! i got to play an old babooshka on a bus, a little girl and the elders and us did a line dance!! It was AWESOME and EVERYONE had a great time!!  Natasha from our mission office came down with former sister missionary sister nikanova!! i love them SO much!! it was great to see them again and they have a nickname for me!! It's pronounced like Kanichka!!  I love it SO much!!  Our kind of crazy Tatyana said after watching the elders do another dance and song they had performed that elder haws should dance for the Moscow Ballet!! I love krasnodar and am excited for another transfer here!! Happy holloween all!! go crazy and dress crazy!! have a GREAT week!!
Cectpa Cunningham

Monday, October 24, 2011

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! October 24, 2011

Since we probably won't be celebrating Halloween, I still figured I should say happy Halloween!!

Thanks to Aunt Becky, Britt, and Simone for their wonderful letters!  I loved hearing from all of you!!

I feel like we didnt' really do that much this week, it was kind of a weird week!  We had an amazing Zone Conference on Tuesday! My interview with President was way funny too because almost half of the time he just asked me about Russian food!  haha if I had learn to cook anything etc. and told me how he likes to make borsch! :) Sister Nechiporova talked about loving the people more here in Russia, President about Baptism, the Zone Leaders about Book Of Mormon missionaries, and the Assistant to the Presidents' about the Atonement.  President always makes really funny comments too!  After we recited Section 4 from the D&C in Russia, Sister Nechiporova got up to give her presentation and said, President and I are still trying to learn it by heart.  President from off the side says, "ya, we're stupid!" haha! :)  We love President!  The Potter's also did a way cool presentation where they gave the stats of the areas we are serving in.  In Krasnodar we have 745,000 people to 6 proselyting missionaries.  In our zone there is about 1,400,500 people to 14 missionaries.  That means that to reach everyone, each of us would have to contact about 100,000 people!!  wow!! crazy!! they had us open these envelopes that were like our mission calls again!  I felt like I was opening my call again!  It was WAY powerful!  The Lord knows exactly who we are and where we needed to serve!  They told a powerful story of a missionary from Spain sent to serve in AZ.  At a conference he said a few words and after a man came up to the missionary.  After asking several questions he realized that this missionaries father was the only man that he had baptized on his mission.  He had felt his mission was a waste and that he had done nothing.  He went inactive and only came to the conference because a friend invited him, but God sent a missionary all the way to AZ to a conference just to testify to a man there that his mission was not a waste!! It was a story from the previous Priesthood session of Conference!! wow!!  So cool!!  We are like babes, not being able to speak very well, but the Lord uses us where we are needed!

This week was also really special because the Patriarch was here in Krasnodar.  So many of the members were able to receive their patriarchal blessings.  My favorite family in the ward, Vitya, Amy, and Irina even got theirs!    All of the 13 tribes of Israel (Joseph has two--Ephraim and Manasseh, his sons) have been found in Russia.  Just in Amy's family they all had different lineages!  Asher, Zebulon, and Benjamin! it's AMAZING!!   We also were SO blessed to be able to hear from Patriarch Browning at Zone Conference.  He said that he has learned that the Spirit speaks by quiet thoughts and tender feelings.  Even he as a Patriarch, he receives inspiration to give Patriarchal blessings through these things!  It was just SO amazing to know that we can also have that same inspiration!

We had some fun appointments this week.  We went out to Tatyana's house and they fed us soup for dinner!  She said that she wished we could just stay there with her!  I love that family SO much!  We watched President Monson's talk from General Conference and challenged them to live the Word Of Wisdom again as we had noticed that they drink tea.  This week we were trying to find the theatre building as we wanted to get tickets to a ballet for our cultural night.  Unfortunately they were all sold out... :(  But on the way there we asked this girl for directions.  I then noticed that she was crying.  We asked her what was wrong.  She was all, nothing.  I then asked if it was because of a boy and she said yes.  She had started crying openly now, and I said that I would beat him for her if she likes! :)  We gave her our contact information and several hugs.  I don't know if we were able to really help her at all, but I at least hope that she didn't feel like God had left her alone!  And I hope that maybe she will one day call or come to church!  As the Assistants to the Presidents' gave their talk about the Atonement I was thinking about how very little I truly know.  I'm 21 yeas old and have lived in America my whole life.  I have never gone hungry, always had comfortable clothes, a place to sleep, and more than enough.  I am among a people that many have very humble circumstance.  One of our less active members Axcana just had a baby.  She is about 16 years old.  We were over at her house the other and talking with her.  She was telling us how she pretty much always has to hold her baby standing up or her baby will cry, so most of her day is spent standing.  She went on to explain that sometimes she couldn't go to the bathroom for a really long time because she had to just hold her baby just standing up.  I really didn't understand and just thought, well, you could just set your baby down for a minute or two while it's crying and use the restroom.  Then yesterday when we were at her house Meela, a member, came with us.  She asked where the bathroom was.  I then realized and understood what Axcana had been talking about.  She has to walk outside her house down the stairs and use this very run down outhouse for her bathroom.  Don't worry mom!  I got a picture!  Right as Meela and I were getting ready to take the picture both doors of the outhouse opened! Rather funny!  But after as I thought about it, I felt humbled as I realized this...  There is NO way that I can understand this people.  What they have been through, what they have to go through, etc.  But there is someone who does!  Our Savior Jesus Christ knows each of us, our pains, sorrows, afflictions.  He has cried every tear that we have cried and felt the pain of every trial we have been through.  I cannot understand the people that I meet and teach, but He can.  And I am here to invite them to come unto Jesus!  Come unto Him for "his yoke is easy and his burden is lite." (Matthew 11:30) And He knows their sorrows.  He knows their pains, and only through Him can they be lifted and saved!

Thanks again dad for your wonderful journal.  I read a couple entrances this week and felt SO grateful that you have experienced and been through some of the same trials that i have been experiencing!  The struggle with the language, and following the spirit!  I hope that I can do better!  I can't believe how the time has already flown.  In my interview President reminded me that I have already been out half way.  He did say though that that meant that now I could do more!  Now I could speak the language better and understand more so I can do more now than I did the first half of my mission!  I truly hope that I can live up to that!  I hope that I can help make a difference in the lives of the people here!  I love them and love just watching them on tramvais and on the street and I hope that i can be an instrument in the hands of God in helping to bring them some happiness and joy as they come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and Savior Jesus Christ!

I love you all!!  Go carve some pumpkins for me and eat lots of candy!! :)
сестра канингхэм

Sorry I don't have pictures.!! :(

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A letter from Ariel's mission President, October 19, 2011

Dear Cunningham Family,

We received a package from you where we found our birthday cards and article. Thank you.
We’ve got those books too. I’ll look at them and then decide what to do about that.

Last Tuesday we’ve had our zone conference in Krasnodar. I was able to see Sister Cunningham. She looks good. You may see her picture.

She looks as happy in reality as on this picture. She has a very good companion, they love each other and serve really well. They don’t want to be separated. I believe they pray for me in order to send me some inspiration and let them serve another transfer together.

I wish you all the best,

President Nechiporov
Russia, Rostov Mission

Monday, October 17, 2011

Flashmob! Rockin' Krasnodar October 17, 2011

Another exciting week in Krasnodar!
Before I forget, I saw Alena and Trisha in Mo-tab!! I love seeing you both during General Conference!!! Love you guys!  This week there were some visa trips that took place in our zone, and since Krasnodar is kind of a central city we ended up having about 6 elders here.  We decided to all get together one morning and try doing a reading of the Book of Mormon flashmob!  There is a fountain on the center walkway of Krasnodar with benches surrounding all of it!  The Potter's came with us also and so we had about 3 missionaries on one side of the fountain and 4 on the other.  Elder Hansen and I took the job of contacting the people that went through.  So, the point is that all around the fountain the missionaries each just sat reading a Book of Mormon.  Elder Hansen and I would just contact those that had walked through and hopefully seen and been interested, wondering what this book is that everyone is reading.  We are hoping to do it with members as it is always better to have normal people without name tags reading the book and helping us!  It worked out pretty well though and was fun!  We gave away about 4 Book of Mormons in about 40 minutes!  I also had a funny experience... I contacted these 2 men sitting on a bench together and started talking with them.  I asked them how they know each other and the one wearing a hat took it off--showing me that they look like each other-- and said that they were brothers.  One of them lives in Germany and the other one here.  They loved that I could speak Russian and at the end one of the brothers-the one who lives here- took a Book of Mormon.  As I was getting ready to walk away I stuck out my hand to shake theirs and one of them took my hand and kissed it... haha  I was a bit stunned and then as I walked away couldn't stop laughing! :)  Gotta love 40 year old men!

This week I also got two personal tutor lessons with Sveta from our ward!  It was SO great!  Sister Zamorina was practicing for our upcoming music night and so Sveta just worked on helping me with my Russian.  She had me write sentences and tell her stories about my family and she helped correct my grammar.  Serving with a Russian companion is the best because I pretty much speak and hear Russian 24/7 (I try to do pretty well at speaking English at home because I need to help her learn English).  So, most people can understand what I'm saying, but my grammar is not very good.  I'm hoping to get better with that!  It was so neat to be able to talk with Sveta though.  I told her all about the year that dad had his stroke and all the blessings and the things we had learned and the relationship of mom and dad through it all.  She said that you (mom and dad) were an example to her, and that your story had helped her know and feel what changes she needed to make in her life!  Thank you mom and dad for being SO amazing! :)

I have been wanting sometime to just get on a bus and ride it to the end and then just stay on it and ride it back... well... I got my dream this week.  We were heading out to a members house, and we are inevitably ALWAYS late to her house, she lives WAY out there.  Well, we had to transfer buses and the second one that we got on was not the right one...  It would have been crazy to try to make it out to her house and then head back to the church for whatever else we had that day, so we just stayed on the bus, which was almost to the end of the line and then headed back. haha  On the way back this WAY too nice of a man sat by me.  He had brought grapes along with him and thought that it would be rude to eat them in front of me if I didn't have any, so he kept giving me grapes!  He let me talk to him about the gospel, but I am not so sure he was super interested.  He gave us his number though and wanted ours.  He then wanted to take a picture of me so that he had a caller ID picture of me for when we called.  I said no, so instead he took a picture of the cover of the Plan of Salvation brochure.  So, next time he calls a picture of the Savior will pop up!  That is a pretty important call that he should answer I think! :)

I was on splits for a lesson with Sveta this week as Sister Zamorina was on another lesson.  We taught a lady named Lubov.  She is just really interested in talking about God and really open about it!  We had a good 3rd lesson about the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  And it's always GREAT to have a Russian speaker on the lessons as sometimes I don't always understand everything.  The funny part was that she couldn't leave her dog home alone or something, so she brought it with her to the lesson.  I think that that was a first time I have seen a dog in the church... we just went into a side room on the bottom floor.  During the lesson the dog was sleeping under the table and started snoring... :)  On the way home that night Sister Zamorina and I were singing Sound of Music songs and acting them out... aka we were running down the sidewalk!  It was good as we had to hurry home anyway, but it was SO fun to just laugh and sing!  I love Sister Zamorina!! She's the best!

Tanya got baptized this week!!  She has been such a miracle!  Immediately when we told her about Joseph Smith she just believed it was true!  She loves singing Joseph's Smith's First Prayer--- i think i may have sung it 100 times with her :)  She reads the Book of Mormon, D&C, and marked them like she was a member before she was even baptized!  She is 18 though and very active... so her baptism was really interesting!  Every time someone got done speaking she would thank them, and then during the bearing of testimonies after she would like have conversations with those on the stand who had gotten up to bear their testimony! :)  It was way funny and finally we got her to kind of quiet down!

We went over to dinner at Vladamir and his wife's house last night.  They fed us and the Elders some kind of onion pastry thing, a Russian egg salad, chicken and potatoes, bread with some kind of spreadable cheese sauce, and fruit stuffed pastries and cake for dessert! :)  He has been coming to our church for a while but has not been really open to the gospel, so we are trying a bit of a different route with him.  He's really passionate about what he teaches (it's about art and child development or something) so he gave us a brief rundown about what he teaches.  Yesterday after he talked with us we were able to share a little spiritual thought and for the first time he talked openly about what he believes and didn't just put his head in his hands! :)  We have been wanting to do a culture night for a while and his wife also said that she would like to go to the ballet with us as her husband doesn't like to go and she doesn't have anyone to go with!  We are excited to be able to get to know her better! she is SO cool!

So... right now we have a couple of cool people we're working with, but there are SO many people here that are "married" but not legally married.  They usually live with their "husband" or "wife" and so they rely on each other for support but don't want to get married and have that commitment, but they can't just leave them because then the money isn't there... it's a way hard thing!  Ekaterina is so close and basically almost a member... but so far as she still smokes and needs to figure out her marriage situation.  She has asked her "husband" to get married and he's like, why!  Pray for something to open up there!  Well, anyway!  I sure love you all SO much!  have a WONDERFUL week!!

Cectpa Cunningham

 cool rainbow we saw! what you see is the back of the church... basketball hoop etc.

 on our way to do the flashmob and after when it started raining harder.  yes... i'm in the process of falling in this pic... Elder Haws pushed me over!

  Art night

 makeshift rain cover for the guitar


 surprise Sister Zamorina did for me!! the 9month what i love about you!! 9 months already on my mission!! wow!!

our room! love it!!

This is part of a video of the song that Sister Zamorina and i put together for the baptism!  It was WAY fun we just kind of figured out our own parts and played and sang!  I played the violin for part of it too!

Monday, October 10, 2011

General Conference in Russia October 10, 2011


This week was another fun filled and full week!  We came into church for FHE this past Wednesday and our usual friends were perched on the front steps.  There are two homeless people that always sit on the steps of our church.  They are often drunk, and this time the man was just sitting there and had dried blood all over his face...  We don't know what to do most times because it's not good to have them sitting there right in the way of people trying to come into church.  But they're pretty good usually when we ask them to move.  There is also this kind of crazy women who always come to FHE.  She is not a member and always falls in love with the Elders.  She thinks that one of them will one day give her a free passage to America as their wife... too bad she is like 45 and kind of crazy! :)  She always insists on playing the hymns that we sing for FHE too.  She can play, but she is used to playing for like a Baptist church or something so she always changes the rhythms of the hymns and adds extra notes!  It's way funny trying to sing along and we all can't help but laugh!

I found a documentary on the life of President Monson this week!  It was in Russian and I watched it with Sveta while Sister Zamorina practiced a play that she's putting together for our upcoming music night.  I loved President Hinckley SO SO SO much, and when he passed away it was really hard for me.  As I watched this film, however, the spirit was SO strong and i realized that I had come to love President Monson just as much I had loved President Hinckley!  He is an amazing man and I know that he is a prophet of God and the Lord's mouthpiece on the Earth!

I had a fun experience trying to send a little package this week.  I had written a card and then had 2 extra pieces of paper I had written on to go along with the card.  I was sticking it in the bigger envelope that they had given me and the lady said that it was allowed to send the card, but not the extra 2 pieces of paper!! ya... weird.  So, then she had me stick it inside the little gift that I had gotten to like "hide' it from the people who check the mail or something.  ya... thinking about it afterward I'm not so sure that they had us do something that was allowed... but I was able to send my whole letter!  What a hassle it was though...

This week we met a women, Lina on the street who has lived in America for the past 20 years.  She gave us her phone number even though she is only visiting her mother here for 3 weeks.  We were getting ready to leave for District Meeting Friday morning and I realized that I hadn't filled our our potential investigators on our sheet this week.  I kind of brushed the thought aside to fill it out right then, but then decided that I should do it.  As I was looking through my planner I saw Lina's name and number written.  It was also written that we should call her at 9 a.m. on Friday morning.  It was about exactly 9 o'clock.  I called her and she asked where I had been registered in Krasnodar, as she needed to also get registered.  I was able to call Lydia and give her the information that she needed.  I invited her to come to General Conference and she said to just call in the morning.  I forgot again on Saturday morning, but was urged by the spirit during one of the first talks to call her.  I got up during one of the songs and called her.  She said that she couldn't come today, Saturday, but she thought that she could on Sunday. 

Everyone who came in our ward watched the sessions in the chapel in Russian and all of us American missionaries watched in English in a side room on a laptop computer!  It was GREAT to see it in English though and wow!! What an amazing conference!  Lina did come for an hour on Sunday, so I sat with her in the chapel in Russian.  I want to hear those Sunday morning talks again in English, but it was kind of fun to listen in Russian because I really had to pay attention to my feelings and thoughts of what the spirit was trying to teach me as I couldn't understand everything!  I'm not so sure Lina quite understood the importance of General Conference, as when she had to leave early she turned to me and said, "I know what this is, this is just ABC."  I'm not exactly sure what that meant...

General Conference was amazing and I loved all of the talks about the Book of Mormon and Elder Oaks talk about who we really believe that Jesus Christ is!  I'm excited to get the copy of the Ensign so I can have all of the scriptures that he used.  It was SO much about missionary work!  I was SO grateful for the testimony about Father's example by Sister Dalton and couldn't help but think of dad's example for me!  Much of my faith and testimony as a young girl did come because I saw the gospel in the life of my father and wanted to follow whatever he said to me! Thank you dad! I sure love you!  And mom!  one of the speakers used your favorite example with the 2 dots. one for the BOM and one for the Bible  I loved what Elder Scott said that the Book of Mormon was written by people who have the answers to the problems in life.  There were also SO many talks about Missionary work!  As mom always taught I had written and taken my questions to conference and I got almost all of my answers in the Sunday afternoon session!  So much was about Russia too!! I was a little worried about getting what I needed to hear as I had to listen in Russian for the first part of Sunday, but I just really felt at peace knowing that I needed to sit with Lina.  I loved Elder Richardson's talk about teaching BY the spirit! I hope that I can do better at that.  Also Elder Yamashita's words helped me remember that even though I can't always say everything, or express myself as I can in English the most important thing as a missionary is how we show our love.  That was such a tender mercy to hear his talk as sometimes I really feel rather helpless!  People have a special feeling about us as missionaries however because people can feel the love of God through us and our example.  Love is often more powerful than anything we can say.  I had another experience this week that made my week!  after running around and playing ultimate Frisbee at sports night I was just laying on the grass and talking with Amy.  I told her how blessed I felt to know her and that I knew that SHE was one of the reasons that I had received my call to serve in Russia!  As we were talking she said that the other night she was pretty angry.  Her brother Vitya said to her, "remember how Cunningham smiles?"  Amy said that immediately she couldn't help but smile and feel better!  It made me feel so good and confirmed that what Elder yamashita said was true!  The feeling and example of our love is the most important thing!  We are here to show God's love to people!!  Well, I love you all and hope you are having a WONDERFUL week!

Sister Cunningham

 a cake like thing we made

 Mama tatyana on the left!! and her sister olga on the right

 drew President Monson to contact with about Conference

  scary pictures... but sister Zamorina is teaching me how to draw!! lips, eye and nose!

sports night

 so, i had an infection on my finger this week. Mama Lidia was superworried when I showed it to her but so excited that we have an investigator who is a doctor.  so on sunday he did a mini operation on my finger!  i hope it's my one and ONLY operation I'll have in Russia! no worries! my finger is doing GREAT!!  it was funny bringing all the materials for my operation to church!! haha

 backrub line!! ya!! haha

  i know we have a lot... but more pics of my favorite AMY!!

  amy drew me! haha

this little cat crawled up my leg when I was typing home! he wanted to say hi to everyone!! so hello!!  there are two little kittens her in Lidia's house!! haha

Monday, October 3, 2011

Russian Honesty October 3, 2011

Another P-day has come around in Krasnodar!
Hello to my wonderful family!

I forgot to mention last time that following our trip to Kiev, Sister Zamorina and I actually got to spend the night at the mission home! It was SO fun!  They always spoil us!  Sister Nechiporova made us dinner and then we had Family Home Evening with their family, Liza, president and sister Nechiporova.  It was SO fun and just felt like we were at home!  After the lesson we had home made cobbler and then sister Nechiporova gave us face masks and painted our nails! :) Sister Nikanova, a former missionary here was also there with us!  It was SO fun!  Getting back to Krasnodar was a lot harder than I had imagined!  I love my companion and the city, but after being with all Americans and being able to communicate everything I wanted to in words, it was hard to come back and be limited to my 100 word vocabulary!  (I hope I know a bit more than 100 words... :)  It was way hard and I think I made it miserable for Sister Zamorina, but she was wonderful and prayed about what she could do to help!  So, we started reading a talk from General Conference together and talking about it during our companionship study!  It helped SO much and things are SO good again!  The gospel can always bring us together, but we need to make an effort and very often times choose that we want to strengthen our relationship and then work at doing it.  After we show our commitment, the Lord gives us the feelings of love that we need, but we need to make the first steps!

We had a birthday party for Amy this week.  It was SO fun!  We had a spiritual thought, sang happy birthday, ate cookies and cake, and then played games.  We played the relay game where you hold the orange between your legs, and put a coin in your eye.  We didn't have any plates to put on our heads, so the elders and others went crazy and were hopping to make it around the chair at the other end of the room!  It was SO funny!  We had an apple eating contest, that kind of fell apart, and also played the relay game of wrapping mummies.  It always seems to take them a while to understand that these games should be loud and fun, but as we have played more and more of them they are starting to catch on!  It made me feel SO good because at the party, Mama Irina told me that they had been counting down the days until sister Zamorina and I got back!!  I love her!

We had some way funny things happen this week also.  As we contacted I started off talking to this one lady.  Just telling her that we were missionaries, etc.  After the introduction Sister Zamorina then started talking with her.  She then asked sister Zamorina where I was from because I spoke really bad Russian!! haha  I am not sure that she knew that I could understand or not, but I answered her that I was from America.  It made me laugh!  People here are just SO blunt!  They don't beat around the bush.  If you say something and they don't think it's true they will tell you so and even in Relief Society in the Branch the sisters shoosh (i don't know how to spell that...) each other--telling each other to be quiet! haha  that same day we saw an older lady walking.  She saw us and said, "My Sisters!!"  Thinking that she had met our missionaries before, we walked over to.  She took both of our hands in hers and said that she saw that we were preaching the gospel.  We told her that we were missionaries, but we were not missionaries of her church!  She was a Jehovah's witness and had thought that we were out doing our weekly preaching too.  It was really funny!  We wished her luck!

We had a couple of miracles this week.  We were coming home from an appointment at the Potter's house.  We had another lesson that we were on our way too, but we were next to our other investigators house.  We had not been able to get in touch with Zara (our investigator) all week.  We didn't really think that the lesson with this other lady would go through, so we just went up to visit Zara.  It was already about 7:30 when we got there, so we didn't have a lot of time to be there, but it was SUCH a blessing that we went.  She had had a really hard week and she said that us just being there had made her day.  It turned out that we never were able to get in touch with our other appointment anyway, so I'm glad we took the time to visit Zara and make her day.

On the way home on the tramvai that day I started talking to a lady that I was sitting next to.  I gave her an invitation for the Book of Mormon and she said that she had heard of it before.  I started talking with her about the Book of Mormon and Bible.  As we were talking she said that she didn't believe that we should use memorized prayers.  How could we really communicate with God if we just said memorized prayers?  It was so cool because as we talked I realized that her beliefs were almost the same as ours.  She had met the missionaries one other time on the street and before leaving the tramvai

The Elders had an amazing experience this week!  They were out contacting and talked to this man sitting on a bench.  He is a doctor and said that he had seen our church several times and had wanted to come and visit it.  He had basically been looking for the Elders (or someone) to tell him about our church.  He came to church on Sunday (which was fast Sunday as we will be watching Conference next Saturday and Sunday---which I am SO PUMPED to watch!!) and bore his testimony how he had been searching for something like this.  He had read many holy books, the Bible, Koran, etc. and prayed in his profession as a doctor to help his patients!  He is amazing!  We are SO excited to see where it will go!

We have trouble finding many good guy investigators here.  Well, especially for the sisters, you have to be careful because sometimes they'll just talk to you because you're a girl... The girls here always dress up and have such a high fashion, but the a lot of the guys are literally just bums.  They just wear short shorts (i know... gross) and flip flops.  They just kind of bum around and smoke and drink.  there are SO many people addicted to everything.  It's SO sad.  Sister Ivanova told me about the Russian situation, just how the government had wanted to have all of the power, and the leaders in government only thought about themselves.  As such, they sent all of the great thinking minds (scientists, poets, writers, mathematicians, basically anyone with new and innovative ideas) off to work camps in Siberia.  She told me how the government had killed off the Russia that she knows.  The Russia she loves is beautiful and full of the arts and classy, but the people that we see everyday on the street are the results of what the government did, killing the intelligent class.  And honestly we do see it a lot.  Before coming here I would not have been able to tell you how beer or alcohol or anything smelled, but now I can tell you if someone has been smoking or drinking from about a mile away.  You see it on the public transportation, you see it on the streets.  But besides all of the sad things, I seriously see so much love and possibility in the lives of these people!  A people who's governments discouraged them... well forced them not to even believe in God.  People help each other when they are getting on and off transit with a lot of things to carry.  People get up and give older people or pregnant ladies their seats on transit.  One time when we were on a Marshrooytka we asked where a certain stop was.  Pretty soon everyone was talking about where it was.  It got really loud!! haha!  They all just buzzed about where it was and made sure that the driver didn't miss the stop for us!  I love Russia and I love the Russian people!  Even through the sadness there is a light and brightness sin their eyes!  I read a really cool verse today in Jacob 3:9. Even though this people has such a dark past, we can't judge them for that!  It came from their history.  Our "filthiness" comes from our choices that we have made!  I hope that while I am here I can be of some help to these people and bring them to the joy, happiness, and peace that the gospel brings!  It's starting to get colder now, and so the time of year when people are really depressed is coming on, but the hope and light of the gospel is bright enough to shine through any storm!

I love you all!
Cectpa Cunningham

P.S. another tid bit on the people.  Sometimes when we teach we here these stories of when people didn't have food, or when their families were taken, etc.. I realize how little I can understand what they have been through.  There homes are also SO humble!  I think I have only been to maybe 1 or 2 multi-level homes while I've been here in Russia.  Most of the people have 1 bedroom... maybe and a kitchen and a family room.  often they just sleep on the futon couches in the family room.  Sorry I haven't ever really given a lot of details about these things.  I'll try to do better.  But seriously, I just want to be morphed into the culture, so I'm good with pretty much anything... the fact that they like to eat straight fat still grosses me out... but o-well! :)

 a beautiful picture collashe (i forgot how to spell that word) that Sister Zamorina made for Amy's birthday

 our team for the mummy wrapping game!

 sister Zamorina me and sister nikanova (thanks to Marissa for my sweater! Everyone complimented me on it!! :)

 some kind of rally/protest we saw.  Whenever we walk to or from the church we always go through the cemetery, but on our way home from church this was in front of the cemetery... so we decided not to go through.  We really aren't sure what it was about... there was a lot of maybe something to do with communism?  i don't know.

This is a lady that sells honey at the Rinok where we did our shopping today.  She had us try like 8 different kinds of honey.  I'm holding a bunch of the spoons we used.

Some Videos of the relay races.