Saturday, July 7, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Wow! I can't believe that I have already been home for over 2 weeks!  Life has already swept me off my feet and I am crazy busy getting ready for my tryout into my program for my major, spending time with my family, meeting and spending time with new friends and catching up with former ones, etc, etc!

I will never forget my mission, however.  It was the best decision that I ever made to go, and the best most "exquisite" thing that I have ever done.  I chose the word exquisite because I feel a little bit like Alma.  His repentance process was the hardest most wonderful that he had ever done.  He says, "...there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains.  Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy."  My mission was the hardest, happiest, most frustrating, most rewarding, most trying, most stretching, most changing, craziest (seriously! there are a LOT of crazy people in Russia :) painful, joyous, and miraculously exquisite thing that I have ever done in my life!  I will never regret my decision to go and I know that my mission has changed my life! I am a new and different person. My mission has set me on a course of service and love of the Savior that I hope to develop and grow throughout the rest of my life!

Ariel (formerly Cectpa Cunningham :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

It was you! June 11, 2012

I love Russia!!

Let me just say that again... I LOVE RUSSIA!! And I really am going to miss all of the little things that you can only have and experience here.... the transportation, street vendors, weird drunk people (ok... that I may not miss very much) the sweet and amazing members with their amazing testimonies and miracle stories of coming to the church...

We went to visit Valentina (she's the older lady that I used to practice my Russian on when I first got here by always asking her how she had met the missionaries.)  It was SO funny!! When we went to her house she saw me and she was like, "It was you!!"  As we were walking in and for like 10 minutes after we got there she was blaming me and getting all mad at me for prank calling her.  We didn't understand what she was talking about at first but then she explained that I would apparently call and then hang up and then she would try to call me back and we wouldn't answer or we'd hang up on her.  She was like, "What is your name?"  I said, "K-ANINGHAM"   She was like, no, in Russian, so I said it again in Russian and then gave her my name-tag.  She looked at it and was just like, "hmph."  She then asked for our first names. I told her that I hadn't even been in Rostov for like a year!!  Well, she finally believed me that it wasn't me and then got over it and at church yesterday she was SO excited to see me!! haha!! It was so funny!

Sister Wood and I were on splits one day and we contacted into this really awesome lady.  She first told us that she didn't believe in God, but later in the conversation said that when she was having a hard time she would pray and she always got help to fix her problems!  It was so cool because as we talked I could feel the spirit really strong and felt the Holy Ghost helping us to be able to say all that we wanted to say.  It was just one of those times where you can really feel the gift of tongues because you can say everything right, or at least understandable.  I know that we needed to meet her that day and that she needed to hear what we had to say!!  We were able to give her a Book of Mormon and get her number.  We hope to meet with her this week and then pass her off to one of the other companionships when we leave.

After this cool experience we went to visit Natasha and Sergei.  It's SO cool to see them!!  I could just feel SO much love for them!! I can see how much their family has been strengthened and grown closer together after they were sealed in the temple a year ago!  They are SO amazing!  We challenged them to read their scriptures as a family everyday.  I will miss them SO much!

We had another other miracle this week.  We were looking for the run down house by the Don River that is filled with water from a hot spring.  (Don't worry... we didn't go swimming!  just wanted to see it! :)  We were having trouble finding it and so asked these two girls for directions.  One of the girls was going that way anyway and so started walking with us. It was kind of narrow side walks so I ended up walking with her as I had been the one to ask her for directions.  I started talking with her and she told me how had stopped believing in God when her brother had died but that she had had several dreams where she had seen him.  I told her how hard things often happen in our lives but that God has timing for all things and that our lives are the time and experiences that we need.  I told her that her brother is still alive and she said that she would be interested to meet and we could tell her more about God's plan and where her brother is!  She gave us her number and we are hoping to meet with her this week too!  

We also were stopped by this guy named Konstantine asking for the time.  We were on a way to an appointment and he started talking with us.  We couldn't tell if he was creepy or normal or what and then he bluntly told us, "This isn't about sex, I'm interested to know more about who you are." (yes... Russian men are that forward... the other day when I was contacting with Sister Whitaker and Wood we were walking and this guy was looking over at us so we asked him if he was interested to know more about God and then he asked us if we would have sex and we said no and then he walked away.... ya :)  We got his number and I called him last night and when he answered I told him that it was the sister missionaries.  He answered, "I know, I already put your number in my phone." haha  We invited him to FHE and he asked if he could bring a friend... so we'll see if he comes today!

Well, we're off to go and meet with some missionaries and Emi, Vitya, and Irina!! (they came all the way up to Rostov from K-dar to see me before I leave to go home!! :)  We're going to go to the Zoo!! I hope that we will have a wonderful and exciting last week where we can find some more people and help them accept the gospel!  I love you all so much!

Cectpa Cunningham

My entire mission..

Monday, June 4, 2012

I will call you an hour ago June 4, 2012


Wow!! Back in Rostov!! It's SUPER crazy!!  I'm just WAY glad that we don't live in the same apartment that we lived in when I first got to Russia. This one is a lot happier!  Besides our water heater braking and not getting fixed for FOREVER and having to turn on the hot water with a rusty pliers... it's GREAT!!! :)  Right before we got to our apartment early Wednesday morning, one of the elders had been showering and the hot water had broken and water  had gone everywhere. They got it all cleaned up before we got there... but we still had to get it fixed.

We called Sister Nechiporova and she sent over a man from one of the branches.  He was late and got there at like 9:45 p.m.!  Then he came the next day and tried to fix it but when he turned the hot water on it exploded, so he had to call another man who came that night for like 3 minutes, said he understood and then left.  Then finally.... the third day someone came and got it all fixed!!!  It was SO funny as the man Armen would try to speak English with us.  He was asking me all these names of things in English... and I'm like... 'i don't know... I'm not a plumber!"  And then he would hold up something and say, "Example number 1." and then holding up the next thing say, "Example number 2."  My favorite was when he was leaving and said to me, "I will call you an hour ago..." haha!

It's been fun as I got to go on splits with the other Center Sisters, Sister Whitaker and her new companion fresh from the MTC Sister Wood! We did English Club together and Sister Wood and I got to be bankers and decide how much money the groups would get for a loan.  We would joke around and for example, when the rock band asked for a loan we bargained for free season tickets before we would give them the loan. The funny thing is... it probably wasn't that funny in Russia because that's what they actually would do! :)

Saturday night we had a great meeting with Olga and her daughter Liza. Do you remember them?  I had taught her husband Alexander when I first got to Russia.  The one who wasn't ever able to quit drinking!  I called her to get the number of bus that we needed to take to her house and when we got there was like, "I remembered you!!!"  It was SO good! We talked about the love of God and she told the most amazing story about when she met the  missionaries.  They had knocked on her door once when her husband wasn't home, then another time when just
her husband was there, and another when her husband was in the shower.  They wanted her number but she was going to change one of the numbers so that it didn't work, but for some reason she wrote her number right.  As she was walking away the words came into her head, "I come and knock at your door, but you don't even want to open it and let me in."  It was SO cool!!  I love her so much! She gave me the biggest hug on Sunday when we saw her!

The other sisters went for Sister Tunney's last Sunday in Severney so I went on splits with the Center Sisters and went to our branch. It was SO good to see everyone and even OLYA was there from America visiting!!!! She's getting married soon and so her fiance will be there next Sunday!  It was SO awesome to see everyone again! And actually be able to talk to them!  I got put in primary for one of the hours and got to work with Natasha.  I can't believe how big her kids have gotten!  Well, i wish you all a FANTASTIC week!!!

love you!
Cectpa Cunningham

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Transfer to Where I began!!! May 29, 2012

My Dear Family!!

We had quite a week! There was an open house at the church this Saturday!!  There were several glitches with organization, but overall it went really well. One of the members is an artist and she painted a super awesome rendition of the Plan of Salvation that we put on the wall.  We made a pyramid of Book of  Mormons, and had a family history part.  After that there was dancing and games!  We were in charge of the Plan of Salvation and Book of Mormon part. And we also planned the dancing and games! :)  There was a man who had just walked by and saw the announcement on the side of church building and came!! He also came to church the next day!

We got the call on Friday night and I will be returning to the same area where I started my mission!  And I'm going to be serving with Sister LeBaron and Tunney!!  It will be SO great to see all of the people that I served with before!!  And now I'll actually be able to talk with them!! :) Well, as much as I can understand and say now!!

After church Sister Ivanova had planned a surprise for me!  all of the members gathered together, sang one of my favorite songs and then we had a little meeting where some of them got up and just shared their feelings about missionary work, missionaries, and their gratefulness that I had served there.  President Einer said that I had the biggest smile in the whole district!! It was SO sweet and they had put together this little book with letters to me!!  Sister Ulya said that I need to take the love of Russia back to America!

The best part of this week was Sunday night.  We went over to the Lesitzen's house.  They are the ones with 5 daughters! I love their girls SO much!  We had a lesson where we read about how when Nephi was commanded to go back and preach to the wicked city that he'd just been kicked out of, he found another way to get into the city.  We talked about how God sometimes asks us to do things that are hard also, but that he wants us to be creative and find ways that we can keep those commandments. We then made American pancakes and the only rule was that they couldn't be normal circles.  We had suns, snowmen, turtles, mickey mouses, hearts, etc.  You couldn't really tell what they all were, but it was SO fun and yummy!  We then thought of creative ways for the girls to study the scriptures so that we can enjoy studying them and be creative!  It was SO amazing to be with them and hard to say goodbye!  Lena (the mom) sewed me a pink heart pillow that said "love" on it!  I will miss them!  As we left Vika looked at me and said in a very stern voice, "Just remember Sister Cunningham, you promised that you'd come back!"  I love those girls!

So, a funny story to end.  We went to the rinok today and I was trying on sunglasses.  We'd met our favorite Brat Dmitrii (the one who had a stroke several years ago and he rarely makes any facial expressions and can stare anyone down with the creepiest stare for like 10 minutes at a time!  I have him trained though... ok... a side funny story.  I had a surprise talk on Sunday--aka i got told 5 minutes before church that i was talking--and so I was sitting on the stand.  I looked at brat dmitrii during the meeting and gave him a thumbs up. barely lifting his arm up he threw me a thumbs up back!  I've always trained him with a peace sign and the alien hand sign thing...).  He'd wanted us to go with him to go and meet someone, but we had other things to do.  Well, as I'm trying on sunglasses he just comes up behind me and stares at my reflection with the sunglasses and told me if they looked good on me or not!! he kept this up for about 5 minutes and probably scared away any other customers because they were scared he'd stare at them too, but he helped me know which sunglasses looked good on me!! haha!!  I love him SO much! And I'm going to miss him! Tonight at FHE we're going to do a little play together for our lesson, he just doesn't know it yet!!  Well, I love you all SO much!! have a FABULOUS week!!!

Cectpa Cunningham

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On the Farm May 22, 2012

WOW!! Hello Family!!
This week was definitely a service week! Last week we had met this lady on the street from Moscow. She had come to V-grad because her grandmother had fallen and needed help. It turns out that no one had visited this grandmother for about 3 years and she SHOULD NOT have been living alone. So when Natasha got here the house was a wreck and she had her son with her.

Well, we said we could help and went a couple times this week.  It was the NASTIEST thing that I have ever seen!! Oh my goodness!! There were cockroaches EVERYWHERE and in EVERYTHING!!  The junk, clothes, left over food, dirty dishes, papers, shoes, everything just strewn everywhere and filling up the apartment so that we couldn't even open the door all the way!!!  We have had lots of practice walking to the dumpster! Thank goodness for the babushka roller things to carry the garbage on!!  The kitchen... oh my goodness! I really just don't even know how to describe it!! but to say in short.. it was a dirty adventure! And how her grandmother has lived in that for so long is a mystery... cobwebs and bugs.... anyway

On Thursday we had the BIGGEST miracle of ALL!!  Akhmed and his family are AMAZING president!  They are the most spiritual people.  It is just so interesting  how the light of Christ can lead a person through their life to learn truth and lead them to the truth.  Natasha and Akhmed have definitely been lead and taught by the light of Christ. They basically believe all that we believe, but just aren't baptized.

We had a huge miracle this week.  We had set up an appointment to meet with a lady who came to English Club and wanted to know more about what we believe.  We met an hour before English club, and when we got to the church Akhmed was also there.  So, we invited him to come on the lesson with us.  The spirit was really strong as we talked about families, the plan of salvation, and some of the commandments.  She had wanted to know how we live differently than others of other faiths.  Akhmed said that he had been coming back from center with his son and something had told him to come to the church at 5.  He said that he realized that he had known about the missionaries for like 15 years and never actually heard all that they believe.  He loves everything that he knows already and wants to learn more.  Then, after English club we played a game where you ask a question and then throw a stuffed animal to someone in the circle and they need to answer the question that you asked. Then the person that answered the question asks a new question and throws the stuffed animal to someone else. Akhmed asked Brat Dmitri why he had decided to become a member of the church. We can never trust Brat Dmitri's answers very much!! I just crossed my fingers and prayed that he wouldn't say anything too obscure and weird!  Brat Dmitri said because he thought the pratislavian church was like a bazaar.  Then Brat Dmitri asked "Why aren't you a member?" and threw it back to Akhmed.  Akhmed thought for a little bit and then said that you could say he is now on the path to becoming a member!!  We have met with he and his wife and their small son and they are absolutely amazing people. I hope that they will continue on the path to be baptized.  Natasha came to church with their son Mark (Akhmed was sick and couldn't come) and I think that they both really enjoyed it.  I think Natasha really enjoyed being able to talk and discuss gospel principles.  I know  that they may not be in Volgagrad much longer, but we'll make sure that wherever they go will meet with the missionaries again.  They are SO amazing and all the meetings we have with them we only talk about 1 or 2 principles because they really understand and expound themselves!!
The light of Christ has truly led them and taught them and so they already know the truth pretty much, but just hadn't found the Church!! yet.... :)  They are SUCH a blessing to us!! Every time after we meet Akhmed says that he feels better!!

On Saturday we spent the morning out on the farm!! A family in our branch was planting tomatoes and we got to help!! my back is soar from all the bending over and i got SO sunburned, but you can say that i am now a professional tomato planter!! haha :)  IT was SO beautiful out where their fields are with a stream we had to cross and everything!

The Lesitzen's daughter Alona got baptized this week! And she had asked me to talk at her baptism!!  It was SO fun! and so cute!! She's a doll!  i couldn't help but laugh because at church one of their daughter's Tanya ran up to me and said, "Sister Cunningham, do you know how to tie a tie?" I said, "yes." Well, their mom doesn't know how to and their dad doesn't either. So she ran away grabbed the tie and had me tie it.  She'd run off to give it to her dad.  I walked over around the corner to see the people coming in and their was President Lesitzen putting on the tie I'd just tied.  He looked at me smiling and said, "Thanks sister!"  I couldn't help but laugh as I
looked at him sitting on the stand knowing that I had tied his tie!! haha!! Thanks for teaching me dad! :)
We hope to meet with Akhmed and Natasha a lot before they leave for St. Petersburg. We also have some potential new investigators!! hope it will be an exciting week!! i love you all!!

Cectpa Cunningham

Monday, May 14, 2012

Talent Night! May 14, 2012


It was SO amazing to see all yesterday!! Skype is an amazing thing! I can't tell you how refreshing and WONDERFUL it was to see all of your faces and hear your voices!!  Emmett and Emerson have gotten SO big I can't believe it!!  I love you all SO much!!  Thank you for lifting my spirits!

It was a bit of a tiring week considering that we didn't have a very restful p-day because we were PARTYING!!  It was SO worth it though!  On Thursday we went out to visit one of our members. I had talked with her the night before on the telephone and a close family friend had just passed away. She said that she didn't want to see anyone or talk to anyone.  We decided to just take a card over and some cookies just so that she knew we cared. She invited us in and we talked for about an hour. She said after that she hadn't wanted to see anyone but that she was SO glad that we had come and we'd helped her a lot!  That's always nice to hear!

The other big event this week was the TALENT SHOW!  On our way in to center I started talking to this lady on the marshrutka.  We just started talking about how hot it was and then about our families. I told her that we believed that families could be together forever and talked a bit about God's plan for us.  She said that that all sounded awesome but that no one could really know that that was true. So then we talked about prophets etc. It was SO awesome! I just love being able to talk to the people here! So many of them just are SO wonderful! I know that many people we talk to we will never see again, but I'm always SO grateful when there is a chance to have a good talk with someone and hope that someday sometime they will remember what we talked about and the next time they meet the missionaries decided to listen!

The Talent Show was BOMB!!  The Lesitzeni girls, Natasha, Sister Ivanova, and I all practiced long and hard for 2 line dances! The best bit was that we got to get dressed up all crazy!  Elder Goodmen even consented to break dance as part of one of them!  Our talent shows are really laid back so spur of the moment Elder Jacobson, Goodmen, and I performed our Book of Mormon stories missionary song we'd written for President and performed at Zone Conference for President! We also taught the whole audience the Electric Slide!  

Today for P-day we went out to some kind of little forest park.  Unfortunately we'd both ignored the thought to bring mosquito repellent, so we got eaten alive, but we had a fun time just walking in the forest by a stream and taking pictures. Reminded me SO much of Wisconsin!!!  Have a WONDERFUL WEEK!! I SURE LOVE YOU ALL!!


Cectpa Cunningham

 Talent Show

The Zone.

 me inside this house in the forest we found today.

 The River

 The Bridge

 Trying to be a statue

 Yes, it's me! in the foliage!

 us and the bear. Sister Ivanova's nickname for me is Medved (meaning bear! :)

 with a flower.. .haha

 kind of a scary picture of myself.... but i just love Russia SO much that I can't help it!!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Victory Day ~ May 9, 2012

Hello Family!!!

What an amazing week!!!  We had such a great shashliek grill on Monday!!!  And then got all sun tired and sick from being outside for too long, but it was ALL worth it!!  We had wanted to meet with Vasya and his family this week, but the little 13 year old didn't want to come in from playing out side.  We bet him that if I made a soccer goal on him that he'd have to come inside... well, I didn't make the goal... he scored on me. The moral of the story is... don't bet!!! :)

Raisa Einer, the branch president's wife, came to church for the first time in years!  We've been working with her for a while and it was SO great to finally see her come to church!  She said that she was going to come last week but then she never came.  We had wanted to pick her up, but she said no. She said she didn't want us to come as early as we had planned to come that Sunday morning, so we made her a smoothie and brought it over on our way to church, hoping that that would insure that she would could. She was already all dressed and ready to go. She did come and when she walked into the chapel everyone was so happy and surprised to see her!! It was SUCH a miracle!!  She wouldn't even let the sister meet with her very long ago and now she just came to church for the first time!!!  It was such a blessing!

This week we had a meeting with Natalya and her family. We played a game where we would ask a question and whoever we threw the ball to had to answer it (sound kind of like our favorite game Corrie and Sterling?).  Natalya told a story about dreaming to become a doctor. She went to the specialty school which was WAY far away, so she got home really late. Her mom said something really rude to her which implied she'd gotten home late because she was with a guy. She cried all night realizing she'd have no one to support her in her dream so she unenrolled from the school the next day.  She also talked about the times in her life when they have had nothing to eat and just trying to survive, just trying to have enough money to buy some food.  I had talked about my family and how important it was to spend time together and talk. After coming home I just cried.  I have been so blessed with such a wonderful family to be around me and support me.  The Russian people here have so little and sacrifice so much!!

On our way back from visiting Sister Zemsova on Sunday we were walking and ran into a man that Sister Whitaker and I had met a while ago.  He came to English club once and then we hadn't seen him again.  His name is Akhmed.  He was with his son and told us that he had been thinking about us earlier and wanted to invite us over.  He took us to his house that very moment and we met his wife and mother in law.  I am always just so amazed at the Lord's timing.  He set everything up so that we would run into him on that street.  We went over again to his house on splits with the elders.  He talked with us in English for a while and said that he likes everything about our church. His wife had company, so we didn't get long to talk with her, but they had made like 7 different types of salad and fed us!!  Everyone gathered to eat and we all just talked and ate (the best part :) and Akhmed showed us pictures of Croatia, where he used to live.  They are SUCH  neat family and want us to come back!!! They are moving to America soon, but I hope to meet with them before they go.  They already are so tight knit and just wonderful. they are super special!  At the end of our meeting as we walked out I gave him a plan of salvation pamphlet and said that we'd like to meet and talk more about God's plan for his family. He said we'll have to talk to his wife about that as she thinks about that a lot!  They always give us juice or something because he knows we don't drink tea!  they are SO cool!!!!

We had SUCH an amazing p-day today too!!!  We had our p-day today because it's VICTORY DAY!!  We got to wear p-day clothes ALL DAY and the best part was that EMI WAS HERE FROM K-DAR!!!  We went to the parade in the morning... we waited to get free hats, but there weren't any.. and there were so many people there that we couldn't see the parade, but Nikita just held my camera over the crowd and took pictures and then we could see what was going on!! I was on splits with EMI all day and it was THE BEST THING EVER!!!  Oh how I love her! It was SO good to be with her again and see how well she is doing! We then all headed up to Mamaev Korgan which was PACKED with people!  definitely got even more sunburned, but it is going as a perfect day! Being able to be with my favorite people ever! I'll try to send pictures next week!!

love you!

Sister Cunningham

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Green Tea, April 29, 2012

Hello From the Summer Scorching Heat of Volgagrad!

It was such a good week this week!!  We started out the week by visiting my friend Brat Dmitri! As always he tried to feed us, but Sister Ivanova insisted that we didn't want anything to eat and that we wouldn't drink tea. She said that if he wanted any tea that he could get some though. So, he gets out a cup for himself and pours some hot water and then pours out his tea... it was green tea.  I knew that he drank green tea earlier, but we had talked to him about it before.  Sister Ivanova started freaking out a little bit!  "That's green tea! You can't drink that!"  I just watched as it was weird and I felt like i was just watching some kind of film or something! haha  He poured the tea into his hot water and took a sip.  He said, "See, it's normal!"  I started talking to him about baptism and how he had made a covenant with God to follow His commandments when he was baptized.  One of those commandments was the Word of Wisdom which said that we should not drink green tea.  He mumbled back to me (the mumbly way that he always talks, "But it's also written that if you don't have anything else (any other kind of tea) then you can drink it (green tea)."  I started to laugh and then asked, "Where is that written?" He said, "in the Bible."  I burst out laughing and couldn't stop laughing for probably a good minute!! I was the only one laughing... and then Brat Dmitri broke into one of his big grins and started laughing too and then Sister Ivanova joined in!! It was SO funny!!  I told him that God had asked us to do this and then i dumped out his green tea. He promised us that he wouldn't drink green tea again!!! I love him!!

This week we went to see Nona and since the last time we met, her husband is still really against us meeting with her... :(  She wanted to come to church but she said that she would have to lie to him to go.  We told her not to do that and that we would be praying with her that her husband's heart would be opened!  She is such and AMAZING woman and has such a strong faith in God!!

At English club we asked a man to translate the ending spiritual part of the lesson for us! We laughed about our method because we really just wanted him to listen to our spiritual thought about the Book Of Mormon and knew that if he had to translate it, he would pay attention!

Some cool miracles happened this week too!  I went to get money out on my debit card and realized that I had forgotten my pin. I had a vague idea which numbers i needed but couldnt' remember the order.  I was SO worried.  I wrote down my next best guess to try at another ATM so that my card wouldn't be eaten.  I prayed and before I tried another ATM I thought again of the order of my numbers. The numbers came into my head in the order that I thought I had written them down... my next best guess.  So I looked at what I'd written and saw that the numbers were switched.  I used the order that had come into my head and it worked!! It's SO awesome how the Lord truly hears our prayers!!  I know that he answered mine and helped me remember my pin number. Such a small thing, but He cares about what's important to us!  We also got a call from our Branch President like 30 minutes before church telling us that we were speaking that Sunday...oh no.  I sat down before church and had like 15 or 20 min to jot down some ideas and put together some thoughts! It's always a bit stressful hoping that I know how to say everything that I need to say!! I prayed that the Spirit would help me and help me be able to speak so that it was understandable and that I could say things right!  I just felt as I talked the gift of tongues!  Things came smoothly and sister Ivanova said that I said everything understandably and if she hadn't already known she would have thought that I had used a lot of time to put my talk together!

There was no one at church to be in primary so me and Natasha took over!!  It was SO fun! We had 3 of the Lesitzeni girls with us!!!  We sang primary songs! I taught them the "do as I'm doing" and did "the wise man built his house upon the rock" etc. We then did a little lesson about Nephi.  We made it through and then I realized we still had another whole hour with them!  Well, we then took the story of Nephi again and had them each draw a picture and then we talked about the story! It was SO fun!! One of the girls wrote, in Russian of course, "Tanya and Cunningham = friends :)  I love those girls!!

We're working with Sergei still.  He still has a baptismal date and are praying that he is really serious about this commitment. He's only 18 but we just are praying that he will accept all the commitments to live all the commandments!! We have an exciting week!! We did transfer planning and also weekly and have some fun things going on!! I'm going to teach the Young Women a line dance this week that we'll perform at the talent show!! It's going to be so fun!!

i love you all,

Cectpa Cunningham

 Us with our star Sergei!! haha  He's a good guy!

 Sister Ivanova and I next to the Canal

 we took a hike up the side of the bridge!! haha lazy to go around!

 Us next to the canal on the bridge!! It does really look like heaven here!! so pretty and all... the mosquitoes ruin EVERYTHING!! they're horrible!!

Sister Potter came into town and we had SUCH a good time helping decorate and she taught me the line dances I'd need for our Branch party coming up!!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Service Week! April 23, 2012

Well, We're back in V-grad!

Sister Whitaker and I had an AMAZING ride up to Rostov! We got to ride on a double Decker bus, and even though our seats weren't in the very front on the second level...  (they were close) we sat there!! So, the whole ride we had an AMAZING view of the green fields and rivers!! and the sunset!! it was AMAZING!  We also occupied our 8 hour bus ride by writing "These are a few of the best mission things." to the tune of "My favorite things" from Sound of music. It's pretty amazing if I say so myself.  We were kind of cramped up after sitting for that long, especially because we had just played soccer and Frisbee with the elders in center on P-day.. and let me tell you... it took all of us almost a whole week to recover! gotta love being out of shape on the mission! :)

We got the best treat of all, getting to stay with the Potter's in Rostov! LOVE IT!!!!  We switched up companions on Wednesday, after a super yummy breakfast with the Potter's (papa Potter's home-made southern biscuits, eggs, and potatoes beats all) and a fun morning for Mama Potter's birthday!  We had a little time to talk with the other missionaries before Sister Ivanova and I were shipped off on another 8 hour bus ride back to V-grad!  So, since we only had like 3 days here this week, we didn't get a lot done, especially because we ended up doing service on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday!  But our branch has finally moved into their new building!!  We were just renting the upper level of a school. It wasn't a very nice building and now we  have a basement part of a building, but it actually looks like a ward building in the inside!!!  it's SO beautiful!  On Friday most of the ward gathered to clean and set up the new building.  Vika (a young girl in our branch) and I mopped the sacrament rooms floor. Her little sister Masha kept sneaking in and skipping laughing and running all over our wet and already clean floor!! She thought it was great fun running from us! Then Brat Dmitri kept trying to set up chairs on our wet floor!! We finally got everyone kicked out and Masha held under a close watch, and quickly mopped the floor for like the billionth time and then locked the doors to no one could go in!!!

We all gathered on Sunday and the spirit was SO strong to see us all in such a beautiful building!  It was so great!  President Lesitzen, the second counselor in the District Presidency spoke.  He started out his talk by saying, "you know..... God loves us!" It was so powerful and I could feel the spirit SO strong! They've waited for this day! and we finally have a good building! 

Our lesson was a little bit about Genealogy in Relief Society this week and Sister Ivanova made a point that I had never thought of. There is the scripture.. I don't know where it is and I don't remember it perfectly, but it says that our ancestors without us cannot be made perfect/saved and we without them cannot be made perfect.  When Sister Ivanova went to the temple the first time she asked why we can't be made perfect without them.  She understood that they couldn't without us as we do the work for them.  The patron in the temple explained that without our ancestors, we wouldn't be able to go back to the temple and keep learning there! Thanks to them we can go to the temple often and continue to grow and learn more!! That was SUCH a cool thought! I'd never thought of it like that before!

We had an amazing fireside about Family History work and I heard SO many wonderful stories! i wish that I could tell them... but alas... my time is up!!  I love you all SO much and hope that all is well with you!  Sister Ivanova and I are back to work this week!  It will be a good one!

love you all
Cectpa Cunningham

 Me with easter cakes. Kulichi.

 Nikolai gave us this flower for easter. with one of the lesitzen girls!

We LOVE natasha!

  Me and President Einer (branch president) with an easter egg he gave us.

 Kulichi again! they're pretty yummy...! :) just like sweet bread.

We were playing sports and these 4 little boys came along, so we played soccer with them! ( be sure to send this to Elder jacobson's mom please! :)

We all got way sunburned! but it was fun! we realized how out of shape we all were after running around for like 10 minutes and feeling like we needed to throw up! :)

  Last FHE with SIster Whitaker. Brat Sergei kommonarov, our investigator Sergei, sister yulya, sister whitaker, ludmila, brat dmitri, brat komo and me and brat valerie! doesn't brat komo look like dad? sorry... i don't think I wrote it in the right order.

 We finally got Brat Dmitri to smile!!

 The moving van.

 Sister Ivanova and I being cheffuered around by president Einer.

 On our way to service. Sister Yulya, natasha and I . we are pretty cool!!

 Natasha and I working hard! Don't you love the helping hands shirt things?!! I wanted to steal it and bring it home!

 Me and my girls!

Who knows what you'll find cleaning up the highway!

 The whole group.

 We missionaries know how to jam!

 And then elder kuslev poured water on me... bad idea!!

 Our awesome elders.

Cleaning the fridge today! remember the picture we took like this Corrie and Alicia?!! :)  Gotta love white glove!

Monday, April 16, 2012

General Conference! April 16, 2012

My dear lovely family!

Wow, this has been an interesting week!  We committed 3 people to baptism this week! and as of right now we have 2 baptismal dates!  One of the men has a way BIG problem with drinking!  If he's drunk we know because he always does these funny things, like sit on the steps waiting for us when we come up, etc.  He actually spent a lot of time in jail in his life.  He has a very quiet spirit though and loves us SO much! He had wanted to spend Easter dinner with us.  His sister is pretty much always home when we come, but she sticks to her room. We called her earlier and told her about having Easter dinner with them. When we got there she went into her room as usual, but this time she changed into a nice  outfit and said that we were going to have a special dinner!! it was SO awesome!  We had a good time with them and she opened up to us and talked with us! Her brother is really embarrassing to her, but she gave us a toast because we were such wonderful girls!!

Our investigator Sergei came to General Conference yesterday and really enjoyed Elder Christofferson's talk.  He said that he felt so good in his heart while Elder Christofferson was talking and that he enjoyed it. It was GREAT! he's a little different... kind of bounces around funny, has long greasy slicked back blond hair, but we feel like he is sincere and has a good heart.

Another Sergei has also been having a lot of questions about how the prophets communicate with God.  He's a less active in our branch.  He has been very troubled as he has read in the scriptures of the prophesies of the prophets.  He wants to know that God actually speaks to prophets with his voice as is recorded in the scriptures.  We promised him that if he would pray and sincerely prepare for conference he would recieve an answer to that question.  He told us that he wouldn't be able to come to Conference but that he would for sure read the messages later and be looking for his answer.  I know that we can receive answers to questions through Conference, but I was a little skeptical, as I felt like he wasn't very sincere and just being difficult.  However, through one of the talks at conference, as we sat their Elder Christofferson specifically said how the Lord communicates with His prophets!  The Lord does answer our prayers and concerns through General Conference.

We got transfer calls this week and they are sending me Sister Ivanova again.  I'm scared!!! I'm so sad to loose Sister Whitaker.  She is a wonderful missionary and has such power.  I love her sense of humor, love of life, and love of the Russian people.  I know I was put as her trainer... but I think, that she actually ended up training me in more ways than me her!  I love her so much and have found a friend for life!  She has helped to change my life and my mission and I'm going to miss her EVER SO MUCH!!

General Conference was AMAZING!! I especially liked the talk by President Eyring about climbing bigger mountains.  I've been feeling so weak, tired, and just wanting to have the strength to finish hard.  This next transfer is going to be one of those BIG MOUNTAINS for me to climb! But we should want these opportunities! God is giving us the chance to grow and stretch even more! I'm SO grateful for the opportunity to have living prophets and apostles on the earth today! The spirit is SO special as they speak and I know that their counsel is specifically for us in our lives RIGHT NOW!! for the next 6 months!  I loved Elder Anderson's talk about the 3 kids caught under the collapsed building.  The little boy knew that if he sang "i am a child of God" his dad would hear him and find him!  I couldn't hold back the tears as I felt that it's the same with our Father in Heaven! We are often caught in hard situations, but all we have to do is lift our voice to Him!  We can't just come to Him as we have a work here to do, but He can come to us! I had a tender moment also as a lady came up to me at church and asked me, "what is the most important thing in life?" stunned by the question I just kind of looked around and then said, "Family?" She said, "smiling, and you have learned how to do that!"  smiling doesn't rid us of our problems but enjoy the moments we have!!!

This next couple weeks will bring many more adventures and experiences! I hope I have the faith and endurance to make this climb. It's only after the effort and the steep climb that we can enjoy the exquisite views that the Lord wants us to reach!  I love you all SO much and am hoping to see many miracles in the next couple weeks! thanks for your prayers!
Cectpa Cunningham