Dear family and friends,
Well I have finally entered the Motherland! Our plane ride to Russia was quite the experience, I was sitting next to a very Jewish man from Israel who only spoke Hebrew, but I tried to have a decent conversation with him by pointing at my bible maps and using his translator. But there was a Babushka sitting by my companion so we talked to her for practically the whole flight from NY to Moscow and we were able to bring the discussion over to the gospel, and we tried giving her a BOM. She was interested but wouldn't take it, but I might've slipped a little mormon.org card with a note in her bag. At Moscow we drove through the city to the American embassy; it was quite the experiance. It was so cold and windy and I didn't have a coat yet, but I was so excited it didn't matter. Russia is even cooler than I imagined, all the buildings are so tall and gray, and everyone drives so crazy (like our bus just started drifting today and nobody was phased) and everything is so dirty and depressing, and so cold and humid that it pierces your clothes, and the winds are insane!
We got to Rostov and met our mission President and his wife. I love them. They are great! The next day I met my trainers, I have 2 trainers. One has been here for less than a year and is from Pennsylvania. He's awesome. His name is Elder Sweeney! My other trainer is a Russian! He is the coolest person ever and he is super friendly and fun. He is 25 and he is also engaged, haha. His fiancee is also on a mission and he baptized her. Missionaries met his mom on the streets when he was 2 years old. This is his last transfer but I'm so lucky to have him. I love both of my companions so much!
I am seving in East Rostov, the city is really big. Our apartment is on the top floor of a typical Russian apartment building. We are on a hill and have an awesome view of the city. People light fireworks ALL the time, and it's always the loud ones, so we always have a show. The best part though is that all the cars have alarms, and they all get set off at the same time, it's so funny. There are also a ton of stray cats and dogs all over the place. And the dogs bark all night. We walk or do public transportation. We usually take the thing called a Marshrootka, which is like a super ghetto van that is stuffed with people to the max, and they drive crazy. It's really fun. It's so true that nobody smiles are talks, unless they are asking for a cigarette or change, but I still always say hi to everyone and try to say a little convo or phrase in Russian. It smells like sewer and is really muddy. Nobody takes care of anything, and the water tastes like dirt here. And in case your wondering, people do wear the fur hats here and all the babushkas practically wear a bear. The winter is finally starting up in Rostov; there was few days with good snow, but it's really starting to pick up today.
The members here are amazing! Our little branch has a little over 20 active members. They are all converts, and they are all so faithful. The branch president and his councilor both have 2 little children. I've found that Russian children are the cutest there is, the woman are beautiful, and the men are tough and scary looking. On Sunday I gave my first talk and introduced myself to the ward. My trainors already built up a good trust with the ward, so that's helpful. We also had 7 investigators at church so that was awesome! We have 6 investigators with baptismal date! We are currently teaching an amazing single mom with 4 children who are all over 8, they are the golden investigator family who always goes to church. They are all planning to get baptized. This is quite a miracle because baptisms are first quite rare in Russia as you can imagine, and when somebody gets baptized, they are usually the only one in their family. So the fact that there is a whole family is miraculous. Our other investigator is a older man. He was suppose to get baptized this Saturday but he hasn't gone to church since my trainers have been here so we are pushing it back. He is amazing though, he is the most loving man. He has been talking to the missionaries for a while but his wife wouldn't let him get baptized and thinks he is foolish. His wife died a month ago and after that he threw his BOM out and was done, but something happened very recently where he came back to the missionaries and now wants to be baptized. We have another investigator who is an English teacher, so we talk quite a lot, but he tries to question everything. But he always shows up to church, but we are working with him, I love him and I know that he knows these things are true but he won't come to it. I think he is afraid. We actually had 15 lessons this past week which is the most my trainers have ever had, we usually only get 8-10, so we never had any time to do any finding yet, besides starting up conversations on the bus. It's really hard to find here. No one really knows what to do since you can't just talk to people about the church, so we have to be creative and invite people to play ping pong with us at the church or so fourth, I'm still not so sure but I can promise you we will come up with some ways how to do it, because with God's help we will find the people he has prepared and bring them home.
This is an amazing mission. I love it here. It is quite an adventure. You can see the difference of happiness between the people with the gospel and without. I love the people; they are so great. (they have found all of the 12 tribes just in all mission alone, it's crazy!) God's work will press forward no matter the obstacle, it is truly amazing to see it here in its full work and glory. God doesn't abandon any of his children.