I don't even know what to write this week. I talked to my family a few days ago, it was way sweet! Christmas was different from any that I've ever had before. Who would expect to go tracting on Christmas day? Haha. Didn't have any success. People didn't even realize that it was Christmas though, so it was just like any other day. Actually we were on a bus and I wished a woman sitting next to me with a way cute toddler who I was making faces at Happy Holidays, and she sat and thought for a minute and then said "Oh yeah! Today's Christmas, isn't it?" Christmas doesn't play a big role in Russians' lives, but we've been invited to a lot of New Years parties...we'll be at home doing weekly planning and then deep cleaning our apartment. Sweet huh?
We did experience a cool Christmas Miracle though. It involved an inactive member who was baptized only last spring. Zanaida is an old woman who works all the time, trying to get by. She sells pet supplies at a small grocery store about 11 hours a day, more when it's not winter. We went into the store to wish her a Merry Christmas, and saw someone else working there. Turns our Zanaida was somehow able to get a few days off, something she hasn't had in several months. We called and she told us where she lives (no one knew her current address.) We made a stops to members, none of which were home, tried to find and follow up with a couple potential investigators, also no success, and then made our way to Zanaida. It didn't take us long to find the road that she lives on. We called when we were standing in front of house number 1. She said she lives in number 105. That means that there were only about 53 houses between us...but several of those turned out to be factories or institutes. Eventually we found her, waiting for us at the bus stop. We rode together to the Branch activity. Retelling that story doesn't make it sound like much of anything, but to us it was a miracle. We haven't even been able to do more than stop in and say 'hi' at work when we are in the area, and she came to a Branch activity and felt the Spirit. She would have spent Christmas alone.
As we rode on the bus into the city, I thought of the Good Shepherd. I thought of how important each and every one of His lost sheep are. On Christmas day we went hunting through the snow and the cold to find a lost sheep who, spiritually, has been alone in the cold for a long time, and helped her come back to the fold for at least one night. Each and every person is of great worth in the sight of God. Let's see what more we can do this year to search them out, bring them back, and keep them warm. We can't afford to have any empty seats at our table.
The Christmas activity was really good. A member of the Relief Society Presidency was able to talk her husband into playing Joseph with her as Mary. We joked before that they should switch roles, because his hair goes down to his back, and hers is cut pretty short...but the head bands and things covered it up, almost, so it was ok. Just funny. They did a great job.
I was able to dodge all the projectiles as Samuel the Lamanite, but I think that everything else was dwarfed by the great games that the Primary came up with. Sister Oksana decided that she was going to quiz everyone, starting with the missionaries. She set up a chair in the middle of the room, and called each missionary to sit in the hot seat one by one, where she would read a verse of scripture (in Russian of course) and then we would guess which book from the Book of Mormon she was reading from. To help us out she had the three older kids in the Primary act out the first three letters of the name of the Book. Basically they just twisted their bodies in weird positions...it was really funny though. We all passed. They congratulated us and gave us candy. That was the only Christmas present that I had on Christmas this year... I hear there are some packages on the way, but maybe they'll make it here by Russian Christmas on the 7th of January.
Then she did a quiz for the Primary kids. She brought out some candy and had one of the girls read what it said on the wrapper. "Coffee." "Do we eat coffee candy?" She asked. "Noooo!" Then she asked each in turn, "Do we throw this candy away?" Most of them got it right...but one little guy sat there and was almost in tears thinking" how could I throw candy away??" The best part was when she got to Roma, who is 3 years old. "Roma, is it OK to run around the hallway during Sacrament Meeting like a real live Lamonite??" "Nyet!" (No) It was super cute. I'm pretty sure the Branch will be quoting that for a long time. I love Primary!
We also went caroling to a few Members a couple days before Christmas. It was cool. Sister Slava gets me every time. We were at her place last. Of course she invited us to have hot chocolate. All the missionaries looked at each other, each of us wanting to, but each knowing that there was no way to make it home to our several areas by 9 if we took our shoes off and sat down. Of course everyone copped out saying "Ask Elder Fife, he's the District Leader." Now Sister Slava knows that I don't know how to say no to her. She is one of the best members in the world, and knows it. Ha ha. In short, the hot chocolate was good, we each took taxis home and it all works out ok. I'm weak.
And the ham I was searching for on Monday...well we never found ham...so we ended up with a honeyed pork roast. It was actually pretty good. The rabbit stew on Christmas was good too. Kinda remarkable that my cooking actually works out...maybe my taste buds are just a little dulled though...there's a good chance of that.
Well there's my short report on my Christmas week. Hope yours were great. I hope that we were able to focus on the love of God this week in giving us His Son. There's nothing more important than that.
Think of some good New Years resolutions, and I'll see you in 2011!
Elder Sam Fife