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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Go Forth with Faith

So many great things happened in Vladivostok this week! First, one of my good friends here, a boy deemed an "eternal investigator" from my first area, turned into a "Brigham Young investigator", and was baptized and confirmed this week after a year and a half of investigating the Church. He is 18 and will be such a great member of the Church. Elder Magill did the baptism and it was just great. I'm really excited to see the success of people who I have had the opportunity to work with a little bit even in the short time that I've been here in Russia.

Our investigator who is paralyzed has so much faith! He asked us to baptize him, and when we told him that he needed to attend church before we could get permission to do that he had us get out his white shirt, nice shoes, and take him to Church. Getting him to the Church was one of the hardest things ever. We went to his apartment two hours before church started to dress him and get him ready to go, depends and all. Then we carried him up the stairs from his apartment to the street to get in the taxi. When we finally got to the church the woman who is supposed to run the elevator wasn't there...she just didn't show up to work, and when the elevator operator isn't there there is nothing they can to do run the elevator. (I'm not really sure how that works, it actually confuses me a lot.) So we, with the help of a few other missionaries, carried him, in his wheelchair, up three flights of stairs to attend Sacrament Meeting, and then back down, into the taxi (where he sat in the back where the cargo goes) and back into his apartment. After undressing him and laying him back in his bed we made it back to the church twenty minutes after Priesthood Meeting ended so that we could go to our missionary coordination meeting with the branch mission leader. Just finding the taxi was a nightmare, and took all Saturday night to find one that would cost us less than $50 for the trip. It was a lot of work, but so worth it to bring a faithful man with desires to worship God to church to partake of the sacrament. The sacrament was worth all that to him, I think I've taken that ordinance for granted up until now. All we need to do is drive to the church and take some bread and water. He couldn't even take the bread or water himself, but was fed by a worthy priesthood holder. What a great example!

I learned another neat lesson about faith this week. On Saturday we had an appointment set up with a woman I met on a bus about a month ago. We were afraid she might not come, especially when she didn't answer our phone calls that morning, but in faith we went to the square in Center where we had arranged to meet her. After waiting just about long enough for my companion to say "I told you she wasn't coming" an old woman came up to me. After I introduced myself she asked "What did you want?" I had thought that she came to me in the first place, and was a little confused, but just began to share a small message with her. After a few minutes of conversation she told us that she had some free time right then and walked with us to the church for a lesson. This was good because we had asked a member to help us on the lesson, and hadn't told her that our lesson didn't show up, so she was waiting at the church. The lesson went alright and the woman came on her own to church the next day. Sometimes our plans don't work out the way we plan them to, but the Lord blesses those who act in faith. I love the words that Brother Wilkey from our Branch Presidency in the MTC used to always say to us "Feed your faith and your fear will starve to death."

Go forward in faith this week and take notice of the blessings the Lord gives you, you'll find that they aren't few.
With love,
Elder Fife
One more story to share real quick with you...

There is a funny tradition here that I really don't understand at all. I'll take a good picture and send it to you sometime. Let me paint you a picture I saw this week. As I was riding a bus I saw an old woman in a bright orange vest, painting a big tree white. It wasn't even strange to anyone but me. I think it's primer that they put on the trees...whatever it is it's the same as what they use on their ceilings. All the trees are white up to about 5 feet off the ground. I'm not sure it's because of bugs or if it makes the tree "more fruitful," I've heard both answers...I guess it's just a little weird to me. It reminds me where I am. Good times.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


We finally watched General Conference this weekend, and it seemed to me to be one of the greatest Conferences we ever could have had. Maybe that is because I paid more close attention than ever before, but it still seemed to me to be a special one. I love how the theme of parenting and strengthening families was knitted throughout the Conference. Homes really should be a great center of strength as we face the difficult times of today's world. There is more important work to be done than that done in the home, that is more true today than ever before.

I've had a few good opportunities to be a translator in the last few weeks. It's kind of strange to think that six months to the day after you start learning a new language, especially one as unrelated to English as Russian is, that you'd be translating hour long conversations with your Mission President and his wife, and an inactive member of the Church. I had this opportunity a couple times in the last few weeks. Of course I did more of explaining the thought behind the comments back and forth, but there was understanding, and one of the members we visited came to two sessions of General Conference with her daughter.
It was the first time in several years that she had been in the Church. Such a great thing to be able to witness. It's so important that we always keep taking steps in the right direction, because even standing still doesn't bring us any closer to our goals. As these members, and those who are interested in the message of the Restoration begin to step into faith they see so many blessngs come into their lives. I espcially love the words in John 3 which say that "he that doeth truth cometh io the light..." There is much more to this verse, but I'll let you look at it yourself. As we begin to do that which we know to be right, and to keep the commandments of the Lord we walk into the light and no longer even feel the desire to abide in darkness. It's no wonder then, that the words of the Primary hymn read "teach me to walk in the light." When you walk in the light there is no reason to be afraid.
Last Friday Elder Papok and I went on splits with the Assistants to the President in our Mission, so that we could teach more people in our area in a single day. Elder Klementson and I went to an area named "quiet" and taught a few lessons to investigators of the Church and then went into Center to meet with a member. It was great to get a lot done in a single day. I've come to realize what it means that "the harvest is great and the laborers are few" and I hope and pray that the Lord will send more laborers to Russia's far east in order to save the souls of those who live here. Those who understand truth will accept and change their lives according to the message which I bear, because my message is true. Joseph Smith really was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ in a grove of trees in New York 190 years ago. He really was given authority from God to reorganize and lead God's Church on the earth, and authorized to perform the ordinances necessary for our salvation. I am so glad that I have been given an opportunity to share truth with those around me, especially with a nation who is in such need of truth and light. I don't really know why I shared those thoughts, but I hope that they'll be of value to someone who reads them.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ really is pretty simple. You obey a natural, devine law; you get a blessing from the Lord. When you transgress against truth you will eventually pay the consequences for that transgression. I am often asked questions that people deem as incredibly difficult doctrinal questions, or questions of the soul. One that comes up probably the most often is this "why do bad things happen to good people, and why do evil men prosper?" I think we all wonder about this doctrine from time to time. Even the Psalms of David pose this question. (I think both the 37th and 73rd Psalms are on this topic.) The answer is really very simple, but only understandable with a higher paradigm of life, and an understanding of the Plan which our Father has laid out. In short the answer is this: God wants to make you into something more than what you are, He wants you to reach your full potential. We cannot learn as much when times are easy as we do when we are pushed to the limits of our capacity. For this reason the Lord blesses us with hardships, in order to make us grow. This is the purpose of the Plan of Salvation. This is why Christ died for us on the cross and why He lived the life He did, to give you the opportunity to grow into something more in the end. Think about it, ponder it, take a look at the scriptures, you'll find much deeper knowledge than I've shared here.
I feel like I haven't really shared much about what has been keeping me busy this week in Vladivostok, but at the same time, my calling is to share the doctrines of truth and to help others become more. I hope that you'll understand and forgive me for not sharing many great stories this week.
I pray for the Lord's blessings to be upon all those who read the things that I write, and I hope that you can feel the sincerity of my love with which I write to you. Have a great week.
Elder Fife

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

on the way

April 11, 2010

This week there were some really neat people that I met "on the way." Cool stories. The first was a man named Valleri. He is from Partizanskii and was in Vlad for only a few days. We got stuck together on a bus for in traffic for about two hours as we drove all the way around the bay to center. After I shared with him the message of the Restoration and gave him a Book of Mormon he shared his poetry with me. He's 62 and to keep himself from getting bored in retired life he writes poetry, some of it has even been published. He gave me a few handwritten poems that he had on him and they are actually pretty good. The first one was about how the Lord blesses us with the things we need, even if it isn't very much, and we should be thankful for what we do have and just keep working with the opportunities that we are blessed with. The second he wrote for Woman's Day which is the 8th of March. It was about how we can say all the nice things in the world about the women in our lives, but it means a lot more if we actually show it. Pretty wise huh? The city that Vallerii is from is a few hours from Vlad by train, so I probably won't ever get to see my new friend again, but I know the Book of Mormon will touch his life as it's touched mine. He said he was going to start reading on the train that very night.

The next "on the way" experience started out with unpleasant situations too, just a different kind than a city-wide traffic jam. I don't need to go into details but we almost got ran out of one building, and almost beat up in another. (He was a very big man too...and seemed to me to be clinically insane and probably a little happens). I was on an exchange with Elder Cranney, our zone leader now in Vladivostok. He finishes his mission in just a transfer and a half and is a great missionary. His dad is Mission President in Moscow. We were on our way to the tramvaii to end our exchange and we started talking to a girl as we walked down a hill to get on the tram. She was interested in english, but only kind of, because she says she really doesn't know any english. She got a phone call just after we gave her the little invitation, so we kept walking. As we walked away I got the distinct feeling that "our message is more important for her than that phone call" so I walked a little slower, but I didn't turn around or try to keep talking to her because she was already on the phone with someone else.

About a minute later she came running to catch up to us to keep talking. It wasn't that she had any questions about english club or anything, it seemed to me like she didn't even know why she was still talking to us or why she chased us, but that she felt like she needed to. We explained to her that we're here as missionaries and that we have a message to the world about the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that she can come to understand that message by reading the Book of Mormon and letting us explain to her the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Before we left she asked for a Book of Mormon, which we gave her, and then she showed us where she lives, gave us her phone number, and made us promise to call her to set up a time to explain more. Good things happen on the way.

Not more than two minutes after meeting Yulia, we were waiting for the tram to get there so we could go a few stops to meet with our companions. I asked the woman next to me if where we were standing was where the tram stopped, because I wasn't totally sure. She told me it was, but there was something in the way she smiled when she first noticed me that told me that I had to talk to her and invite her to meet with us. Vera is a babushka from Artyom, the city outside of Vlad where the airport is. She met with missionaries about four years ago, but lost contact soon after they started meeting. Her sister is a Jehovah's Witness (there are a lot of them here) and they talked a lot about that religion, but Vera told me that she doesn't know what it is but that there is something that didn't feel or seem right to her there. She is really interested in meeting with us and told me that she thought it was a miracle, or a sign from God that we happened to meet waiting for the tram. Sometimes you really don't need to go out of your way for miracles to happen, they're just "on the way."

I know that the Lord blesses us as we are ready to receive the blessings He gives. You never know when He is going to reach out to you, so you should always be ready to hear His voice and follow the things the Spirit whispers to you.

On a lesson with an inactive member of the Church last night I felt a strong prompting to ask her a series of questions until I found out what was stopping her faith from growing, or to help her exercise her faith by keeping small, simple commandments. I had a few questions in mind but when I opened my mouth words that I hadn't planned came out. I said "First question: Do you believe that God loves you?" She fell silent and thought for some time before she started to ask about the different things that confuse her, like the evil that is in the world and how bad things happen to such good people. I had no idea that that was the question that she needed to find the answer to, but as we continued I promised her that she will come to know that God, our Heavenly Father loves her, if she will ask Him in prayer, night and morning, and study the scriptures each day.

You each can find that answer too. If you have any doubt in your mind that God loves you, search in the scriptures, pray to Him, and He over time, you will develop the ability to see His hands in your life as he blesses you from day to day. It probably won't be a vision or a voice telling you that He's there, we aren't all that lucky. More than likely it will happen "on the way" as you go about the regular things that you do each day. God loves you. The Book of Mormon is a record of God's love to one of the nations which has lived on this earth, through it you too can find that He is merciful to His children and blesses them. Read Moroni chapter 10 and pay especial attention to verses 3-5. Let me know how it goes for you.

Have a great week!
With love,
Elder Fife

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

Well, yesterday was Easter. They have a cool tradition on Easter in Russia where everyone who you talk to you can either say happy Easter (actually translates directly as "with a festival, you!" but that makes no Happy Easter is close enough), but more common and special to Easter is "Christ resurrected!" which you then answer with "In truth He resurrected." Kind of cool huh? I really liked that. Also Elder Papok and I boiled eggs last night (yes, they decorate them here too) so that it would feel a little more like Easter. It was also Fast and Testimony Meeting for Sacrament Meeting yesterday, it was a really neat meeting.

I learned this week just how proud I am to be an American. I know that sounds a little odd, but it took a ridiculous experience to teach me just how much I love my country...We were tracting the other day and I started explaining who we were and talking to a woman at her door but I didn't get very far before she cut me off and said "Stop speaking with that fake accent!" I tried to explain to her that I am American and still haven't been studying Russian very long, but she wouldn't believe me! She said that I would make a horrible American because I look Russian and my accent is just nonsense, not American at all. She said I was a liar and she couldn't believe anything I said unless I stopped talking so crazy. My companion took over (as soon as he could stop laughing) and she was interested to talk to him and said that she believed the things he was saying. At the end of talking with him (for probably 10 minutes) she was saying goodbye or something and threw in "and your friend who came here from America...on a green bicycle" (it rhymes in Russian so it makes a little more sense...I guess).

People say a lot of silly things to me, but for some reason that one actually got to me. I think it's because there was absolutely nothing I could do. I had to stand there and just be baffled. It was a really funny experience though, we will still be laughing about that for a long time. But it actually hurt a little for someone to not think that I am American. I'm very proud of my nationality, even more now that I'm living in another part of the world.

So I think I am feeling worse about my ability to speak Russian lately. I think it's because now that I speak Russian all of the time (except for English Club and with other American Missionaries) that I am realizing that there are a lot of things I'd like to talk about...that I simply don't know the words for. Explaining simple teachings of the Gospel is one thing, but trying to explain a crazy dream that you'd had the night before is really pretty different. Of course it's still improving and I can understand a little bit more each day, but it's tough spending every moment with someone who you can only communicate with a little bit. It's a good humbling experience though. Challenges are fun right?

Well I heard that there's snow at home again. Four inches in Rexburg this weekend huh? Good thing I came to Russia to get warm! Today I didn't even bring my jacket and it is still little warm in my suit. Ironic huh? Warmer in Russia...who'd o' thunk?

Have a great week!

Elder Fife

Here is an answer about foods he eats…………

The foods we eat are usually normal things that we would eat anywhere else. We make noodles with chicken and things like that. I eat oatmeal for breakfast most mornings and I eat a lot of bread. Not a ton of super exciting foods that I've been around. Borshch is really good, I think I'll have some for lunch today at a cafe that a member in our area works at near our apartment. Maybe I'll also have a shishkabob...they have a lot of those here. There really is a lot of influence from the middle east here in Vladivostok. Lots of people immigrate here from Usbekistan and Armenia and places like that. They are the nicest people, but they seem to get stuck doing all of the jobs that no else wants to do, like cleaning streets and working in the market and things like that, but they are still the most kind people here at all, never rude at all.

Oh! So I forgot to write about how I April Fooled my English Club group this week. I told them that our leaders had done a lot of thinking and decided that we weren't going to be able to do english club ever again in Vladivostok. It just isn't a good enough use of our time, and this was going to be the very last one. The looks on all their faces were absolutely priceless! I thought some of them were going to cry. Then a boy in the back of the room caught on and said "it's the 1st of April!" And I busted out an April Fools and was very happy. Good times!