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 airport...in 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.