Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas is Coming ~ November 28, 2011

It's almost Christmas!!!


Well... ok, it's after Thanksgiving so that means that the Christmas music has been brought out and we are jamming to Christmas music!!  This week we were going to go out and visit with one of our members.  The night before we called to confirm the time of the appointment, but she didn't answer.  We decided that we needed to go out their anyway. (this sounds like it's going to be a really cool story, but it's really not... haha)  When we got out there we realized that the address on our Branch list was wrong.  We basically called the whole ward looking for her right address, but no one knew it.  We walked around where we knew she approximately lived and were just like calling her name, asking people if they knew her, and yes... we even knocked on several random doors asking if she lived there.  We figured we might as well make a good adventure out of the whole ideal! :)  We had found out from some of the members that something hard had happened so she had just turned off her phone.  We never did end up finding her, but I think she felt really loved as when she turned her phone back on I think there were phone calls from almost everyone in the ward.  She gave me several hugs on Sunday. 

We were in the approximate area of our investigator Zara so we decided to stop by.  It had been a week or two as she had never answered our calls or anything.  Her mom was there also and said that we should have just come by sooner!! It's so funny that we used to be so scared of her mom, but she is such a WONDERFUL lady!  We were FREEZING by this point as we had been wandering outside for about 1 1/2-2 hours.  Zara's mom gave us warm socks to wear and had just finished making some soup!  It was really yummy.  As we were eating Zara left without us even knowing... so we were just chilling with her mom.  We gave a little spiritual thought and asked her if she would be ok if Zara decided to be baptized.  She said that it would be Zara's decision.  She then gave us a HUGE surprise (coming from a lady who had apparently been against us meeting with her daughter at first!).  She said that she had found one of our magazines that we had left for Zara and she had read it all and liked parts of it so much that she had even read parts of it twice!  She went to get it, and I was thinking it was one of the General Conference Additions of the Ensign.  She came back carrying the special addition all about the Book of Mormon.  She said that she had really liked the part where they had compared the teachings in the Bible with the Book of Mormon and shown how their teachings compliment each other.  She then said, (and this blew us away) that she sometimes just read the Book of Mormon.  Why not?  There can't be anything bad in it!!! :) :)  It was SO awesome!!  It's true!!  The Book of Mormon is ANOTHER testament of Jesus Christ!!  We met Zara on our way out and she said that that was all news to her that her mom had read the BOM! haha

We had a good Thanksgiving at the Potters.  I got to help make pies and we just kind of lounged around.  We could tell who the real Americans were as we spent almost the whole day in the kitchen... where all the food was!! haha

We got a new investigator this week.  His name is Roman.  He was the young man who was with the girl that I had met on the street when we sang the other week.  It was also really cool as we invited Vitya (Amy's brother) to meet with us on the lesson with him.  Vitya did such a good job!  He is planning on serving a mission and it was really neat to be able to have him be on our lesson and work with us as a missionary!  We try to have him with us on the lessons with Roman as much as possible.  He is a former skinhead, but he seems very humble and wants to learn.  Our last lesson with him this week we finished the plan of salvation and talked about the HOly Ghost and how we all need to gain a witness for ourselves through the spirit.  He said he didn't think that he had ever felt the spirit.  As we talked after the lesson he said that he liked coming to our church because he felt peace in his soul.  We pointed out that this is the spirit.

We went singing on the street again this week and couldn't help but sing Christmas songs.  It's still a little early to start in Russia as they celebrate Christmas in January if they celebrate at all, but we sang anyway!  We're SO excited to be able to start caroling soon!

Last night we went over to Amy, Vitya'sLamanates, that they did frighten them; and for this cause did the Lamanates deliver themselves up as prisoners of war.")  I shared with them how I had thought of them as I had read that story.  They don't have a father in their home, but their mothers strong example has made Amy and Vitya very strong also!  They love each other and love the Lord and I have never seen such faith in doing what's right!!  We asked them if they read the scriptures and pray together everyday.  Usually the answer from families is no, but these faithful new members said yes.  Amy sometimes leaves for work early so can't be with them, but they read together and pray together at night!! I love them SO much and am SO grateful for the steps of faith that they have made to change their lives and live the gospel as Jesus Christ taught we should live!! And the blessings... they are innumerable and more than we can truly understand!!

I love you all and hope you have a FANTASTIC week!! Thank you SO much for all of your love and support! I really couldn't do it without all of your love and support!!

Cectpa Cunningham

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Finally! ~ November 24, 2011

I sure love you SO much!! have a wonderful Thanksgiving!! I'm most grateful for my family aand all of your supports and for my wonderful friends and for the gospel that brings so much love, light, joy and peace in my life!!!!

 Amy's and my art projects.

 So here are several pictures of my apple pie I  helped make for Thanksgiving!! ya!!

And don't you worry!! We totally didn't forget to do our grateful turkey!!

 The place we saw the choir sing!!

 Me and our favorite Sveta!! I LOOOVVVEEE her!!

 Us and Elder Hansen and Haws who left  ok... this is actually not a very good pictures!!

 They're super good body guards!

 Our water wasn't working at our house, so this how they're working to fix it.

 Our art class and pictures.

 Me Zara and her daughter Sophia.

 Amy and I with our new hats!

 I know I was wierd before... but I have become even more nerdy.... haha

 One of my favorite fruits that does not grow in the US.  Horma and another one kind we tried.

 My new boots and another one of my new hats!! i should probably start wearing my new coat... it's like -4 celcius today...

 One of our less actives is a stylist... so we have fun trying on her things!!

 Don't judged my gross hair... it was raining.  these were the lips that Tatyana left on my cheek when she kissed me!

 and another one!

And some homemade grape juice!! yummy!

 Me and Amy

 We were really frustrated because we waited FOREVER for a marshytka, and so we decided that we could only be mad if we covered up our name tags, where the name of our church is written!! :)

 Some grapes, they grow them all over.

 Miela and me with the Russian bathroom.

 Our investigator Ekaterina!! I love her!!

 Elder Haws and I in girl time!! Never a better time washing dishes!! :)

 We bought some markers to do face painting for an upcoming ward activity.  And of course we had to try them out!

I hope the turkey is cooking well!! We had a good thanksgiving here in Krasnodar with the Potters!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Keep working ~ November 21, 2011

Hello Family!
Have a good Thanksgiving!!  This week was a little bit slower as I was getting over my sickness, and then we had Zone Conference (it was really early this transfer) and then you'll never believe it... but I got food poisoning again!! I have officially decided that I will not eat anything else in Russia until I finish my mission! haha :)  At least I got a lot of sleep!

This week we met with a member that we hadn't been able to meet with previously this week.  She is a young mother and we just never got over there.  I went up to her on Sunday and said, "Katya, I've been in Krasnodar almost 4 months and we have never met with you!! When can we see you!!" haha  We went over and had SUCH a good time!  To be honest, I felt like I was over at your house Erin!! Just chilling and talking with you!  It was SO great!  She is AMAZING!

We were meeting with a new member this week and talking about the Book of Mormon.  As we read Alma 32 I thought about how I had tried the "experiment" of reading the Book of Mormon and how the "seed" had grown and I had come to know that the BOM is true!  And I have come to love and cherish that book SO much!  I love the Book of Mormon.  If anyone has doubts whether that book is true, read it and find out for yourself.  God will tell anyone that truly wants to know if it is a book from Him or not.

This week we were able to meet with several of our less active members.  We had a meeting with Alona.  She joined the church several years ago and was very active for the first year.  We think that after that she got offended or something.  She seems to know quite a bit, but she just doesn't have the desire to make the needed changes.  How can we best help those that just don't have the desire, to help give them the desire?  It was a miracle though because her sister sat in with us on part of the lesson.  We invited them to come to church that Sunday and Alona said she would try.  Her sister, Tanya, has 2 young daughters that sometimes come with their grandma. When Tanya's oldest daughter heard us invite them to come to church she said to her mom something like, "Yes, it's so fun there."  At church on Sunday I saw the two little girls walk in and then Tanya came in after them!  It was a miracle that she had been there when we were talking with her sister Alona and then that she decided to come to church!

We were also contacting this week and saw this lady who was picking up trash around a business area.  We usually don't talk to people who are working, but there was something about this lady that made us both feel like we needed to talk with her.  We stopped and started talking with her.  She was really neat and wanted us to give her a Book of Mormon.  We prayed with her on the street and as we prayed she started crying.  We weren't able to meet with her to get her the Book of Mormon but are hoping that we can get in touch with her and this week and give it to her.

I had a good interview with President and he told me to make sure and carry lots of joy and happiness with me as we contact as now it has gotten colder and darker and people need to feel that joy of the gospel.  We had a great Zone Conference and talked a lot about goal setting, etc.  I realize that sometimes I just feel like I can just go through and be in an experience and that it will change me... That's not true though.  We need to be forever working and continually improving to reach our full potential.  Without goals we will never reach our full potential that we could reach.  We were able to go singing with the Elders after Z.C.  We just stood on Krasnaya and 4 people sang while 2 of us contacted.  I met this really awesome young girl and boy.  It was so fun because we just talked and laughed for about 20 minutes.  They were SO cool.  The boy asked if I had ever thought that maybe churches just use their "rules' to tie people down into submission for what they want.  I said that I had thought about it.  I said though that we all have the opportunity to try out those rules/commandments of God.  If it is of God we will feel peace and happiness when we do those things.  God gives us commandments not to make us miserable, but because He, as our Father, knows what we need to do to find the most happiness in this life.  And His commandments are the keys and steps we need to take in order to find this happiness.  So, as we try these things out and do them, we can know for ourselves if they are good or not.  He was all... ya... haha 

On Saturday morning we headed to the church and Natasha (our R.S. president) was there cleaning.  She was wearing the white Washington D.C. shirt with the blue writing on it that I got for you in Washington D.C. mom!   It was SO funny!  And like De ja voohaha It's so awesome to see the Lord's tender mercy and how His watchful eye has someone grab the wrong t-shirt so that all the way in Russia a little Sister missionary (me) who was feeling a little down that day can see the shirt that her mom wears at home and remember that she is loved!! :)

The AP's were in town for the weekend so I got to go on splits with them for a little bit.  We called it my AP date! haha  Elder Hodson and Ness are the BEST!!!  We have SO much fun together!  We went over to Vladamir and Tatyana's house.  They always feed us a TON!  And Vladamir for the first time kind of opened up during our small spiritual thought and asked some questions!  Besides getting food poisoning again... ya... it was GREAT! 

I love you all and hope that you have a FANTASTIC week!
Cectpa Cunningham

Monday, November 14, 2011

Miracles and Celebratio​ns ~ November 14, 2011

Krasnodar has gotten COLD!!!

First off!!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY BIG BROTHER AMMON THIS WEEK ON SATURDAY!!  I love you SO much and hope that you have a FANTASTIC day!!!
But I am now officially ready... I think!  Amy took me shopping and for the first time in my life I think I found EVERYTHING that I was looking for in one trip!  I got a coat, boots, and 2 hats.  Amy and I had wanted to get matching hats.  We had found the same style of hats but not in the same color.  Just as we were leaving, giving in to what we had found, I saw a part of the hat we liked under a big pile of hats!  It was another one of the hats \that we had found!  So, in the end we got our matching hats!  We were very excited!  This past Sunday we met the newly returned missionary for the first time.  He is way cool and wants to helps us with EVERYTHING in our work.  He even took a look at our area book--where we write all the records of members, investigators, in actives, etc. haha  We took him on a lesson with us this week to our Branch President's house.  Our Branch President is SO funny!  Once he gets talking you can't get him to stop!!  And he will literally like hold you captive at his house! haha  We had been wanting to have a lesson just with his wife that day but he had taken time off of work to be home, so we grabbed Oleg and dragged him along with us to keep the President distracted so that we could talk with his wife!  It was rather comical!
We met with Tatyana again this week, the older lady in our ward who wears really red lip stick.  I had read that day in the New Testament the parable of the lord who forgave his servant 1000 talents and then the servant went and would not forgive a man who owed him but cast him into prison.  We shared the parable and talked about forgiveness.  It was so cool as she shared a little bit of a problem that she was having right now with her neighbors and said that she had really needed that thought about forgiveness.  We also met with her a little later that day in order to help her know how to use the ATM!! haha  When we said goodbye she kissed me.  As we were walking down the street later sister zamorina turned to look at me and started laughing really hard as Tatyana had left a big bright red set of lipstick marks on my cheek!! haha

We had a mini birthday/thanksgiving party at District Meeting this week to celebrate Elder Hansen's and Sister Zamorina's birthdays.  We played the game where you tell part of a story go along in a circle each person telling a little bit of a story.  The theme was an assisted living place and there was one place where Elder Belnap had a line from Old Tom.  It won't make any sense, but he said, "Geraldine, your nylons are too tight!"  I started laughing SO hard that I couldn't stop and I started crying from laughter!! haha!  Elder Hansen ran and grabbed his camera to get me on video! haha!  Good times at District Meeting!  I love my district.

This week has been a good week and we have seen some miracles.  We have been trying to make some kind of daily contact with our investigator Raisa.  We usually drop of some kind of little snack with a scripture or something everyday. 

We went over to her house one night to drop something off quickly, but before we got there we got a call from Dima.  He asked us what our plans were for the night because he wanted to come and then could drive us in his car.  Because he came on our next lesson we were able to sit and talk with Raisa and give her a little spiritual thought.  It was small, but was a miracle that we got to talk with her for that little bit of time.  She is really hard to meet with and get in touch with.

Another miracle this week happened when we had headed to the church for a lesson that fell through. It had been a way rough morning and I was just really down emotionally.  As we walked to the church I was just crying.  For no particular reason, just really sad and worn out and down. That week we had tried to get in touch with our investigator Lubov.  She had lost her cell phone and then a man said that the home phone number that we had was not correct.  We didn't know what to do to get in touch with her again.  When we realized that our appointment had fallen through Sister Zamorina asked if we wanted to plan at the church and I could just talk or vent or do whatever I needed to do.  I said that we should get our hour of contacting done.  We headed out from the church to go contacting and there she was on a walk with her dog coming towards the church looking for us!!  We then had a lesson with her and set her baptismal date!  I'm so amazed how the Lord always makes everything work out in His timing.  Sad to have a lesson fall through, but we wouldn't have been at the church to meet Lubov if that hadn't happened.
Yesterday was Sister Zamorina'sLidya's that night.  I gave the spiritual thought that I remembered dad had done a long time ago for FHE where we right down something that we do that makes us "rebel against God" (from the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis where they buried their weapons of war.  At first they had just laid them aside but then when the lamatnites came against them to battle they did the next step and buried them so that they wouldn't even be laying around as a temptation for sin.  We all wrote something on a piece of paper and then buried our papers in the garden!  It was really fun! :)  Thanks dad for the idea! Well, I got food poisoning again... so hopefully I'll make it through the surprise party for sister Zamorina we're going to right after this!! I hope that you all have a GREAT week and that you know how very much I love you!!!
This morning I read a scripture from the Book of Mormon that I love.  It's Alma 26:12: "Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever." 

We can't really do that much.  We just need to follow the rules and do what we're supposed to be doing when we're supposed to be doing it, then the Lord works all the miracles and can make us an instrument in His hands for good!

Love you all,
Cectpa Cunningham

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cold and Sunshine!! November 7, 2011

Krasnodar is getting nippy and cold!! But the sun is still shining, even though the wind is biting! I love it though!!

Happy Birthday my very best friend Corrie!!!!  This week we had to say good by to Elder Ness but welcomed in Elder Melnichook from Ukraine!  It will be a good transfer!  So, I don't have a lot of time left but will tell you some highlights from the week!

We went to visit a less active member this week and as I was studying I just had thoughts come to my mind to look in the past Liahona about the Book of Mormon and talk about the Book of Mormon with her.  I figured that she had never probably gotten a testimony of the Book of Mormon and that we needed to talk about getting a testimony with her!  We went to her house and started talking.  When we started the lesson we asked her what she thought about the BOM.  She immediately answered that She had read it but never really felt anything special about it.  We went on to read the article about how to know if the BOM is true and testified about how it had blessed our lives!  It was SO neat!  I'm still learning, but the promptings about what people need are SO small and subtle!  I'm SO glad I heard and listened, but I hope that I can be even more in tune to know what people here need!  Galina is her name.  She is WAY outspoken and open, but I love her!  And she said she would read to try to get a testimony that the BOM really is the word of God!

We met with a lady for the first time this week that we had met on the street the previous week.  She invited us to come to her home, which is not a very often occurance.  She is SO open and searching... just searching EVERYWHERE for answers to life's questions!  I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ contains answers and help to all of life's questions and I hope that she will follow the steps of faith needed to find out that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as originally organized by Himself, has again been restored to the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith!

We were coming back from our district meeting this week on a tramvai and were extremely hungry, so Sister Zamorina and I were both eating apples.  It's not a very usual thing to eat apples on public transit, but there was another girl sitting with an apple.  We smiled back and forth at each other.  She then took another apple out and gave it to her husband.  She turned to us again and toasted us with her apple.  We toasted her back! It was really funny and I thought I should probably go and talk with them as our little exchange would be a good introduction to just be able to make conversation.  I didn't and after talking to another man on the tramvai it was getting close to our stop.  I remembered the couple and quickly looked to see if they were still on.  Thank goodness they were, so I quickly walked over and gave them an invitation for church.  I then just started talking with them and telling the that we were missionaries.  Svetlana, the girl said that my accent was gorgeous!! haha!  At least she could understand me!! :)  We talked and laughed and she said that she believed that there was some kind of higher power but that she didn't really know what it was and would be open to meeting and learning more!  She gave me her number right before we got off! I was SO grateful that I had taken the opportunity to talk with them and I really hope that we will be able to share our message with them that God lives and speaks to us, his children, through living prophets on the earth today!

As we have started contacting again after all the mayhem from music night finished, we have just seen SO many miracles!  People just showing up at church, people giving us referrals!! It's been great!  The work will move forward!

We were contacting and talking with these two younger girls.  They were open and interested enough to take a Book of Mormon.  I wasn't sure if I should give them an exact chapter to read in the Book of Mormon or not and just give them the book.  I stuck our invitation for the church in the book and then decided to just open the book up as I debated whether or not to give them a specific chapter to read.  I opened up the Book of Mormon to the place where I had stuck our invitation.  It was exactly in 3 Nephi 11.  I knew that I needed to give them that chapter to read.  As we talked about how Christ had appeared on the American Continent and taught His gospel there also, she was really interested that He had ministered in America like He had in the Bible.  The Lord often leads us in small ways to talk about what someone else needs to hear.

With all the cool experiences we also meet crazies.  We met with Vitali again this week and my hunches that he was crazy were definitely confirmed!! No matter what we talked about he just always brought it back to wanting to find a wife... so basically he wanted to search in our church for a wife.. just to get married right away!!  We tried to read 3 NephiZamorina started laughing SO hard that she was crying and couldn't sing!! haha!  I couldn't sing for part of it also because I was laughing SO hard!! Sveta was with us and she was laughing and Vitali was laughing also! He isn't our investigator anymore, but we definitely don't regret teaching him as we got some GREAT laughs out of it!!

I made a goal a couple weeks ago to finish the Book of Mormon by the end of the year.  As I have been working to finish this goal, reading my set number of pages everyday, the Book of Mormon has really come alive again.  I look forward to reading it and reading again the marvelous stories of the missionaries and peoples whose lives are recorded in the Book of Mormon.  We have also started a little Book of Mormon reading club here in Krasnodar.  This week will be the first time that we are meeting.  I hope that we can also make the Book of Mormon come alive for all of the members here in Krasnodar!  The Book of Mormon is true and a witness that God has restored His church on the earth again today!!  I can never understand why people are closed to reading the Book of Mormon!! It's ANOTHER testament of Jesus Christ!! ANOTHER testament that God loves His children and that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer!!  IT'S ANOTHER witness that God lives!!  Shouldn't we all want to learn ALL that we can about Jesus Christ our perfect example and how to become more like Him?  I know it's true and has SUCH amazing power to bring light, knowledge, and peace into our lives!! And it is a source to find answers to ALL of life's questions as we read it and invite the spirit into our lives which testifies that Jesus Christ lives and is our Savior!! I love you all!! have a GREAT week!

Cectpa Cunningham! (i'm off to go shopping for winter gear with Amy!! ) :)