Monday, January 30, 2012

BRRRRRRRRRRRR January 30, 2012

Hello Family and Friends!!

Well, I am  now in the coldest part of our mission for the winter!! But hey!  That means that I will actually get to experience a kind of real Russian winter!  So far it has only gotten down to -20 degrees Celsius. :)

This week was crazy and we did a LOT of traveling!  On Monday we had a going away party in K-dar and Elder Potter made us all his world famous southern fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy!! It was AMAZING!  It was hard to say goodbye to everyone in K-dar, and I did cry a bit, but not too much!  Thank goodness for the Internet, so that we can always stay in touch!  Dima said that he would come and pick us up to take us to the Voksal on Wednesday morning.  Our train left at 6:50 and so we agreed that Dima would be there at 6:10.  I called him around then and he said that he was on his way. 

We got everything outside and the next time I look at my watch it is 6:30!!!  I call him again realizing that I may very well miss my train and ask how far away he is!  He says, "5 minutes!"  I told him that I would miss my train and he says... no... you'll be fine... Well, at that very moment a taxi just happened to be driving down our not very busy side road and pulled over and asked us if we needed a ride!  We said yes and took it!  We told him we needed to get there fast and made it to the Voksal with about 5 minutes to spare!  We to the platform and found the Elders and made it just in time to get on the train!  It was a little bit stressful but amazing to see how the Lord takes care of us even in the littlest details of our lives.  Well, after our 4 hour train ride up to Rostov we were at the mission office. It was GREAT to see Sister LeBaron again and then we got to meet our new companion right from the MTC. Sister Whitaker!!  At first we thought she was super serious so we were really glad that we would be in a 3 some.  We went out to get some food and then we had to all haul our luggage about 1/4 of a mile on the snow to the buses.  We then had an 8 hour bus ride to Volgagrad while a HORRIBLY weird TV series played almost the whole time on the TV.  Finally getting into V-grad I realized that it was COLD!!  One of our branch members had come down with his friend and picked us up in his marshrootka.  Our area is about an hour and a half from center.  We got back to the apartment at about 11:30.

This week has been kind of slow as we have moved in and planned a bit. Sister Whitaker is AMAZING!!  Her Russian is already SO good and her grammar is already better than mine!!  She is a convert of 2 years and actually took the missionary discussions when she lived in St. Petersburg teaching English there.  She has sacrificed a lot to be here and is the only member in her family!  She  can take our crazy sarcastic senses of humor and can even dish it back!  We are having a MARVELOUS time all together!  After going into district meeting on Friday we got on a marshrootka and someone had to tow us out so that the driving could then kick the stick shift into action... haha! 

We love Russian transport!  We to got to go and visit a less active who was sick in the hospital this week.  Hospitals scare me in America...but here they are pretty dirty and some of the people and things you see make you feel just SO sad.  We finally found her though and she was actually able to make it to church on Sunday!

Branch counsel on Sunday was a blast.  Pretty much the whole ward is in the Branch counsel.  there are only about 20 members who come regularly.  This week the lady who was supposed to be speaking in church called and said that she didn't wanted to and asked if we could.  when we called the Branch President to see what we needed to do he didn't quite understand that we didnt' necessarily want to speak.  He was all, "well, of course you can speak!!" haha  Well, we all ended up speaking our first Sunday.  The speakers finished early, so with the extra time left the president has me and sister LeBaron teach the congregation a new hymn.  We sang it 3 times... all 4 verses!! My voice and arm were extremely tired!! Our branch is SO interesting!  We have the man Peotr who wears his bright blue suit every Sunday, brat dmitri who like never talks and just stares off into space with his thick glasses, our branch president who sings so loudly with his bass voice that he is the only one heard when we sing hymns together, and brat Valerie and his x-wife sister ulya who still live in the same house together but you can feel the tension between them!! haha!  In the counsel meeting it was pretty much just a lot of arguing and disagreeing going on!! haha!  I'm excited to serve here!

To deal with the cold we went out and bought lots of tights and nylons!  We got these SUPER WARM leggings that have two layers.  a fuzzy warm one on the inside and a spandexy one on the outside!

Sister LeBaron and I have taken to wearing our comfortable leggings them!! they are GREAT for dancing!  Well, we will try to stay warm this week and get into a good schedule and get some good work done here!  Sister Whitaker's Russian is already SO good and last night she pretty much told her conversion story by herself to brat valerie in Russian!! I love my new companions and am excited for this area!!

Cectpa Cunningham

Monday, January 23, 2012

Goodbye K-dar! January 23, 2012

This week went by SO fast, but so many things happened!  On Monday we got broken up with.... by our investigator Laura.... :(  She had apparently gone to a friends church and they told her that we were all rich and just paid our leaders and it was all about the money... which is completely opposite, as NO ONE in the branch leadership gets paid for their service in the church.  We didn't know what to say and so just bore our testimonies and told her that she had felt the spirit here and was always welcome to come back if she would like to... :(

We were all very lucky not to get food poisoning again this week.  We had decided to go over to a members house because she said that she was having one of our less-active sisters over. But then she invited the elders to come too...  All of us didn't need to be there at the same time, but it ended up being a fun adventure.  So, the Elders take us out there as they had been their before.  Irina lives about 30-40 minutes out of town.  When we got there the less-active, Elena, wasn't there yet.  So Irina decided to serve us Borsch!!! YUMMY!!  When we walked into the kitchen there was this beautiful looking braided kind of pie.  It looked pretty, but I asked what was in the inside.  Irina responds, "Oh, well I just used everything that I had laying around." and she literally did....  She said, "it has carrots, pumpkin, oats, apple, kiwi, and chocolate."  I look at Sister TUnney..... and then we go and tell the Elders....  While she was out of the room we attempted to eat it as then we could make disgusted faces while she wasn't there.  IT WAS SO NASTY!!  She kept apologizing because she had burned it... but i was just thinking... the burnt part is the least of the's what you put inside it that's the problem!! haha!! We
got some funny pictures and it made for a good memory!!

Well, friends, just because I'm on a mission doesn't mean that I have been cured of making embarrassing stupid comments and I thought that I would share one of my latest with you.  So, basically EVERYONE here in Russia who has a car drives a Lada (if you don't know what that is... look up a picture on-line).  They have like cardboard seats that your back sinks into when you go over bumps and you better not put too much weight inside or it may just drag on the ground.  Well... so we have a new sister coming into the area on Tuesday night.  I was talking on the phone to our member Dima (he's about a 20  year old) and he has a nicer car that is kind of like a station wagon.  I said, "Dima, do you think that you could help us pick up the new sister/  Missionaries have a lot of luggage and almost everyone else has a lada, but your car is nicer."  He says, "I have a lada too...".... hahaha  well, he does... it's just a newer one!! I felt like an idiot and probably offended him... but it made for a good laugh!

Well, we got transfer calls on Friday and I am leaving K-dar early Wednesday morning... :(  I will really miss it here!! I have come to love the members SO much and working with Sister Tunney has been a dream!! SHE IS THE BEST COMPANION EVER!!  But, it will be a new and exciting transfer!  I am being sent up to the extremely cold VOGAGRAD area and will be serving as trainer to our new sister, Sister Whitacker.  But we will be in a 3 some with Sister LeBaron who know the area and will be helping out A LOT!!  It's CRAZY!!  But it will be GREAT to serve again with Sister LeBaron and will be a definite NEW AND EXCITING ADVENTURE!!

Well, we had a wonderful baptism for Lubov!  She really enjoyed our musical number where I played the violin and sister Tunney played on the piano.  Elder Potter gave her the gift of the holy ghost and said that he felt that she was a wonderful lady!! She really is!! I'm sad to leave... but I couldn't have asked for anything better than being able to see her get baptized the Saturday before I go!!  And then just to make Saturday even better we had another YSA activity!!  I LOVE DANCING and It was basically me and the YSA all dancing!! haha!!  It was SO fun!!

Sunday night Sasha Demchenko took us to his house and he taught us how to make Demchenkborsch!! His mom kept trying to make it her way, but he was!  We're making my borsch!! Sasha is the BEST!!  He told us his conversion story too!! He had read a bit of the bible and felt that it was true. When he met the missionaries and started meeting with them he was doing EVERYTHING that he should, going to chruch, reading the BOM, keeping the commandments, but he wasn't getting an answer if the BOM was true.  So, the missionaries decided to hold a fast with him.  He woke up early Sunday morning of his fast and decided to pray if the BOM was true.  If that was true he said he'd pray about President Hinckley if he was a prophet and if that was true he said that he would pray to know if the church was true.  He was at the table and all he said was "Dear Heavenly Father" and he was overcome with the most powerful feeling of joy that he just laid his got my answer about everything... should I finish my prayer?!! he is now one of the most active members here and has served a mission and is just AWESOME!!  We love him!

Well, I love you all and next time I will write you from the Siberian Volgagrad!! haha  Maybe it will freeze some fat off!  A lady at chruch poked my stomach on Sunday and said in English, "Getting a little fat?"  hey!!!!  HAHA   gotta love Russian honesty I guess...

love you all!
Cectpa Cunningham

Monday, January 16, 2012

Old New Year! January 16, 2012

Happy OLD NEW YEARS from Russia!
Sister Tunney was a bit sick this week, so we had a bit of time at home.  I have enjoyed taking time to read the Book of Mormon out loud in Russian with Margo and Marina (our girls who live next door).  They help me with my pronunciation and it's just SO fun to spend time with them!  We had some good miracles this week.  We met with Lubov this week.  She was able to tell her husband that she was being baptized and we planned her baptism for this Saturday.  We asked her to choose who she would like her to baptize her and she said, "Well of course, sister Kany!"  haha!  I was flattered... except for the fact that we as women do not hold the priesthood.  It's so interesting when things like that happen because I wouldn't have even thought that she didn't know that men only hold the priesthood!  It was funny though!! and there's a first time for everything, right?  She talked with Lidya before she got her interview with Elder Tropnikov to be baptized and she said that she had invited her husband to come to her baptism.  He said that he would like to come and see what it is like!  Coming from a man who was SO against anything that she had to do with us... it was a miracle!  We are SO excited!!

We went out to the Erominka's again this week.  But it was so frustrating because Vanya kept asking all of these questions but he wouldn't listen to our answer... They were questions that he wouldn't
have if he understood the basic principles of the gospel and would actually just really listen to what we said instead of just looking for another point to argue about.  He's just not open right now, so we
just bore our testimonies and said that we couldn't answer his questions if he wasn't willing to listen.

This week we got some bad news about Laura (our miracle lady who wanted to be baptized).  Apparently she went to a friends church and said that it was what she needed and everything in our church was confusing... We think that she just heard some bad information about our church.  She is coming today to give us back the Book of Mormon that we gave her, but I hope that we, with Lidya, will be able to talk with her and help remove any fear from rumors that she heard.  We know that she felt the spirit when she was with us, and we hope to remind her of that.  If not right now, I hope that one day she will remember what she felt and come back.  It's hard when something like this happens, especially when we felt like it was such a miracle and know she felt it was right, but everyone has their agency.

This Saturday we had a very exhausting day.  We were going out to visit one of our members who lives WAY out of town.  We asked which bus stop was the right one and the people on the bus told us where to get off... well it ended up being the wrong one, so we had to go back and wait another 20 or so minutes for another bus.  The Lady who had told us it was that stop came back and apologized as she'd realized we were talking about another stop... haha  Well, we finally got there, but then on the way back we waited for like 40 minutes for a non-existent Marshrootka.  So, we finally decided to go wait at the nearby bus stop but then saw another Marshrootka coming that we could take.  IT was
raining, so we were of course FREEZING, but we started running to grab it!  The driving laughed at me when I got in, but we made it.  So after our 5 hour adventure to get out to our members house we didn't even want to go back outside again that day, but we headed to sports night at the church after a brief lunch at home and got splashed by two cars that drove through these HUGE puddle way too fast! haha oh well, it was an adventure!  At sports night we tried to teach the hand slapping game "Down by the banks of the Hanky-panky.".... I don't know what it is though here... A riot always breaks out whenever we want to teach a new game and someone always complains and says that they don't
want to play!! haha

I hope that everyone is doing well!! I sure love you all!
Cectpa Cunningham

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Week of Miracles! January 9, 2012

Happy Christmas!!! again!!

It was Christmas again this week.  So there are 2 calendars.  The Bratislavian church said that they were right and would never change their calendar when everyone else switched to the calendar that we all use.  So this past Saturday was December 25 on their calendar and we will have old new years this Saturday as it will be new years on the Bratislavian calendar.  It will not be a big celebration again like it was on New Years.  I think that the real reason is that they just want to celebrate for 2 weeks and drink vodka for 2 weeks.  But on church this Sunday they had all the talks about Christmas and we sang Christmas songs!!

So, after serving with an American companion I think I can see the differences in the culture more and it's really interesting!!  They are SO open and just say what it is here.  At church last Sunday we had a king of crazy old lady come to church.  She asked if she could have five minutes to share something in Relief Society and our wonderful teacher Sveta just says, no, that's way too long.  She said no and told her to sit down! haha  And everyone here just has to share their view, but their view is 100% right and they don't like to hear anything else!  So riots break out in Sunday School and Relief Society almost every Sunday!! haha  Well anyway.

This week Sister Tunney and I had a lot of miracles happen this week.  Our one investigator Lubov has been struggling and not wanting to tell her husband that she is going to be baptized.  We told her that it was a rule of the church that she needed to tell her husband.  She said that she wouldn't tell him.  We didn't know what to do.  Sister Tunney and I just looked at each other, blank faced... what do we do? She said no...  We had talked about using 1 Nephi 3:7 earlier when we were preparing the lesson, so I reached down and said, "Why don't we read a scripture."  I briefly explained how Lehi's sons needed to go back to Jerusalem to get the plates, and this was not an easy task, but Nephi knew that it was not his father that was asking, but the Lord.  She read the scripture and then we just sat there for a second and could see her thinking.  She then looked at as and said, this is about my husband isn't it?  If the Lord wants me to tell him, I will tell him.  It was so neat to see the power of the Book of Mormon.  We didn't need to say anything, she knew what she needed to do!

We also met with a new investigator Laura this week.  The first lesson we just read the introduction to the Book of Mormon with her.  She loved everything and talked about how her soul was at peace and felt so happy when she was with us.  At our next lesson with her we showed the Restoration movie.  After we asked her if she believed that Joseph Smith was a prophet.  She said Yes!! Of course!!!. I had the feeling that we should challenge her to baptism.  It was kind of weird as it was only a 2nd lesson, but I looked at Sister Tunney and said in English, "baptism?" (it's nice to have a secret language on lessons sometimes!!)  She looked at me and then said yes.  Right after she said that I felt a fire in my heart and just knew that we needed to challenge her to baptism.  I started talking about how Jesus had organized his church and as she had read in 3 Nephi 11 he had called apostles and given them the power to baptize.  I asked her if she would like to prepare to be baptized by the authority of Jesus Christ that was in His Church on the earth again today.  She said," Yes!  I'm ready!!"  It was SO amazingly crazy!!   It is so neat to see how the Lord has prepared people to receive this message of the restoration.

On our way home this week on the bus their was this lady that was just staring at our name tags.  I decided that I would like to talk with her, but when I went to sit next to her, she then moved so that she could sit by her daughter.  Finally the lady asked us what our name tags were.  So, I got to go over and talk with her and get their numbers!! It was SO awesome!! The mom works a lot, but she has answered her phone since then.  It's just cool to see that we just need to do the work, and the Lord will guide us to those who are curious or searching!  Well, I LOVE SISTER TUNNEY!!  I have never felt so united with a companion when teaching lessons!  Well, we're at the Potter's again to celebrate Russian Christmas!!  I hope you all have a GREAT week!!

love you!
Cectpa Cunningham

 Our service project for christmas decorating a christmas tree at teh school.

 Our K-dar family christmas picture.

 One of our favorite games... Ninja Destruction!!  But "Dancing Ninja Destruction"!!! :)

 Our secret service Christmas tree that we did with the girls.


 My New Years Morning Cinnamon Rolls!!

 Fireworks!!!  and the houses are visible!!

  Yes! love stepping on dog poop on the sidewalk!

Our Russian babooshka oktabrina! haha  She is SO funny and WAY cute!!  She made us all this food and just wanted us to eat and eat.....

Monday, January 2, 2012

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! с новым годом January 2, 2011

Wow!  This was a GREAT fun week!!  We started out with a lesson with our Baptist investigator Dasha.  She has a lot of questions, but we realized that we just needed to try to teach her the lessons and tell her that as we went along that we hoped her questions would be answered.  She just gets so fixed on these little questions that she can never see the big picture.  Well, that didn't work.  She just isn't ready and argued with us about everything... o-well.  Right after we headed out to go meet Sasha Demchenko at the tramvai stop.  He had called us and asked us what he would have to do to get more of some cookies that I had made one time.  Well, I conversed with my companion and we decided that if he made us borsch (a traditional delicious soup with beets!) that we could make him more cookies.  So, this was the day when we would get borsch.  There was a TON of traffic, so it took us like an hour and a half to get out to his house, but he entertained us with a lot of stories about his mission in Moscow.  President and sister Cranny from our MTC branch presidency were his mission president and wife.  When we got there we didn't have a lot of time, but were able to talk with his mother who is not a member and eat borsch.  Sasha' mom had made it though, so he still owes us.  He took us back out then to catch our bus home and we taught him ninja destructjion while we waited.  I think we got some weird looks, but it was really fun!

We also used the money that you sent us this week to do a secret act of service for someone mom!  It was SO fun!!  We set aside an afternoon (which wasn't hard because no one wanted to meet with us this week anyway as it was New Year's) and took the girls from our neighbors, Margo and Marina, to go and buy a Christmas tree.  We got a tree and all the decorations and some mandarine oranges.  After decorating the tree we trooped out to go ding dong ditch it at this families house.  In Russia they have gates (they are tall..the height of a regular door) that you have to knock on.  So the lady kept looking out to see if someone was in front of her gate.  I had to knock SO many times and so hard but she still wouldn't come out.  Finally I just stood in front of the door in the gate and called her name. The door in the gate started to open so I booked it around the corner hoping that she hadn't seen me.  She followed me and I tried to hide behind this pole.. .ya... that didn't work.  So I just tried to hide my face and said that it was a surprise present for her and then I ran away.  The girls and Sister Tunney came out from their hiding place and we ran away. They loved it.  They said they'd read about doing things like that but they had never done it before!! Thanks mom!!

Roman told us last week that he had decided to come back and he wanted to meet with us again!!!  We asked him what had made him change his mind and want to come back.  He said that he just felt that there couldn't be anything bad here.  We talked about some of the changes that he will have to make in his life in order to join the church and that after baptism he will continually need to change and improve and develop.  We're excited to see what happens!  If  you could all pray for our investigator Lubov that would ROCK!  She can't come to all of church because of work and a controlling husband and she is really against telling her husband that she wants to be baptized, but she needs to do that before we can move any further!

This week we sang on the street several times with the elders.  This one time i was contacting while they sang and this lady started talking to me. She told me that I was way to pretty to be out here and that I should go home and hurry and get married and have LOTS of children.  I needed lots so that they all looked like me! haha  We came in early on Saturday night and then Sister Tunney and I got to have our own New Year's Celebration!! We watched several movies (including Rapunzel!! It's good!! Highly recommend it) and then made Pizza.  At midnight we went out to see the fireworks. They were going off everywhere next to all the apartments and  homes!!  Luckily there wasn't any fires that I saw!! It was WAY pretty and loud!  We headed to bed and a couple hours later I got woken up by a choir of drunk people walking down our street singing!! haha! Gotta love New Years!!

Cectpa Cunningham

Ninja Destructjion!