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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Here are a few pictures from Russia.

The first is my coat that I bought on the Renock. It's way warm and I'm a big fan.

Second is from the Christmas Party. Lera(one of the coolest members ever, she helps us with a lot of lessons), Elder Busico my companion in the red, Ksyusha and Alexei(Joseph and Mary), both Branch Presidents, and a few other people.

And last is my Christmas Tree in my apartment...we bought it from gypsies. Haha. Love ya!

And a Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year! Isn't that crazy? 2009 is already gone. When this year started I never would have guessed where I'd be by the end of it. Life really is great here in Vlad. I am just living the dream I guess. I should have written yesterday, on P-day, but we didn't have any time at all. Things are ALWAYS crazy, but that's just how I live I guess.

Yesterday we played basketball against this team of like 16 year old boys...we a shoot-out. It was really embarrassing and I think all the missionaries who were there had their pride hurt pretty bad. I had a good time though. They also didn't call any of the times we were fouled...I blame it on the fact that the coach was Russian and we're American. I think this was the first real game of basketball that I've played in since the 5th grade intermurral championships. That was a cool day. Ok I really don't remember it that well, but I made a sweet 3-pointer and that's what really matters, especially in 5th grade. We played the team yesterday though, because their coach (I think she's their coach) is investigating the Church. She's a really neat lady, (even if she doesn't call fouls) and would be such a cool member of the Church. Hopefully things work out for her.

So last week feels like forever ago, because so much has happened. We've had english club twice, another sunday, my companion may have gotten a little frostbite...possibly, two new members were baptized! , and we taught and lost an investigator (she was SO cool! And SO nice, but she just isn't ready to accept the Gospel yet. I'm pretty sure she kept the Book of Mormon we gave her, and she stayed for Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School after she told us that she didn't want to meet anymore, so I think there's still hope. She's going to be in Nakhodka for the next month visiting her parents while school is out for the Holidays...yeah, for a whole month; maybe the Spirit will work on her a little harder during that time.)

Another investigator that we have though, Yulia (Julia..only they don't have J's here) is so great. I think we're going to committ her to baptism tomorrow. She is so ready for it and has so much faith. She was too sick to come to the Christmas party that the Branches in Vlad had on Saturday, but she wasn't about to let that keep her from coming to Church. We've talked about baptism a lot in our lessons and she always seems to be the one bringing it up, she wants to be baptized so bad. I love it.

We did have a baptism this weekend. It was so great. Alexei started investigating the Church a few months ago and then invited his girlfriend Ksyusha to come to the missionary lessons with him. They were both baptized today. It was so incredible. I have never seen so much joy on anyone's face as Ksyusha had when she came out of the water in the baptismal font. It was just incredible, I can't even describe it. Alexsei is way cool too. He has become one of my good member friends since I got here in Russia which feels like a lot more than a week and a half ago. He is going to make a great leader of the Church here in the Far East.

A few hours after the Baptism was the multi-branch Christmas Party It was such a good time. I did some things that not incredibly proud of there though. Mainly I just did a sweet dance to the song that's like "Last Christmas I gave you my heart but the very next day you gave it away...." Yeah, it was a good time, but I have a little less self-respect now. Haha. It's a part of building relationships of trust with the members right? They need to know that we're real people, that's what I tell myself at least. There also was a Christmas play which I thought I had a part in for a while, but I lucked out. It was fun, I just didn't really understand what was going on because I couldn't really hear, and it was in Russian. Sometimes I underderstand things a lot more than others, it's funny how that works. I'll just keep praying for the gift of tongues.

Actually, speaking of the gift of tongues, I had the coolest experience the other day! We always seem to talk about the gift of tongues, and I'd say I've experienced it already while I've been here in Russia (I mean I'm speaking it all the time and I haven't even really studied the language for even 3 months yet,) but the miracle that I saw the other day had to do with the gift of the interpretation of tongues, which is such a great gift of the Spirit.

I was in a meeting with Sister Anna Mikhailvna a member of the Church who just needs help and counsel. She is so faithful, but she always worries about her son. He is into all kinds of drugs and doesn't do anything with his life. He's 25 and just lives at home and bums off his family, but I guess its against the law here for his parents to kick him out. I don't really understand it all I guess. But she was telling us about her situation and just pouring her heart out to us begging for help and counsel, and I completely understood everything she was saying. Not the words she was using, I really caught very little of those, but the miracle was that I stopped listening to the words, and I started listening with my heart. The Spirit told me exactly what I needed to say to Sister Anna, and what I needed to ask her to do as well. Through the Lord all things are possible. I don't always understand the Russian language. Most of the time I don't. But when the Lord needs me to understand, there's no doubt in my mind that I will.

The thing that I felt like I needed to ask Sister Anna Mikhailvna to do seemed a little strange to me at first, but I am really excited for it. I am going to start kind of taking piano lessons from her. Haha. Crazy huh? She is so amazing at the piano, but she doesn't read notes. Its all just by sound for her. She actually was admitted into a music school when she was a child but dropped out because they made her spend more time than she wanted reading notes, and she just wanted to play music. Her lifetime dream was to be a musician, and she is so incredible. So yep, I have a Russian piano teacher who went to a prestigious music school in the Far East. That sounds cool, doesn't it?

Yesterday I also went to a Bible store. Who knew they had stores that just sold Bibles? It was cool. The Bible I bought was a little bit more expensive than I would usually think to spend on a Bible (since they're often free in the US) but it fits in my pocket and has a nice zipper cover. I love how much respect the Russian people have for books, especially scriptures. Really they have a lot of respect for things. They other day I went to stand on a chair while setting up for the Christmas Party, and two or three different people stopped me before I could and put paper down on the chair before they would let me put my shoes on it. I've never put paper down to step on a chair before. That was really a neat thing for me. Culture is so cool.

Last week I learned a lot about culture. We visited a member of the Church named Baba Anna. (Baba is short for Babushka which means grandma) Baba Anna fed me some great Russian food, gave me some tea (I now drink tea several times a day and it's so good. I think my favorite so far is Festive Grape. Fruit tea is way cool) As we were sitting there eating Baba asked my companion about my wife. I was really confused, and so was she. I guess wedding rings are worn on the right hand in one told me that. So she saw my CTR Ring and was positive that it was a wedding ring because of the finger it was on. Now I wear it on my left hand which is really strange for me, but I'll get used to it sooner or later I guess.

I just absolutely love being a missionary here, missionary work in genral is just so great, and the chance to study the Gospel every day is incredible. When I got here I started reading the Book of Mormon a different way than I've ever read before. Sister Pratt, the mission president's wife, gave me a new Book of Mormon, in english, and told me to mark every time the Lord Jesus Christ is mentioned. Have you ever thought about that? The scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, testify of Jesus Christ so much. I counted over 680 different referrences to the Savior by the end of 1st Nephi. I think that is incredible, and it helps me to learn a lot of different things I had never realized about the Lord before. Elder Cook of the 12 told President and Sister Pratt that he and Elder Holland had done that while they were missionaries (did you know they were companions?) and it was an incredible experience for them. I love it. Try it sometime, it will change the way you think about both the Book of Mormon, and the Lord of whom it testifies.

Well the New Year is a great time to start new things, to find new motivation and set the mark higher. As we make resolutions and set new goals keep missionary work in mind. Think of whom you can share the joys of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and make efforts to help them to recieve the blessings that we enjoy. You'll see miracles as you do.

So I completely forgot that Christmas was this week too. Haha, who forgets Christmas? We had a great lunch at the McGills (they're secretaries in the mission office.) It was a really good time. Other than lunch we just worked like regular on Christmas Day, but what better thing could we do than teach about Jesus Christ on the day we remember His birth? I absolutely loved it.

There are a few things here though that I guess I'm not quite as keen on...maybe just not used to yet. Like water turning off randomly. The other day we woke up with no cold water. We had tons of hot water...but no cold. That might seem odd to you, but its perfectly normal here I guess. Another day we came home and had no hot water, but it came on sometime the next morning, just before the electricity turned back on. Hot water is pretty important since its how we heat our apartment. The hot water pipes are the only heater that we have, so it was way cold the morning after the hot water turned off, and the electricity being out didn't help much either. I thought it was exciting. Come what may and love it right?

Really I'm just happy to be here. That's what I say when I don't understand or know how to respond to anyone around me at least. Haha, but its true. I am so happy to be here and to be serving the Lord. I have seen so many blessings already and am thrilled to have the opportunity to witness so many more.

Much love,
Elder Fife

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Some Pictures!!

Oh and that picture just kind of sums up my MTC experience...I took it about 2 hours before I left...

the other one was my Thanksgiving Dinner. Haha. Classic.

And a really blurry Christmas Card picture from my district at the MTC.

Merry Christmas from Russia

Well here I am in Russia. Sorry that I didn't get to write yesterday. Things have been CRAZY since I got in. I met my mission president and his wife in the Korea. That was a surprise. They had been renewing their visas and were on the same flight into Vlad with us.

I love Russia. It is so great here. It really is a different place. The first thing that the office couple gave me when I checked in was my fake passport. It has stamps and stuff on it so that it looks official and I am supposed to show it to any policeman or anyone who asks to see my identification. Its a little different, but I think its pretty cool. Also I feel like I'm way awesome for having a fake ID...issued to me by the Church.

People are so classy here, always dressed up to be outside. The traffic is nuts, especially in Vlad. There is one road into the city, and one road out; 2 lanes each way. What I love the most about the traffic though is how stearing wheels can be on either side of the car. They drive on the same side of the road as we do in America, but because Japan is so close those cars are a lot cheaper, and they only make them the other way. So its like half of the people on the roads are mailmen...that was always weird when I was little how they had their wheel on the wrong side.

My companion is Elder Busico. I really don't know how to spell his name in english so I am just guessing that's how it goes. He's from downtown Salt Lake. We are serving in the Vladivostok 1st Branch, and in the "1st River" district of the city.

Today was our multi-zone conference. It was really good to get to know the missionaries who are serving in Vlad, Nakhodka, and Ussirisk who were all here today. In about an hour we are going to go teach a lesson and then go to "english club." (We can't call it english lessons because its against the law to teach...)

One thing that Elder Busico was saying the other day that's been on my mind was from what he'd been reading in the Liahona magazine I think. We talked about how Elder Holland taught just to hold on a little bit longer, and if we kept doing that we would end up enduring to the end. It reminded me of a song that I really loved to listen to before my mission, written by one of my favorite people ever. "Hold on just a little while longer. Hold on to that love that makes you stronger...Know that it will just be a little while longer..." I know that we can endure to the end when we have an attitude like that. It's like the prophesy Isaiah made and Nephi quoted where he said that the Lord will forsake us for just a small moment. I know things seem difficult sometimes, and I really feel lost here in Russia, but it is just for a small moment; and the Lord will always bless me.

Last night we went Christmas carrolling out on the streets, next to a big bus stop and a really cool square down on the bay. There are ice sculptures there and stuff. It was such a cool experience. We found a new investigator from it and are going to meet with them sometime tonight or tomorrow. How neat is that? I think it's way cool.

I'm sorry this is all so random, so many things have happened in the last few days and I am really scatter-brained about all of it. It has just been one amazing experience after another. I am actually understanding a fair amount of what the people around me say, and have had some pretty cool conversations with strangers in Russian since I've been here.

Sunday I was asked to bear my testimony and speak for a little bit in Sacrament meeting. It was a really neat experience and the Spirit was definitely there. I felt like the lowest person because of my inability to speak. The scripture that has been on my mind a lot lately is from the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. When the Lord called Enoch as a prophet and gave him his assignment he said something like this: "Why have you chosen me? I'm slow of speech and all the Russians are going to hate me. I can't even speak the language, how am I supposed to speak your words in it, and invite the spirit into the lives of others?" But the Lord, in the most loving of ways taught Enoch a great thing and said these words: "Walk with me." If I will but walk with the Lord, do things His way, be obedient to Him, and trust in His strength, He will always bless me.

I wish you all the merriest of Christmases this year! For Russians Christmas isn't until the 7th of January, so I'll celebrate twice this year, but remember the Lord. Think of the humble circumstances under which He was born and the great glory which now encircles His being. I am always taken aback by the tender scene of the Nativity. I wish you all the very best.

С Рождеством,
Старейшина Файф

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Peace out America!!!

So 3 days from now I'll be in Korea or something cool like that. Pretty sweet huh? I really don't know what to write about this week, I know a little more Russian than I did last week...I've read some more scriptures. It is really weird that I'm actually not going to be in the MTC anymore after Thursday. I think it's time for that though. I've made so many great friends here and learned so much about the doctrine of Christ and the ways that I should teach it.

This week while I was working on the chat I was SO upset. The missionaries who I've been serving with had never seen me angry before, so this was a fun new experience for them. I guess it wasn't
really anger....but I wasn't too thrilled I guess. After talking to this man on chat for like an hour he informed me that I needed to be reached, like he had after 40 years of membership in the Church, so that I could learn what is really true. I really didn't take well to the way that he had pretended to be "interested in learning more about the Church and what we believe" or the baited questions with the Bible-bashing scriptures trying to get me to see things his way. It really was a frustrating situation and I kind of let him have a loving way, if that was possible. Afterwords though I really got to thinking about him, and I really wish there were some way I could have helped him to renew his sensitivity to the Spirit so that he could learn, the way that I have learned, that this really is the true Church of Jesus Christ on the earth today. Maybe someday.

So after I typed that experience all out I remembered that it wasn't this week...but a week and a half ago...oh well, I don't have time to type anything else; which is unfortunate because I had kind of a cool turn-around experience this week. Oh well.

So I may have had a sort of...sports injury this week...but I'm not going to talk to the doctors here about it because I really want to be in Russia in a couple days. I'm not really going to go into details, but suffice it to say that we were playing volleyball...I got the point...and I finished the game. Good times. I'll tell you more
about it on the phone in a couple of days, Mom. It's way cool. :D

Well for all of those who want to write me, or expect to hear from me personally...good luck. After this week I really don't know how well I'll be able to write anyone. I'll find out what my emailing rules are when I get to Vladivostok.

So I hope that everyone is having a great Christmas season. This is such a great time to think about the Savior and remember the miracle of His birth. In Russian we sing the hymn a lot "What Child is This?" It is cool in English...but in Russian, so great! It isn't even in the hymnbook in English, or Ukrainian, but we love it in Russia.

I love you all, wish me luck on my flight.

Elder Fife

Here is how to write Samuel now:
Pouch mail

Elder Samuel Fife
Russia Vladivostok Mission
POB 30150
Salt Lake City UT

only postcards and letters that are on a single sheet, folded into three-panels, and taped at the top only (no envelopes) If this is abused it could be discontinued.

Mission home address - for packages and mail in envelopes
Elder Samuel Fife
Russia Vladivostok Mission
U1. Mordovtseva 3, 4th Floor
Primorskiy kray 690000

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I'm Russian :)

There is a light....

So Friday night I saw a little bit of a light at the end of my MTC tunnel. We got our travel itinerary and it is pretty exciting. I'll be leaving Salt Lake City at about 9:30 on the night of Thursday the 17th, and landing in Vladivostok, Russia at about 1:30 in the afternoon on Saturday the 19th (local time) after a little bit of a layover in Seoul, Korea. I'm way excited. We'll be the first group of our generation of Russian to leave the MTC and get to work. I'm stoked.

I really don't have a lot to write about this week. It's just turning into wrap-up time for me here in Provo. We are speaking Russian each and every day, and working to learn and be able to communicate better everyday. There's now only 2 or 3 major grammar principles in the entire Russian language that we haven't been over now, that's weird to think of. Remember all those years of english classes? Yeah...I packed those into 9 weeks...only Russian is a lot more complicated than English is. There's about 23 different ways to say any given word, depending on how you're trying to use it...its way exciting.

This week everyone got all kinds of cool sick. Our teacher might have mono (his girlfriend doesn't though...we're not sure what to think)...and swine flu broke into a fun epidemic here again about a week ago. We have had about 3 of our Branch in and out of quarentine again... They gave me a vaccine though, so no worries.

Really I can't think of much to say this week. I feel bad about that. If you want to though...this might be a good time to shoot me a little note on dearelder or something, since I'll be in Russia for the next 22 months and will be a little bit harder to get a hold of....Just a thought.

This week's quiz!

What do the numbers 1185, 7860, and 981 have in common. Its a tricky one...good luck.

I hope everything is going well in the outside world...I really don't know what's been going on...but I hope its good.
Love you all,

Elder Fife

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy Holidays

The winner of my quiz was Sister Kildew (who didn't want me to know that she had guessed) and Abby was a close second...but it was her second guess.

The correct answer was C. Say "Be healthy as a greeting"

Dear world,

Last week's devotional was incredible. Elder Oaks from the Quorum of the 12 Apostles and his wife came to speak to us. It was so great to sit again at the feet of an Apostle of the Lord and learn the things that the Lord would have us know at this time, in the calling which we've been issued. They taught that it is important for us always to remember that we are children of a King, the Heavenly King. Elder Oaks taught a lot of other things, but I really don't have time to share them now.

What a cool time. Thanksgiving was...nifty. Yep, nifty. I got up and spent 2 hours in line for the devotional that Elder and Sister Holland spoke at and then had my "thanksgiving feast." It was a little rushed...but that was the best 15 minute feast I think I've ever been a part of. Dinner that night consisted of a sandwhich...a little bag of chips...and a hostess apple pie. (Gotta have my pie)

From Elder Holland's talk I'll share one quote which has really been on my mind the entire time since. He made this powerful statement:

"I am not devoting my life to a fairytale!"

Think of that. This man, and many others, have given everything. Every day, from sun-up to sun-down, to a something that some would think to call a fairytale. Do we really believe that Joseph Smith talked with God the Father and Jesus Christ? YES! Do I really, honestly believe that I am going to make the lives of those who listen to my message in Russia better? That because of my work some few of God's children will be able to live with him again, when otherwise they might be lost? Absolutely! I am NOT dedicating my life to a fairytale! The restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is more true than anything you will ever read in any other book. It is more real than anything you've ever done, more important than anything you could ever need, and God's love is more powerful than the love of anyone else on this Earth for anyone else on this Earth. There is absolutely no way that I am giving my life, not just these two years in Russia, but my life, to a fairytale!

This week while working on the chats I met a woman named Crystal from Oregon. She has had such a difficult life and really just needed someone to care about her. Both her brother and her sister have passed away this year. She is african-american and has faced discrimination and racism her whole life. She trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ, but doesn't feel like much of anyone on this earth cares about her. ...Now she has me. I love being able to show my love, and the love of Christ to those in need. Crystal occupies my thoughts more than most anyone else now. Please pray for her, that she might realize the blessings available to her through the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and that I might be able to show her my love for her and help to comfort her troubled heart.

Well I should get my flight plans sometime this week, telling me when exactly I'll be leaving the United States and moving to Russia. That will be exciting. Yesterday we got our nametags that are fully in Russian. It is making me all too excited to leave the MTC and go to Russia to begin teaching...and trying to actually speak and understand Russian. What an exciting time.

I hope that all the Lord's choicest blessings are upon each of you during this Holiday season. My prayers are with you, and I hope that you are each able to feel the love of God and remember our Savior this Christmas time. Best wishes and my love to you all,

-Elder Fife