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 drunk...it 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!