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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Trust in the Lord

This week has been absolutely incredible.  I feel like in the last week I have finally become a missionary.  I am not really sure what it is, but something clicked this week and my missionary service is completely different.  I feel like I'm finally myself again.  I guess that for such a long time I've been waiting and watching, trying to understand the way things should be done in the Mission Field, and kind of holding back.  The thing I wish I would have just accepted and ran with 6 months ago is that I already learned 80% of what I need to know at Cedar Badge, and in SSE.  The Lord has been preparing me to be here for a very long time.  For the last several weeks, few transfers even, I've felt unsettled about several different things, I started making a list of the things that we do that I didn't see as in accordance with Preach My Gospel, the handbook for Missionaries.  I'd talked to a few other missionaries about some of the things that had been on my mind, but mostly they shushed me and told me to follow suit.  Two weeks ago I wrote my Mission President and told him a few of the things I'd been feeling and the changes I'd made in my own companionship to use the resources given to us better, and to more perfectly follow the counsel given in PMG.  When he wrote me back he said something that really touched me.  He said this: "You are right on target with some of the plans we have for zone conference.  When the Lord sends the same message to several people it is simply an added testimony that this is His work and he is leading it.  We need to become a PMG mission."  When we got to zone conference, basically each thing on my list of uneasiness was addressed and resolved.  The Lord really does send the same message to different people in order to confirm that this is His work, and that He is the one leading it.  Yet another part of my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and of the work in which I am engaged. 

As we've started to reevaluate the methods we're using and the way that we work under the guidance of the Holy Ghost we have started to see miracle after miracle in this area.  A member who hasn't been to church consistently in years, and at all in at least several months, has decided to come back and to obtain a temple recommend.  He came to Church this week wearing a suit and tie, and stayed for all three hours of meetings.  I've been trying to get him to come to Church for the last 3 months, but it isn't until we really start teaching with the Spirit and listening harder to what He says that we'll see success in the Lord's work.  When you have the Spirit with you, it will testify of who you are, and your divine calling from the Lord.  Lives will be touched and changed, and you will become a witness to the glory of God. 

We've had some incredible experiences this week with finding people to teach, but I (after having typed up one of the cooler ones) think that I am going to hold off sharing them until the story becomes more complete.  The lesson that I learned this week though, is this: when the Lord supports you in this work and His Spirit is about you, people will recognize you as His representative without you even having to say a word.  A few times this week men have stopped me as I walked and asked to be taught the Gospel.  Those who have served missions or are very familiar with this work know just how incredibly rare that is.  It happened a few times this week and each time the Spirit just reaffirmed to me the sacred calling which I have been given and the power of God which I hold.  Why did men find it impossible to disbelieve the words of Nephi? Because the Spirit affirmed in their hearts that his words were true.  It wasn't because he was a great speaker or a very convincing sophist, but because when the Holy Ghost testifies to your heart and to your soul the truth of the things you are hearing, there is no way you can deny it.  Do not deny the things of God. 

I absolutely know that this is God's work.  He has called me to serve in Vladivostok and has prepared me to meet and touch His children who are ready to accept the fullness of His gospel which has been restored to the Earth.  He is preparing the hearts of men to receive my words and to gain faith unto repentance in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Thomas S. Monson is a great man, and a prophet of the living God, but he does not lead this Church.  Jesus Christ is the head of His Church, and we are honored and privileged to bear His name and serve His children. 

Have a great 4th of July, and don't forget to appreciate the wonderful blessings that we have in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Those words mean a lot more to me now than they ever have before.  May God's choicest blessings be upon each of you,

Elder Fife

Sunday, June 20, 2010

From Elder Fife

I am back at the place where we used to write home, before we moved to our new apartment.  It is a lot cheaper here and the right bus happened to pull up as we were walking to the bus stop, I took that as a sign and here we are.  They just turned on some nice classical music, which is a big change from the 15 year old boys playing video games and yelling, like it usually is here.  Today is a good day. 
So, Korea.  We had such a good time.  I was kind of disappointed at first that we had a later flight going there, and an earlier flight back, so we had a little less time in Seoul, but it all worked out great.  Walking down the street after spending the morning in the Temple an American in a suit and tie came up to us and asked if we were coming from the Temple, and just started talking to us.  He said he was listening to Elder Oaks as he walked...that just made me really happy.  Well Scott turned out to be the greatest secret in Seoul.  He is studying law for a semester between his graduate program at the U, and it just happened that he served his mission and was district leader in the area we were in, so not only did he speak the language, he knew where absolutely everything was.  He said he had nothing to do because he started class the next day, and then spent about 7 hours hanging out with us and helping us find everything that we wanted to in the city.  Cold Stone....yeah we don't have that in Vladivostok.  At the end he took us to a Korean Barbecue so that we could roast meat on the table in between us, and try all the famous Korean foods.  Kim chi is actually pretty good.  Well it was a good little vacation, but now it's back to work on Churkin.
A little girl named Anna was baptized on Saturday.  She comes to church with her grandma who is a great member and one of the sweetest and most sincere ladies I've ever known.  Anna and her babushka are the only members in her family now, but she has such a great testimony and light about her, definitely a remarkable 8 year old.  The Spirit was so strong at her baptism, and it was great to see children coming to gain a testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ through their loving family.  Kids are the best, we don't have enough of those. 
Last night I was on a bus (it seems like most of my stories start that ay nowadays.  It used to be "so there I was"...)
So there I was, on a bus last was crowded so I picked a place to stand and just stood there until we got to my stop.  I was standing next to the cutest family I've seen in a long time.  They were a nice middle-eastern family, probably from Uzbekistan.  The dad was just playing with their 1-year-old son the entire time and I got to make some faces at him too.  It's definitely unfortunate that we, as missionaries, can't hold or really play with children.  In a year and a half my nieces and nephew had better watch out, because I will be WAY ready to play the uncle game again and start spoiling kids. 
So I got a little gutsy at English Club this week.  I decided to teach them about modesty.  I think it's kind of a foreign word to most people now, and the chances of it turning into a really awkward or unsuccessful conversation were about 10 to 1...but odds have never stopped me yet.  I explained to them that to check their modesty they should play the "head, shoulders, knees, and toes" game.  That means that you put your hands on top of your head...make sure there's no tummy showing, next shoulders to check and see that they're covered, skirts and shorts to the knees, and you should even be all covered when you touch your toes.  I set out some "For the Strength of Youth" booklets out and told them that there was more good stuff in there.  To my surprise about 5 people came up and took the booklets.  Some in English and some in Russian.  It was really neat.  It pays off to be gutsy.  We'll just see how people come dressed next time.
Well this week was really filled up with kind of irregular things, but they aren't really worth writing home about.  I'm just glad that we're all home from Korea and can seriously get back to work in Vlad.  Have a great week, and a happy Father's Day!
Elder Fife

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

WORD from the East...the far far east

Well I decided to make some time to write this week.  We're on our way to the airport now to fly to Seoul, and we're very excited to spend some time at the Temple and see some of the other missionaries who we haven't been close to for a while. 
Well our old lady friends have come to the rescue, that was a friendship worth starting.  Last week we got the memo that all the water in the city was going to be shut of for 3 days.  That might sound a little ridiculous...shutting off all water in a city of 800,000 people...but I guess it isn't that uncommon here.  Well our water storage stayed at our old apartment when we moved out...we were a little lazy and didn't think it through all the way I guess.  It's a good thing we have great neighbors who love us!  One of our babushkii was warning us about the water issue, and when we mentioned that we don't have any storage she was appalled and showed up at our door no more than 10 minutes later with a bag of water bottles and pickle jars.  It was really cute that she was trying to take care of us like that.  The water never actually got turned off...which confused me again, but we are all set and ready to go for the next time that it does.  Thanks Babushka!
So my life was made a little bit crazier a few days ago.  President Pratt called to tell me about transfers last week and let me know that I was still going to be in the same area, but that I'd be getting a new companion; Elder Stuart, who has been in Russia for 2 transfers now and has just left his trainer.  Here I thought of myself as the new guy still, and now I'm a senior companion and have a really large portion of the responsibility for the work in one of the biggest areas of the Mission.  It's a fun new challenge and Elder Stuart and I are trying out a lot of the ideas that have been on my mind for the last few weeks in order to work more effectively and streamline the work that we do.  It will be a good experiment. 
The work is moving forward and we have some great investigators in our area right now.  One of them invited his wife to start meeting with us because he says he has a testimony that it's true.  He's read probably all of 1st Nephi now on top of the other chapters we recommend to him.  His wife seems to be just as great of an investigator as he is.  She wants them to come to church together, but he works on Sundays most of the time.  Also she is studying art and painting in a University right now and she said that we have very good paintings in our Church.  (Her husband said that she thinks the JW's have lame artwork.) 
Thanks for your prayers and your support.  I know that the Lord blesses me in increased abundance because of the prayers that are offered to Him in my behalf.  Thanks for the strength.  Well I'd better go so that I don't miss my bus to the airport (like I did last time...oops.)
Elder Fife


Folk Singers celebrating Children's Day at the store next to the Church last Tuesday. 

Did I already send "Heloy"?  I saw this written on a wall tracting one day and thought it was funny. 

Tossing and Turning

I am really having a hard time to think of something really inspiring or creative to write about this week.  The weather is great, the work is hard, I reached my goal of spending 5000 Rubles at my favorite Chinese place and now I get 500 Rubles free food next time I go.  It took a lot of work to blow that much money on really inexpensive chinese food...but over 6 weeks and a lot of working to get people to come eat with me...I met my goal, about half an hour ago.  It was very tasty.  The old ladies that live in our building are great.  One of them even gave me a poem last night as we were walking up the stairs to our apartment.  It is about how people are going to live on the Moon.  Russians on the right, Americans on the left, and everyone else is Chinese...something like that.  Russian poetry is always interesting.  It made me very happy.

Now I've always been a pretty healthy guy, I just have that pain in my back and neck that just won't seem to go away.  Well lately it has been feeling even a little bit worse than normal, so I decided that it's time to beat the shoulder pain...once and for all.  I counseled with Sister Pratt, my Mission President's wife and our medical specialist, and with Elder Magill, who just seems to know absolutely everything...and they hooked me up with pack, (is that what you'd call those?  You fill it with hot or cold water and it makes everything feel great), and Elder Magill told me that my problems are sticking around because of the way that I sleep.  (You are about to know more about Elder Fife than you ever thought you needed to...but it makes for a good story, so oh well.)  So I sleep on my side, sometimes even on my face...I guess that isn't good for you.  So I made a goal this week to learn to sleep on my back, it should help everything work out better.  While that might seem like a simple thing, I think it's one of the hardest things I've ever tried.  I haven't slept in the last three days because I've been trying to sleep on my back. 

The first night was...rough.  I woke up about 50 times, most of the times I'd be back on my time I even had a big pillow that had started out on the floor, and my watch, which had also been laying on the floor, was on my wrist.  I don't know what else happened...but basically it was a ridiculous night.  Night 2 I got an this is going to sound ridiculous to most of you, but just take a second and remember who it is that we're talking about.  I decided that the only thing I could really do to keep from rolling onto my side and doing crazy things in my sleep...was to tie myself to my bed.  Yep.  I used some fancy boyscout knots and secured myself to my bed.  Still not a very comfortable sleep, but you gotta do what you gotta do sometimes.  I'll show my back who's boss.

There's another cool cultural thing that I don't think I've mentioned before...maybe I have, but I think it's cool so I'll write a little bit about it again.  Well really it's something that I think we do everywhere...but here they mean it.  There's this phrase we have that goes "Tell him hi for me."  We all say it, but how often do we actually tell someone hi for someone else?  I try to, but sometimes it just doesn't work out. can't forget.  It is an unwritten law to actually say hi to those who you are told to say hi to for somebody else.  They'll even check up on it!  And when you tell someone "hi" for someone else they often will even ask "was that a general hi or a specific hi?"  meaning did the person tell you to say hi to "the Nakhodka Branch" or was it directly for Vladimir?  Personal hi's mean a lot more.  Maybe there's some deep meaning to that...I'll let you figure that out on your own though. 

So I don't think that there will be a letter from me next week.  Monday morning I have to leave early to catch a flight for Korea.  I'll be there until Wednesday afternoon sometime and then will come back, all refreshed, and get back to work.  I love Korea trips, and this time we'll have 2 new members in our travel group too.  Elder Williamson and Stuart will be coming with us.  I'm excited for another time to be at the Temple, be with some of the nicest people on the planet, and get cheap ice cream at McDonald's.  Hopefully I'll have some more fun times to tell about in the next few weeks. 

Oh, one more kind of funny story from this week that I just remembered.  Last night I was sitting on a bus, and this nice lady sat down and we began to talk.  She really was a nice lady, and I guess she thought I was a nice guy too...because she offered that I marry her daughter.  Haha.  She was even nice when I told her that that wasn't going to work out.  Haha.  I think missionaries probably get that a lot...I mean Ammon had to let Lamoni down softly too right? 

Have a great few weeks and I hope everyone is enjoying their summer, but not losing focus on the things that are most important.

With love,
Elder Fife