Life is great here in Cooking School. Someone once referred to his mission like that and I always thought it was good stuff, now I know what he means. It's just a shame that you all have to wait 2 more years before you can try my borsch! Or my Yablika Pirog (Apple pie). We made it for the bi-branch Missionary Night activity and it was a huge hit. It went so fast that I didn't even get to try it...I hear that's a good sign. A lady named Elaina taught us how to make them and it was a way good time, super tasty. So yep, cooking school is great here in the Far East. I also got to through a piece of cake in my companion's face during Missionary night...if I had any conflicts with him...they're resolved now. It was an "object lesson." Good times for sure!
There are some fun things with the Russian language I wanted to write a little bit about this week. First is one of my new favorite words: "Сам." Its said like "Sam" Which is my name. That is why I love it. I don't tell people my first name while I'm here in Russia...at least they don't think I do. But really I talk like Nephi a lot "I, Sam..." The reason nobody has caught me yet is that сам means "myself" (or himself) and it doesn't change the meaning of what I say at all when I use it that way. So all the time on the bus I tell people that "I, Sam, am an American" But they just hear "I'm an American." Fun trick huh? I'm a big fan of it. There are lots of really fun things with the Russian language, but that one makes me feel cool or unique at least, so I use it a lot. Haha. Yep, I'm still a nerd.
So people love to give compliments. Yesterday in Sunday School this older sister was talking and she started talking about missionaries, she was just praising us for like 5 minutes. The investigator I was sitting by even shook my hand in the middle of it. I was pretty embarrassed, it was just uncomfortable I guess. I really don't like being complimented very much. I think the main reason for that is that I know that its not me who deserves any praise at all; it's the Lord. But there were a few times this week when I received a compliment that really touched me, because they were очень (really/very) heartfelt. A member who has helped us on many lessons told me about how when new missionaries talk a lot of the time natives are forced to think about how they're saying things. They focus on the words and the grammar. But when I was teaching something that I really felt prompted to teach in a lesson the day before he said that he completely just focused on the message. That's what I want! Nothing that comes out of my mouth is really very important, its the Spirit and the message that matter. I am really glad that people are able to hear my message, and not just my words. Definitely work to be done, but that was really great to hear from him. I guess I can receive a compliment every now and again.
There's another thing that I am becoming increasingly thankful for, its been on my mind all week. The words to a song written by one of my dearest friends and personal heroes (a living legend I'd say he's a living legend) keep coming to mind. "It's a Scout's duty to be trustworthy, Run the 12 boys, run the 12..." When so many people are looking for principles to live by, and aren't sure where to turn, I am really blessed to know that I can make most any decision by simply considering the points of the Scout Law that I've recited countless times over the last decade. Of course I've translated it into Russian and am memorizing it. I'm excited for the day when I can say "Here are 12 great things that I came up with to help guide our lives..." "You like the I came up with" part? Me too. Another thanks to scouting's impact on my life. I think I should write a book about it someday.
You know those stories missionaries tell about the Spirit just leading them to people who they were undoubtedly supposed to meet with that day? Here's a new one. My first tracting experience.
Last night all of our appointments fell through. After church we went home and had some dinner but really weren't sure where to contact. It was dark and cold so the streets didn't sound too appealing, so we decided to go tract a dome or two where a man we met a few weeks ago said he lived. Probably no more than 150 steps from my front door we went the wrong way and weren't sure exactly how to get to the place we had planned to go, but we found a dome and decided to try it. Now apartment buildings in Russia are set up differently than in the United States. Each staircase has its own door with an electronic lock (someone has to let you into the building to get in without a key) and on each landing there is 3 or 4 doors to apartments. It's really pretty cool how its set up.
So we walked past the first staircase door that was open because there were a few ladies smoking in the entry way and there was someone at the next door anyway, so it was opened, but then all three of us (our zone leader was on an exchange with us) turned and felt like we were supposed to go to the first staircase instead. We went to the top floor (always start at the top so that when someone is rude you don't have to walk past their apartment and risk seeing them again on the way back down...that's just how we do it I guess). On the top floor we had no success, nobody would even answer the door, and when they heard who we were they would usually close their second heavy metal door too to make sure they couldn't hear us anymore. (All apartment doors in Russia are made of steel...and there's always 2...just in case.) On the next level we were having similar luck, but then we knocked on a door with a bunch of music coming from the apartment. At first the man inside didn't hear us, but he turned off his music and let us in!
When he opened the door there was a 55 year old man who looked a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger (still in great shape) and wearing a Park City Utah shirt. Park City?! Go figure! As he saw us he said "ohh Mormons, come in." That wasn't the "Mormons? Get out!" that I'm used to, so I was very confused. As we go into his sitting room he pulls out a his Bible...his Book of Mormon...and Doctrine and Covenants! Then he showed us his baptismal certificate! Turns out he came in contact with the Church in the US in 93 and joined in 2002. He hasn't been to church since 2003 but told us that he was reading in the Book of Mormon just Friday night. He gave us his number and says we can meet sometime this week. I was in utter shock the entire time.
Now his story is far from over, but I know, without a doubt in my mind, that the Lord lead us to one of His lost sheep last night. Miracles happen, of that I can testify.
Well I hope that everything is well at home. I'm excited to hear whether the groundhog sees his shadow this year to find out whether or not we get more Winter. I'm not really sure how the Groundhog's Day rules apply when you're on the other side of the globe...but I'm going to just assume that it's binding on the weather here too. Thanks for the love and for the support. I'm so blessed to have the family and dear friends that I do.