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

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Easter! April 9, 2012


Easter in Russia is actually this Sunday, and it's the weekend that we get to watch General Conference!!! I am SO excited to finally see it!!  We had a good Easter Sacrament meeting this week though and the District President gave the most amazing talk about God's plan for us and the resurrection!

We had such an exciting week!  We met with a new investigator Sergei. He's a little weird, but nice. We had to have a member with us as he is a younger boy, but that means that we have very few options.  We invited Brat Dmitri to come with us which ended up being mayhem!!  He told Sergei on the lesson that he could tell he wasn't interested! Sergei got so offended and said, "how can you tell what kind of person I am just by looking at my face?"! It was definitely one of those way weird awkward lesson moments.  He still came later that week and when he found out that Brat Dmitri had had a stroke it seemed that all was forgiven!

Meeting with Nona and Garik this week they fed us THE MOST AMAZING BORSCH!!  Oh my goodness!! it was SO good!  We talked again about the priesthood and then watched the "first Vision" in Armenian.  I didn't understand anything but "Joseph." haha

This was definitely a week of contacting though!  The weather has changed 100%! It is HOT where as just 2 weeks ago I was still wearing boots!  I hadn't realized how many people actually lived here in Krasnoarmeiski! they were apparently all just hibernating for the winter!  One day we contacted into this guy that almost walked by us but we stopped him and he asked to go and sit down and talk with us! Of course we can do that!! He teaches at a deaf school and teaches about religion! He said that  he has been looking for truth his whole life! I love hearing things like that!  He taught us a little bit of sign language too! When we went to go out to his dacha (their summer house things) it was a disaster. First of all, it's a little sketch for people to invite you out to the dacha's. As Brat Komo informed us, "they could kill you out there and no one would ever know..." so, lucky for us we as sisters get to take a priesthood holder along with us! So Brat Komo drove us out and we never actually got to meet with him.  It was WAY pretty though and Brat Komo did his usual service of driving some people in his marshrutka for free with us! He's the best! We're SO grateful to have wonderful members and men to help us and keep us safe!  They wouldn't let us go through the check point to the dacha's so we walked out there and then Sersh ( the guy we were trying to meet) didn't answer his phone so we ended up just having to go all the way back! We had a good sunny Sunday walk on Easter though!

We also had a FANTASTIC time on splits this week!  We chalk drew the plan of Salvation 3 times all around Krasnoarmeiski and with the Elders in one day we got like 12 street lessons and 4 or 5 numbers!! Rockin'!! I love splits! it's always fun to work with the elders and see how they answer people's questions, contact, and just to have their energy and fun! I love them!  I hope you all have a FANTASTIC week!! I know that God lives and that He sent His son Jesus Christ to come to earth so that we can overcome our sins and repent becoming clean so that we can return to live with God our Father again!  I love Him and am so grateful for this Easter Season to especially remember His resurrection! He was resurrected so that we could all be resurrected and live again! I love all and wish you the best week!!

Cectpa Cunningham

 we went to a planetarium with te elders last p-day!! loved it!!  my december birthday constelation!

 me with my comp. and the only constelation we can find... orion's belt!

 me and the planetarium

 our chalk drawing awesomeness!! I LOVE OUR ZONE!! (forward this to Elder Jacobson's mom if you can please! thanks!)

 Us with Brat Komo on our dacha adventures!! Thanks to my favorite sister for the skirt!!

 Sister Whitaker decided to practive her photography model shooting skills on me!!! so here are a few of them!! haha

me modeling

 how sister whitaker wants to cut my hair!!

 and more of me... hahaha

random guy who came by while we were photographing and wanted a picture with me too!! i'm famous!! even in Russia!!

 big friendly giant!!

 ap treat!! they pay, i eat!! :)

 Russian road! looks like ecuador huh?

 Our easther treats!! the end of lent!!

Had to take his picture and then he wanted to get one with me! thumbs up and he grabs my arm!! gotta love te members!! they're the best!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

No more snow!! April 2, 2012

Happy April!! And April Fool's!
To be honest we forgot about April Fool's day... but o-well.  The beginning of this week was actually pretty frustrating.  Literally no one wanted to meet with us. We had been making goals to be able to be more obedient and work  hard, but then nothing seemed to be working out.  On the way home from FHE on Monday Brat Komo drove us home in his Marshrutka.  When we dropped Brat Dmitir off another girl tried to get on.  He really wasn't working but decided to let her on.... Perfect opportunity for us to get her!! haha Us and Brat Komo and one other girl. She had no idea that she was trapped by all Mormon's!  Well, we talked to her and gave her an invitation, but she didn't pass along her number... o-well!

Nothing seemed to be working out... but then suddenly this week SO many people came out of the woodwork and we were able to meet with so many new people!  One day for companionship study I decided to practice teaching about the priesthood, as that is not one of my strong points.  The priesthood is such a deep principle and hard to explain to people.  We always try to explain it very simply and emphasize that we need that same power that Jesus gave his apostles in order to be able to be baptized as Jesus Christ was baptized.  That night we had a lesson with a family that we had found in the area book.  As we were talking we started talking about the priesthood.  I turned to Sister Whitaker and said... "it's a good thing that I practiced teaching this this morning." As I talked I could feel the Holy Ghost guiding my thoughts and what I needed to say.  Explaining the priesthood suddenly just felt so clear with the scriptures that came to mind, and they seemed to understand.  I knew that I had been helped so much to be able to explain the priesthood.  After Sister Whitaker said that she had been praying for me as I explained that principle... and I needed it!

The family we met from the area book is an Armenian family.  But the mom doesn't understand everything that we say in Russian.  Her Russian is good, but we use words that she doesn't know and she uses words that we don't know... so many times we have our dictionary out and it's always fun to share a scripture... find it in Russian and then try to find it in Armenian.  She is meeting with another church right now and working with them to get baptized.  Her husband doesn't really believe in God, but she wants her family to be united.  When we met with them he was involved and had some good questions. We hope to see them move along this week.  Nona, the mom, understands about priesthood, but doesn't understand that it can only be found in one church. They have the cutest kids too!! Oh my goodness!! the little girl Sonya is SO cute and a sassy little model!! :)  She demonstrated her model walks for us! SO CUTE!!  The son Gor showed us his yoyo and tried to show me how to do it!  They are such a neat family and we already love them.

On the way to district meeting this week we were riding in a Marshrutka with people all around.  I knew I needed to talk with someone and so I started talking with the lady next to me.  She talked SO loud!!!  She asked where we were from and I responded America, and then she yelled, "from America?!!!" So, by this time pretty much the whole Marshrutka was listening.  I knew I shouldn't be embarrassed, and then she proceeded to ask us what we are doing her.  The lady across from us kept looking up and smiling and pretty much everyone on the Marshrutka could hear.  It was so funny!  Then at this one stop this younger girl gets on. As there were no seats she ended up standing up right in front of where this lady and I are sitting.  (a marshrutka is like a big van with seats that kind of face each other in the middle and then another section in the back with facing seats)  She turned to me and asked, "Are you missionaries?" I said yes.  She then said that her uncle was a priest.  The lady next to me went on to say that she didn't think it was right that we traveled around telling people about what we believe, but then this girl said, "Well, my uncle preaches to his congregation that they shouldn't just sit around.  The savior himself said that we should go out and preach the gospel." haha!!  The lady next to me kept saying she was just sharing her opinion and didn't want me to be offended!  The younger girl Sasha said that she was SUPER interested to meet with us and gave us her number.  I really hope that we can meet with her!

We have a lot going on here and are hoping to keep seeing the miracles!  We went to the piano concert this week and Peotr plays SO amazingly!! We got to meet with him on Sunday and he brought his friend. They had apparently both met with the missionaries 5 years ago.  We had a good time just getting acquainted and it was SO nice to talk with them because they have actually themselves studied and thought about many things.  They talked about how the Bible had been translated so many times and how the churches often just take people's money.

Cectpa Cunningham

P.S.  OH my goodness!! Tell Britt how much I love her and miss her!! and i better get to see here SUPER SOON after I get home!! Let Anne know too! I'd really like to see her!!