Monday, February 27, 2012

Spring is coming!! February 27, 2012

Hello my wonderful family and friends!

We had a good time this week!  Everything is melting and SO wet!!!  We got to see mamaev korgan.  It is the biggest statue in Russia and it's right here in Volgagrad!!  It is just a couple cm. taller than our own statue of liberty because of mother Russia's sword.  The biggest battle of the war happened in V-grad.  Hitler sent 500,000 soldiers here and after they all fought there were only 90,000 left.  She is AMAZING and SO big!  We also got to see the war museum panorama for a culture night.  It was really interesting and we saw the gun and picture of one of the most famous heroes.  The Russians hired a herdsman as one of their snipers for their army.  They say that without him they would not have been able to win the war.  He could kill about 30 officers in a day. 

We went knocking quite a bit this week and also had splits with the Elders!  Elder Jacobson, Hill, and I went knocking together.  It was SO funny!  A little old lady opened her door and Elder Hill said that he was here with his friend (he called me a boy! haha) and I like snuck my head around the door... ya... I'm kind of awkward.! :)  The poor old lady was SO cute and said that she would of course talk to us because it was the human thing to do, but she was so sick and little and even had a catheter hanging out of her robe... :)  Luckily Elder Hill didn't see that part!  Sister Whitaker and I also knocked into this one house where the man apparently holds his own church services at his house every Wednesday.  He invited us to come back and then he would teach us! :)  Well, we had had a lesson with a really neat lady in that same apartment building earlier that week, so we returned to meet with her.  Well, we accidentally knocked on his door again... He answered and we just were like hello... realizing who it was and awkwardly said that we had knocked on the wrong door...  So, we left and then this other younger guy opens the door as we're walking down the stairs and is all "pretty girls?"  He saw us and we said hi and then just kept walking away.  a little girl hungry I think... haha  Well, we think since we ended up accidentally knocking into them again that maybe we just need to give them a video or something.

Katya is a young mother that we met while knocking.  She said that we could come back and teach her, but i haven't been able to understand where they say she is when we call.  We've gone by and sometimes they don't answer.  Maybe she was just visiting, but I'm hoping that we can meet with her again.  It was a really neat experience!  We also were coming home this week on a marshrutka and I didn't realize that it went closer to house than the usual stop that we get off on.  I was sitting up in the front with the driver so I just called the stop and got off.  I realized that I had gotten off all by myself!  OH MY GOODNESS it was the WEIRDEST feeling to think that I would actually be ALONE!!  I kind of freaked out and started speaking English.  I was like, "wait, wait."  Luckily Sister LeBaron had saw me get off and frantically trying to open the cab door to the van.  she got off with me. It was SO funny!

In our area book we have a picture of this guy who has harassed missionaries in the past.  It started back in like 2004 and missionaries (elders and sisters) have all added entries when they have seen him!!  I would like to inform you that the latest siting happened to me and sister Whitaker!  we were going to knock a building we'd knocked earlier and I saw this BIG guy crossing the street.  nothing clicked.  He started talking to sister Whitaker, but our Marshrutka had just gotten there.  I'd heard him say something about English Club so I whipped out an invitation, gave it to him and then we got on our marshrutka.  as we sat down and started talking about him it clicked!!!  "Sister Whitaker, that was Ruslan! and we just gave him an invitation to English club!!"  well... hopefully he won't stalk us! :)

In the first week of our transfer we had gone to the hospital and met these ladies in the coat room.  So, this Saturday we went back.  They had read the Liahona we had given them and said that we have a lot of hard rules!  It was a General Conference edition! :)  Well, in short, we got to talk with them and give them a Book of Mormon that we had written our testimony in.  One of them isn't really that open, but the other lady Zina gave us free milky ways from her snack stand and said we could come back again next week to talk with her.  She also wanted to know if she could give the Book of Mormon to give to people who come to the  hospital, so we gave her an extra copy!  It was fun either way and we'll see what happens!  Well, Sister LeBaron and I are off to go and FINALLY get our real Russian hats!  I'm so glad she's here with me!  I love her!  It's fun having my MTC companion with me!!  I love you all and wish you a good week!!
cectpa Cunningham

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Valentine's Lunch... February 21, 2012

Hello Family and Friends!

Happy Valentine's Day!  We decided that it would be a perfect opportunity to go and visit our friend Brat Dmitri!  We couldn't find his house, so we called him and he said that he was on his way to find us.  He's like 65 or so and had a stroke a couple years ago so he only mumbles when he talks! Super hard to understand!  We finally saw him after we actually found his house doing his "Brat Dmitri" run where he doesn't move any part of his body but his legs. (I think that he has chi running down dad!)  Well, he insisted on feeding us... and IT WAS NASTY!  He got these really old sticky noodles out of his fridge and put them in an old frying pan covered inch thick with black... who knows what, that had about 1/4 inch thick of oil that had sat in there for who knows how long.  He then opened this can of creamed meat and put it over half the noodles and sister Whitaker is a vegetarian.  After warming it up he set the pan in front of us and gave us each a fork.  Mine had some kind of yellow dried something on it.... yes, we prayed and ate as much as we had to not to be rude.  And we DID NOT get food poisoning!! Thank goodness!  We gave Brat Dmitri a valentine heart that said, "i love you, love God" on it and talked about the love of God!  He's fun!

We had a good time contacting this week too.  We had a lesson with a member and so just knocked one of the buildings around where they live.  We had a couple lessons and gave away a Book of Mormon!  They can't run because we know where they live!! haha :)  This week we really focused on asking for referrals.  We got to meet with a friend of one of our members.  She wasn't really interested but took a "Finding Faith in Christ" video and enjoyed talking with us.

WE also had Zone Conference this week.  As President didn't come to the Zone Conference's this transfer Sister LeBaron and I got to talk!  We spent most of Wednesday and then Thursday preparing.  We talked about the role of the spirit in conversion.  We really enjoyed Elder Yamoshita's talk from General Conference.  None of our parents have served in Russia so we didn't inherit their coat or love for Russia, but we wear the name of Jesus Christ on our tags.  He knows each of the people here and what they need! We can inherit His love for them and then we can feel it!  As we worked on testifying more when we talk to people instead of just talking with people I felt the spirit more strongly and a stronger love for the Russian people!

Our Zone Leaders did a great presentation about the doctrine of Christ and re-enacted the steps with the help of an Elder and a dirty sheet, representing sin. They had to carry him at first, then he worked to clean himself and then as he committed to be baptized was baptized he got a new clean sheet, could see again, and got a cell phone (like the Holy Ghost) a txt said that if he remained clean he could have constant contact with our Heavenly Father!  IT was cool!

Zulya, the girl we met at pavel's house last week, was sick this week.  But she is planning on meeting us this week.  Pavel himself is not interested in changing, but it's interesting to see how God puts people into our paths so that we can then meet other people through them.  She said that she has been reading the Book of Mormon!

Sister Yulya's granddaughter came to church this week.  She is turning 13 this week and wants to be baptized but her parents won't let her be baptized but let her come to church with her grandmother.  We wanted to ask her parents and get permission to teach her.  I know that her parents may not be open to her getting baptized at this point, but as we talked with her I felt that we should teach her the basic principles of the gospel so that she has the tools and knowledge to stay close to God through her teenage years and hopefully make the choice to be baptized when she comes of age.  She is very smart and has a deep understanding of the gospel already.  Yulya just gave her her very own copy of her Book of Mormon.  We don't want to waste time teaching her but both felt it would be something good to do.  We came to center today so that we can see the Mamaev Korgan, a super famous statue here in Volgagrad! I'm really excited! 

I love you All!!

Cectpa Cunningham

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pictures from Ariel's companion, February 16, 2012

 Dmitri!!  Hahahaha this guy is soooo old and so funny...  He was trying to balance on these balls at sports night.

  Selling meat and a PIG HEAD out of the back of a truck!!  GROSS!!!!!!!

 Me, Sister Whitaker, and Sister Cunningham just waiting for the bus!


Sister Cunningham kissing a snowman. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Get the Work Rolling! February 13, 2012


Considering that it was like -27 this week, it wasn't so bad that we had to stay in sick for most of the week.  Sister LeBaron was not feeling up to par.  But this week on Friday we picked up our new mini missionary.  Her name is Sister Zaitzova.  She is from Sochi, which is in our mission, and will serve with sister LeBaron for the rest of the transfer.  She served a full-time mission in Ekaternberg and is so excited to be able to serve again for a little bit.  She has brought a lot of energy, laughter, and fun to our little apartment!  We love her.

I haven't really described the winters here, so I thought I should give some details!  It is SO SO SO COLD!!  When you have to wait for a Marshrootkaf for like 10 minutes you go numb!  We try to dance around and run around, but my feet usually loose most of their feeling!  Everyone is bundled up with their fur coats, and fur Russian Shopkas.  The little kids look like little Pilsbury dough boys and their parents carry them around on little sleds that they pull.  While crossing over a tramvai track this week I stepped in the middle of the track and sank knee deep into the snow! It was rather funny!  The Marshrootkas themselves are always fun because when you flag them down and they stop they usually slide for a good 5-10 feet on the ice before stopping!

Because of the whether, when we went contacting we usually go knocking.  This one time I got a little carried away wasn't patient enough to wait for an answer.  I had rung both doorbells and the people both came out from their doors (they usually have an outside apartment door with several different house doorbells next to it, then when you open that door there is a hallway or little entry way with more personal aparment doors).  We said we were missionaries and they were like, "we don't need them, do you?" "I don't need to talk to them do you?" and then as one person was going back into his house he told his neighbor to shut his door on us! haha

This week we knocked this one apartment building and this young like 17 year old girl answered.  She stepped outside her door and was like, "yes, I do want to hear more!  Tell me something."  Usually we just get no's and so her "tell me something" took me off guard and I didn't know what to say! haha  I just sat there like, "uh...uh... well.." It was way sad as her mom then came to the door and made her come back in.. .we hope that she'll maybe come to English Club.

This transfer has been an interesting part of my mission.  I felt almost like I had hit a wall.  I've seen miracles happen, but I just felt SO tired and had become content and lazy.  When Sister Zaitzova came she brought so much fire and love of missionary work.  I knew that now with just me and Sister Whitaker in our companionship there were some things that needed to change.  We hadn't been as strictly obedient and had become lazy about looking to make every opportunity a finding opportunity.  I had a bit of repenting to do and wanted to commit myself again to the work.  On Saturday morning I apologized to Sister Whitaker for my bad example and together we talked and made goals about what we could do to be more 100% obedient.  We also planned in a different way than I had been taught by my other companions.  We made the goals first, as a step of faith, and then make plans of how to reach our goal!

After setting our goals we have already seen some miracles.  Just on our way to and from the music night that we had in center on Saturday we were able to place two Books of Mormon. One was a young girl and I talked with her for like an hour and a half.  She said that her mom had cancer and so she'd prayed.  She said she's always believed in God and prayed to him.  The lady on the way home, we also talked to for like an hour.  Her husband died 3 years ago and she has 2 daughters, a 26 year old and 6 year old.  I told her that families could be together forever, but then she said that she'd had this dream where her dad had appeared to her but he was with another woman... i wasn't quite sure what to respond to that... so I just said, "but, families can be together forever!"  Hopefully we'll see them both again!  We told her we could come and teach them how to do FHE (thanks for that idea dad).  It felt SO good to see how many people are just so open and wonderful to talk with us. 

Yesterday we met with Pavel, that man who fixed the zipper on my coat.  He invited some of his friends to be there when we came and we also brought Brat Komo along.  They fed us chicken and potatoes with tortillas, a carrot dish, and then got some cake and fruit for us. We were able to place another Book of Mormon with Pavel's friend Zulya. He was not very interested.  He just wants to have good friends and he said that he could tell we are good people, but he doesn't seem interested to change or learn.  Zulya, however, seems very open and is interested to meet again.  As sister Whitaker said the closing prayer she paused as she was struggling to find some words and suddenly pavel speaks up and just finishes her prayer for her!  It was really funny!  Unfortunately Zulya lives in center Volgagrad, so we will probably need to hand her off to the Elder's this week, but I'm so excited to see and feel like the work is moving along again here.  We're committing to be more obedient and the Lord is blessing us!  Just on the ride over to write home a lady got on and was like, "What beautiful girls." It can be kind of awkward talking to people with my very strong accent on perfectly quiet transportation, but we took the opportunity to talk with her and gave her a church invite! 

I love you all! HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!

Cectpa Cunningham

Monday, February 6, 2012

The things you learn on missions February 6, 2012

Guess What?!! 

At sports night this week I learned to hoola hoop!! for the first time in my life I can hoola hoop! :) it was a metal hoola hoop though and it kept falling, so I have big bruises behind my knees, but I guess it was worth it! :)  I also learned that I can touch my nose with my tongue!  The things you learn on missions.... :)  this week was SO cold so we did a little bit of what we call "the transport ministry."  We got onto a tramvai and rode it to the end of the line and then back again.  Our goal was to talk with people who sat next to us.  My first lady was crazy and told me that she was a missionary to and wanted to come over to my house... creepy.  But the next man that sat next to me when I sat in the back--- the coldest part of the tramvai next to the door-- was awesome.  I was freezing and wishing that I hadn't been so stupid to sit next to the door, but then he sat down.  He wasn't interested in my invitation to church, but then we just started talking and we talked about prayer!  It was cool.  I hope he'll think about it.  

We also knocked a bit this week.  We knocked on this door and this little girl opened the door.  Her parents weren't home, so we just said OK and then she closed the door again.  We had a "families can be together forever" DVD, so I knocked on the door again and we gave them the free movie with our invitation to church.  At the next door the same thing happened, but we were ready this time and gave the little boy a DVD.  Now we need to go back and check and see if the parents watched it!

We had a fantastic time at english club this week.  We sang a song to help them learn the alphabet and then we played fruit basket.  Brat Dmitri is maybe like 70 and never talks clearly.  He just mumbles really softly.  The russian can't even understand him.  He LOVED that game.  He was a nectarine.  He doesn't move very fast though, but he always is doing is little shuffle jog everywhere.  One time he didn't get up when his fruit was called so I went and stood over him and called out his fruit agian so he had to get up!  He was SO cute and laughing!  I think that we will play that game again.

On Sunday we met with our district leader.  He is SO enthused about missionary work and LOVES it!! He gets SO excited about missionary work and has been thinking that he wants to hold fasts in our ward.  He got so excited about the idea of having a 40 day fast where everyone in our branch fasts one day and then passes it off to the next family.... the only problem is that we only have like 20 people in our branch... haha  Brat Peotr!  He just makes us laugh!  As we sang our opening song for the meeting he was so serious as he started conducting us and singing that I got the giggles and then sister Whitaker got the giggles so only Brat Peotr was singing as sister LeBaron accompanied on the piano.

I always love meeting with the members as they have the COOLEST conversion stories.  This week we met with a family that has 5 daughters!  And they had both had dreams that actually came true!  The wife saw her wedding which happened when they got married in the church before they were baptized!  I hope we'll find some investigators this week.... but it is SO cold!!! And my zipper broke, so I had to drop my coat off at a place to get it fixed.  The guy there was super cool and asked us what we were doing here.  We talked with him for a while and he invited us to come over to his house this Sunday and he would make us Armenian food!! He said that he would invite one of his friends that would be interested in talking about religion!  Hopefully he's not just a creeper, but hey!  He's fixing my coat for cheap!  Hope you all have a GREAT week! Stay warm and drink lots of hot cocoa!

Cectpa Cunningham