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Monday, July 26, 2010

Turn, Turn, Turn

Peter, Paul, and Mary did a pretty good job at quoting Ecclesiastes, and it explains what has happened a little bit to me in the last week.  Here's a few of my "turn" moments:
Well I think President Pratt beat me this week, and he got me sick too.  What kind of a Mission President is that?  When he called me and told me that I'd be training the new Elder this transfer I woke up the morning sick...and still haven't fully recovered.  I hate being sick.  I really felt so useless all last week, and went for a period of about two days where I didn't even leave the apartment.  It wasn't even my apartment...I was with my District Leader at his apartment, the place where I lived my first two transfers in the country actually.  Writing about it is actually making me feel a little more sick I'm done with that.  I got sick. I'm basically over it.  The end.  Also I brought my junior companion into it and he got sick too.  That President Pratt really needs to calm down or something. 
 I guess I'll tell a little bit about my new companion.  He's from Sweden, the 6th largest city...with a name I couldn't remember, pronounce, or spell if my life depended on it.  In the picture that we had of him, that he sent in to the First Presidency, he looked like he was about 12 years old.  It was really funny, but looks absolutely nothing like he does now.  He isn't scrawny and doesn't even have a baby-face.  Oh well.  I told him that that was what we were expecting when he got here and we had a good laugh over it.  Elder Conely really is great, I am so excited to be able to serve with him, and overwhelmed more than a little bit to be training him when I still feel so young on the mission myself.  My grandpa's family is from Sweden maybe Elder Conely and I will have to go on a family history hunt sometime to reunite after the mission.  That will be cool. 
I'm still serving in Vladivostok, still on Churkin actually.  There's only one other elder in the mission right now who has served 5 transfers in one area, and he goes home in 3 months, so I'm already tied in the length record.  Actually he might have been in Nakhodka for 6...I'm not sure anymore.  It's ok though because I really do love my area and there are a lot of things that I plan on doing with it that would without a doubt be lost between the cracks if someone other than me served here.  The Lord runs his work and He knows what He is doing. 
This week we said goodbye to the Magills and hello to the Bodells.  I love the Magills so much and let them know several times that I plan on showing up at their home in Draper, Utah when I come home and having Sister Magill expound doctrinal principles like I had her do for me when I would come in the office while they served here.  I'll also expect cookies.  We now have a deal.  She also needs to save me a First Edition of the book that she wrote, for me.  They didn't think I was serious....little did they know....well they'll see in a year and a half or something like that. 
But now we have the Bodells.  They are so great.  Elder and Sister Bodell are from Sandy, Utah and are great friends with President Rasband of the 70.  I might have already written about that actually, but it's cool.  He actually was his Home teacher for the last 12 years or something like that.  Elder Rasband told Elder Bodell that our Mission is one of about 20 Missions of the 340 in the Church that the Brethren refer to as "Green Beret" Missions.  I'll get prideful explaining what that I'll just leave it at that.  Thanks for the pat on the back Elder Rasband...through Elder Bodell.  Sister Bodell is great too.  Shre reminds me of my Mom in a lot of ways.  Especially like how when I leave the Mission Office she reminds me to "Remember who you are and what you represent..."  She said it EXACTLY how Mom used to.  Made me smile real bit.  Love ya Mom. 
Well those are a few of the tides that have turned in my life lately.  Also I bought a great's made of badger.  I tried to take a really awkward picture like would have ended up on Myspace like 5 years ago...I'll make sure to email it home. Ha ha.  Elder Bush got one that matches.  I think that means that we have to serve together in the Winter.  I'll tell President Pratt about that worries. 
Have a great week.  I send a special shout out to Family Camp and my BOYS FROM CEDAR BADGE!  I love those Red Berets.  Make sure someone sings the "Ballad" for me, and I expect a full report of how things go.  I'm praying for you.
Elder Sam Fife

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I have started cooking a TON!  I'm getting a little better at it...that's a breakfast deal I did a few weeks ago.
Almost trampled...
Fred was happy...I was not.  (Because the first 4 times we tried that picture it didn't work out! I knew if I did a not happy face it would...and that was the best of them all...funny how that works.)  That was a trackting experience.

"You don't have an area, you have a neighborhood."

That's what my District Leader told me while we were on an exchange in my area this week.  He was really blown away by just how well received we are in the place that we live.  Everyone comes and says hi to us, and checks up to make sure that everything is ok.  It isn't even just the babushkii anymore.  Here's a funny story that might help illustrate. 
"Young people! (that's not weird to say here) Come over here!"  That's what I heard as I walked home Saturday night to change before going to Sports Night.  I looked around and found an old man sitting on a bench not far from us.  We began to talk and he told us that he had wanted to talk to us for a long time, but that we come home too late and he already is inside usually.  It wasn't that he was super interested in learning the doctrines of the Gospel, but he wanted to get to know us a little better, and have us keep him some company.  I guess we have a rep for being good to talk to.  Many of those reading this know that I have a little bit of a thing for cool hats.  I can't help but notice when someone has a cool or just interesting hat on.  That happens ALL the time here, it still kinda blows my mind.  Well our new friend Vladimir was wearing one of the more interesting hats that I've noticed on an old man lately.  It was kind of like a bucket hat, that you'd wear fishing or something, made out of denim.  But it was clearly too small for his head and had hearts all over it, and written in the bigger hearts was "I love you."  Of course I had to say something about it!  I complimented him on it and gave him the translation, and he, without missing a beat, said, "It's a little girl hat."  He was in no way embarrassed or uncomfortable, just said it matter of fact.  Haha!  I was rolling on the inside.  So funny.  Well we talked for a few minutes, he gave us a good list of furs that people make Russian hats out of, because we're getting some hot out-of-season deals today, and we were off.  It was just another beautiful day in the neighborhood.
 There were a few more ups then downs this week, but I'm still living on a roller coaster.  Some things you look back on and of course you're disappointed that this new babushka that you met through a 3rd story window didn't accept the Gospel right away...but then you realize that from this experience you gained the acquaintance of a fun old woman with a collection of her own personal communist medals.  Yes, my new babushka is a communist and explained to me how the government is going to fall back into the hands of the "Party" in 2012.  I'll be home from my mission by I'm not going to worry too much I guess.  It really is a funny story...but I can't do it justice now.  Good times. 
 Lately I've thought a lot about my pioneer heritage.  In Sacrament Meeting yesterday Sister Magill gave a great talk about Pioneers and how each member of the Church here in Russia is a pioneer in a really real way.  They are blazing new trails, and doing things which many have found it too difficult to complete.  We are establishing Zion is a place which needs it as much as anywhere.  I'm lucky to have such a great heritage of pioneers like I do.  I always look back to the few stories I know about Grandpa Jefferson Hunt, or Peter Wilson Conover, who played such key roles in establishing my mom's family in the Church, and helping to establish Zion wherever they were sent.  Sometimes I think it's funny that as prideful as I am about myself...I'm one of the lamest leaves hanging on my family tree.  Even uncle Barney Fife had some pretty good glory days.  Never quite made it out of ole Andy's shadow...but he was always good for a laugh. 
 I did get a great benefit for having the Fife name here in Russia.  Everyone still asks me if I am Elder 5, but a few months ago I learned that 5 to them is the best grade you can get in school, it's their equivalent to an "A."  So thanks Dad, and to your ancestors too, for making me grade A.  Ha ha.  I always get a kick out of that. 
Well have a good week and stay out of trouble would you?  Have a great Days of '47!
Elder Samuel Fife

Sunday, July 11, 2010

kind of a rough week!!!

Missionary work is a lot like a roller coaster.  There are lots of really high ups, and lots of really really low downs.  I've felt that especially strong in the last week.  It seems like the Lord is trying to see how patient I can be and how diligent I stay or hard I work when it seems like nothing at all is coming from it.  On top of that He gives me great experiences with lots of potential, only to see them not work out and dash all my hopes.  We were only able to have one lesson with an investigator this week, and even that was kind of by chance as we checked in the park where we used to meet with a man who had wound up in a hospital a little bit ago, and he was there!  It was good to see him waiting there, but that was yesterday...the rest of the week we just worked against a wall and met disappointments every step of the way.  One day we had 6 lessons scheduled...none of them ended up working out.  I guess this missionary thing is a little hard after all. 

Dispite the upsets that we've had in the last week, we've seen some great miracles.  One day we had some extra time and wanted to do some tracting.  We weren't really sure where we were going or what we were doing, but we found ourselves in deep Churkin, a place where I had never been in the last several months serving in this area, tracting a 9 story apartment building.  If you're looking at a map of Vlad, we were right about at the second knuckle of the index finger in the hand puppet.  (You'll know what I mean...remember that I'm south of the Gold Horn Bay.)  Well in 45 apartments about 40 doors were slammed on us or not even opened.  One yelled "I don't have time!  Come back tomorrow!" We came back and maybe we'll meet with him sometime this week.  The very last door, on the very last floor wouldn't open the door, but had me put an invitation in his mailbox...weird.  It was a really awkward conversation, but one of those funny moments that you probably would have just had to be there for.  The best success there though, was meeting a woman on the 7th floor who told us that she'd been to our church before and liked it.  She has 6 kids and works a lot to help support her family, but hopefully we'll find a way to meet with them sometime soon.  A family with 6 kids is SO rare in Russia.  I mean it's rare anywhere...but if you have more than 2 kids here you are already way out of the ordinary. 

The Lord teaches us lessons throughout our lives.  That is something that I have seen over and over again.  Not only on my mission, but never so stark and apparent as I do here.  Sometimes you need a rough week just to remember why you're really here.  To realize the ways that you are spending your time and the ways that you wish you were able to spend them.  Its the things that you do in your free time, when you could do anything that you want, that are the most important to you.  I was thinking about that thought this week a lot.  When we sit at home and have a few free minutes while I cook dinner, or after we've finished planning at night sometimes we have a few free minutes to relax or do what we like.  My companion seems to be ALWAYS studying the language.  I don't know how he does it.  If I studied or thought about language that long I'd get all kinds of frustrated.  I've noticed that my favorite thing to do in my free time now, is to sit down with a Church magazine and read talks from General Conference.  Maybe I should work to become more diligent in studying Russian...but I am so grateful for the moments that I have to just study the Gospel a little deeper.  I feel like my Gospel knowledge and understanding could use SO much work, and I wish I could just spend all day, or take a few months off of life, to just study the scriptures and the teachings of modern Prophets.  Some members that I work with here have a hard time when I try to get them commit to read the scriptures each day, even more so when I say study for 15 minutes or half an hour, but I wish I could just sit and study and feel the Spirit that comes with studying the words of the Lord's servants longer and longer. 

I love the word of God.  It gives us understanding of all the things which we do in life.  You couldn't find a much better parenting book than the words of Alma to his sons, or Helaman to his.  When you don't know how to tackle a difficult problem that just doesn't seem to go away, or peer pressure that could drag you down, there aren't many who are better to look to than Captain Moroni, who had a pretty big problem in front of him a time or two.  We're so blessed to have so much of God's word today.  Take a look in the Bible Dictionary under the word "Bible" or read Elder Christoffersen's talk from this General Conference.  They make me so much more appreciative for the thing that so many times we take for granted. 

That has just been on my mind a lot lately, so I thought I'd share it.  Have a great week, and happy birthday Daniel!  Haven't heard from you in a while, hope everything is going great!

Elder Samuel Fife

Monday, July 5, 2010

May 16 (I don't know how I missed this one...)

One day this week I was on an exchange with Elder Naumov, one of the Mission President's Assistants.  When a morning lesson fell through with an inactive member we got the great idea to contact and invite people to English club and to know more about our message all the way to the Church.  We were something like 6 miles from the Church...and after two hours of walking and talking to people I was pretty well beat.  My favorite part was that when we got to the Church, Elder Papok informed us that he'd just set up a lesson with a member, about a kilometer from where we had started that morning.  Needless to say, we took a bus. 

While I was on that long trek to the Church that morning, I realized just how many people there are to talk to.  So many times we stand on a corner and look one way and say "there isn't really anyone there" then we look another way and say "that isn't going to be much better," when all we really need to do is start walking.  When you walk the Lord can direct your steps and lead you to where he wants you to go.  When you simply stand still not a lot happens.  When we open our mouths the Lord fills it. 

We also had a kind of interesting contacting experience last night.  After walking with Elder Papok for a long time, meeting some nice old JW women, but seeing really little success we ran into an...acquaintance of ours.  A man who goes to Church regularly, but no one really knows where he came from or who he is.  Sometimes he hisses at people or causes little problems, but he just keeps showing up every week and we aren't really sure what to do with him.  Well we met him on the street and he decided to go contacting with us.  He said "I'll walk with you as far as the bridge."  We thought he meant the big bridge they're building across the bay to center, but we weren't going anywhere close to that bridge.  We tried to explain that to him, but I guess he meant a figurative bridge instead.  So here we are trying to meet people who might be interested in English club or in the Church, but we have this half-way crazy 3rd wheel. 

Needless to say it made for a very interesting experience.  We kind of ended up taking turns distracting him while the other would talk to people on the street.  In the end though we just let him stand with us and he would point out where the Church is on a map so that people would know where to go...his idea.  We met some cool people though and it actually wasn't too crazy, he didn't even hiss at anybody.  Who'd o' thunk that the crazy guy in the back of the room would turn out to be a missionary?  Not me.  Oh well, good times.

Crazy situations just find me.  A lady at English club this week came up to me after we ended and said "Elder Fife, I have a proposal for you."  When I hear the words "I have a proposal" I automatically am worried that something really sketchy is going to follow.  Sure enough she invited me to take two weeks off of my mission to teach English in a local school.  Well, as fun as that sounded, after much thought I turned down the job offer and decided to stay a missionary.  Tough choice right?  The kids would probably think I'm boring anyway. 

Well those are just a few of my interesting stories from this week.  No real connection or theme, but I hope there's someone, somewhere, who gets a laugh out of the ridiculousness of the life that I live.  Sometimes I forget that my life was always pretty crazy, but it's just who I am I guess. 

Have a great week.

Elder Fife

Some fun stories

I have a few stories that I've been meaning to tell for a while now...but keep forgetting, so I thought I'd share some of Elder Fife's great moments today.
You know those times when you are walking down a street that you walk down everyday and then you look up and say "That wasn't there yesterday!...where did Cinnabon come from?" Well those are good times.  I had one of those a few weeks ago.  I had just gotten off the bus in Center on my way to a baptism with a member when I looked up and saw the Cinnabon sign in front of me.  She was really confused about why I was so excited...and probably still is, because it is tough to explain cinnamon rolls to Russians...they just don't have them here.  Well now they do, and I have noticed that I am a much happier person.  :D  Now people come back from working in the back making cinnamon rolls and say "hi" to me in the casual form and I feel all cool.  Thank you Cinnabon for coming to Vlad.  Tell McDonald's or maybe KFC to come too.  We now have 3 American restaurants in Vlad.  The first one here was Baskin Robbins (I learned last week that they have a second one in my area, and I had me some tasty ice cream a few minutes ago,) and they were followed by Subway, and now Cinnabon.  This city's starting to go places. 
Vlad also had a birthday on Saturday.  The city is now 150 years old.  President Medvedev came and gave a speech, but I haven't heard anything other than that he was here.  The celebration was really huge and it seemed like a good time.  There were people all over in center and a lot of famous Russian artists flew in to perform.  Other than that I didn't really notice any difference in town though.  Actually I did have one funny City Day experience...So there I was, standing in a little park in front of an apartment building, early Saturday afternoon, when a man comes out of nowhere saying "Can you help me?"  Putting my hero face on I said, "Of course, let's go!"  He tried to explain what was wrong and I thought he needed help with some kind of microphone....but that sounds silly so I just assumed that I had understood him wrong, and let him lead me to his house.  Well a microphone was in fact the problem.  Our new friend had great plans for his City Day celebrations...plans that included drinking a lot and singing karaoke alone at home all day...and he couldn't get the karaoke functions on his player to work.  In panic he'd ran onto the streets and found us.  Well we got it kind of working and left an invitation for him to find in his apartment sometime after the holidays.  Maybe I should be more careful when I offer help...but it was a good time...oh well.
Today we were trying to find a new place to write home, because the place we used to go was kind of run down and last week the girl there charged me like $8 for an hour of Internet use...and I got a little offended.  So I had noticed this place deep in our area called "Internet Club" and figured we could go there and check it out.  As we were walking to the building everything just seemed too ritzy to be an Internet cafe, but my curiosity was peaked and I had to check it out.  As we walked in the guy at the front desk was dressed way too nice to run an Internet cafe.  (It's usually like a 15 year old at the place where I'm writing right now.)  Well I am pretty sure we accidentally found us a bad.  Lesson learned.
A few months ago I was trying to find an ATM.  In Russia ATM's are called "Bank-o-mats" or "auto-banks."  Well I kind of got mixed up and asked people on the street if they knew where I could find an "auto-mat" anywhere...well it wasn't until a few weeks after that that I learned why those people who I asked had all given me weird looks when I came up to them, wearing a suit and name tag, and asking for auto-mats.  ......Auto-mat means machine-gun.  Ha ha, oops.  That isn't quite what I was looking for.  Foreigner mistakes are a great thing.
I will share one more serious experience too, those were all good, fun things though.  Today I went with a member of the Branch Presidency to visit the member in my area who was baptized not long ago, the one who is paralyzed.  His situation has gotten a lot worse lately and a man I didn't think could get more humbled has found that he has.  In his prayer, this great man said something that really touched me.  He asked the Lord to bless him so that he could heal enough to hold and turn the pages of the Book of Mormon himself, so that he could study and learn more about the Gospel and teachings of Jesus Christ.  I was really humbled by his sincerity and humility.  How many blessings do we really have to count?  I think there are a lot more than we ever realize.  And some people tell me that God doesn't help them.  If they only knew a small percentage of the way that He really does bless us, each and every day!  I'm absolutely in awe at the patience of our Creator who blesses each of us so much, when so many of His blessings go completely unnoticed.  Let us be a grateful people. 
Have a great week and stay strong.  Blessings come to those who have faith.  I was reading Ether 12 today in Russian as I had some time this morning.  Might take a look and re-read that chapter this week.  Let me know how it goes.
Elder Sam Fife