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Monday, June 27, 2011

Elder Fife in Nakhodka

Well I'm in a big new area.  There were 20 people at church this week, pretty much all women.  The priesthood could use a lot of strengthening here.  Well, they could use priesthood here.  There were three men at church this week, who weren't missionaries.  There aren't even very many inactive men.  It's probably because most everyone from Nakhodka is a sailor.  If we could just figure out how to baptize more perspective priesthood holders.  We had church this week for the last time in the International Sailor's Club.  Ironic huh?  Priesthood is in the Captain's Room.  It was...interesting.  We have a new location, just down the street that we're moving into next week.  We will have it all the time, instead of just when we need it like we were at Interclub.  We're really excited about that. 

I love that the Lord gives me tender mercies every day.  For the last several evenings I've felt like I just can't do it anymore, I'm up against a wall, discouraged and alone, and then the something that comes that makes things just enough better that I know I can make it through another day.  Things like looking through my companion's pictures and seeing the familiar face of Bennett Briggs.  Little things like that, that become huge tender mercies for me.  The Lord works in all kinds of mysterious ways I guess. 

We are also serving with a senior couple, the Alicos.  They are so funny!  Just their whole relationship with each other cracks me up.  Sister Alico decided this week that Elder Lisevich shouldn't eat any more sugar, and challenged him to go all transfer.  He gets headaches a lot.  If I remember right she volunteered Elder Alico to help by going off sugar as well, and of course she would too.  Elder Alico spent probably a half hour thinking of reasons why it wouldn't work and things for Sister Alico to give up, but she was willing to do anything.  So none of us have had any sugar in the last 5 days.  I never agreed to anything, but I would feel bad eating in front of my companion, and I wouldn't want to tempt him.  The only thing we have is Tropicana orange juice, because it says "no sugar added" on the box.  I love orange juice. 

Yeah, this is a hard time for me, mainly trying to figure out how I'll be able to get along with my companion, but we are seeing cool things happen as well.  The other day we were in a park, waiting for our investigator to come to talk about some problems that had come up that would hurt her baptismal date, when a 15 year old girl came up to us and asked for any literature.  She said she has a Book of Mormon, and read the whole thing.  She said she'd been to church as well.  She also talked about how she knows its true and that she's really interested in knowing more.  Now we have to be careful, because she's a minor, but the Alicos gave her a "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet, which she went to a bench and began reading with a friend.  After a few minutes the friend came and asked if she could have one too. 

Eventually our investigator showed up and we went to sit on a bench to talk.  The girl saw that we were going to teach, and couldn't help but inch closer to hear.  Within a few minutes both her and her friend were standing right next to us, and she was participating in the lesson, testifying that the Lord answers prayers and softens peoples' hearts.  The whole time I just looked at Elder Alico and mouthed "Who is she??"  He shrugged his shoulders.  Elder Winkler, who she said gave her the Book of Mormon doesn't remember her either.  Sister Alico thinks that she was an angel.  We invited her to church this week, but she didn't come.  Hopefully she'll find us soon. 

Thanks for your prayers in my behalf and for the love and support that you send me.  You have no idea how much of a difference it makes.  I know that it will just be a little while longer.  I can hold on to my faith a little longer.  Have a wonderful week! 

Elder Fife

Monday, June 20, 2011

Last Transfer?

Transfer calls came again last night.  It was a little bit of a surprise.  I'll miss Artyom.  I'll be moving this week to Nakhodka, where I'll serve with Elder Lisevich, who is from Western Russia.  He has a reputation of being kind of a difficult companion, so it will be interesting.  It will also be interesting that there are currently two companionships there, but now there will only be the two of us.  There are some good things going for Nakhodka though, and there are actually members there, which will be a fun change from where I've been the last three months.  We'll also be moving into a new building this month.  Lots of good exciting things going on there, but it'll be an interesting new challenge.  I think that I will probably be there until the end of my mission, because after this transfer I'll most likely be training one of the new missionaries who are coming.  Weird that so much time has passed already. 
 We had some cool successes in Artyom as well.  We think we've found a place where we'll be able to hold Church and things here in town, so that people don't have to drive an hour each way to Vlad.  That is a huge success.  The Church Facilities Manager in Novosibirsk is taking care of contract things right now, so hopefully this week or next we'll have church meetings in Artyom. 
So I'm really having a hard time thinking of what to write this week.  Summer is finally here.  Sudden rain storms still happen every couple of days, but it's been much warmer and sunnier.  I like it when the weather is nice. 
I made tons of cookies this week.  My companion got sick for a few days, and even though he wanted to, I wouldn't let him go out and work.  So we had planned to make cookies for members this week, to tell them we love them and that we don't always just pester them and try to get them to meet with us.  So as my companion rested to try to get better, I made chocolate chip cookies.  People here don't know what those are, so it's like an exotic magical cookie of wonder.  I made about 10 dozen.  too bad that we can't even get a hold of our members to give them cookies.  We have only been able to give out three plates, and we've been trying since Friday.  Oh well.  I have tons of cookies in my freezer. 
Funny story of the moment.  So the girl who works here left, and I guess she locks the door when she leaves, so she locked us in, and there's some other random woman sitting in the corner of the room.  So this older lady, wearing a leopard print shirt (leopard print is really popular right now over here) comes up and wants to come in, but the door's locked!  She is so confused!  She kind of banged on the window, since the whole wall is glass and she can see that we're in she's wandering around in the office across the hall just confused.  The girl is unlocking the door now so I guess that funny moment has come to an end.  The older woman in the leopard print shirt made it into the room.  Hurray!  :D  Funny things like that happen all the time.  I love people.  And Russia.  And Russian people.
Well I don't really have too much more exciting to write about this week.  Hope all of you are having a great time and enjoying the summer time. 
Elder Fife

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 12, 2011

So at the first weekly planning of this transfer Elder Williams and I tried to find a direction for our city.  It seems like we're backed up against a wall, and we weren't sure what could get us out of it.  As we counseled together we felt like we should find a future Church leader in Artyom.  We titled him "Brother Brigham" and wrote out some of the characteristics that we expect him to have, and some that wouldn't be half bad.  We started asking other missionaries the mysterious question "Who is Brother Brigham?" and eventually explained to them what we meant by that.  So for almost a month now the hunt has been on.  We've invited more than 500 people to hear the message of the Restoration, and focused on those who seemed to us like they might be him.  Up until yesterday we hadn't had a single lesson with anyone who we had contacted or tracted into. 

Saturday a man that we had met earlier in the week called us, like he said he would, and wanted to meet up the next day.  I think that's the first time that has happened to me on my mission...I was just confused, but excited.  We didn't have a place we could meet, so we ended up on a bench around the place where we had met.  As we started talking he explained to us what he wanted our help for, something about getting a green card.  So we listened to him, asked lots of questions about him and his life, trying to just get to know him better and see how much potential he might have as an investigator.  As we sat there I got the impression several times "This is him!"  "You're sitting on a bench next to Brother Brigham!"  The more he told about himself the more convinced I became.   He doesn't drink or smoke, he's honest and seems like just an all around good man, he even does family history work!  At one point he got a phone call from his current business partner, and I turned to my companion and whispered "Is this Brother Brigham?"  His answer was something like "Absolutely, and I'm going to call him out on it."  I wasn't really sure what that meant, but the Spirit was incredibly strong. 

I've never told anyone before  "God has a work for you to do."  But that's what I felt like he needed to hear.  We explained to him how we had prayed and sought inspiration, and about the answer that we had received, and how we felt strongly that he had an important role to play in building the Kingdom of God.  His reaction surprised me.  "That means I should probably start going to Church, doesn't it?  What time do your meetings start?"  Then he asked "what do you want me to do?"  We gave him a Book of Mormon and told him he can start by reading that and praying so that the Lord will tell him that it's true, and then we'll talk a little later on this week. 

Now I don't know anyone's future and I can't see how they will react to the invitations that we as representatives of Jesus Christ give them, but I can say that the Spirit was incredible yesterday.  It was just miracle after miracle.  So did we find our mysterious Brother Brigham?  Only time will tell I guess.  But this I know.  God answers our prayers.  He directs his work, and will even show forth miracles when they are needed.  I've been reading about Ammon in the Book of Mormon the last few days.  He saw miracles too, and found a man who would become a key recent convert to bringing many souls to Christ; King Lamoni.  Because of his boldness, loyalty, faith, and sweat, he was able to touch many lives.  We might apply that a little better in our own lives every now and again. 

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Fife

June 5, 2011

Lots of more crazy traveling this week.  We went to Ussurisk for district meeting Tuesday, but then had to be in Vladivostok for a baptismal interview Wednesday.  We weren't super excited or happy when the guy I was supposed to interview for baptism didn't show up.  His mom said that he had left his house 40 minutes before we were scheduled to meet, and didn't take a phone with him.  We waited about 3 hours and then gave up.  Turns out he accidentally got a job on the way, and got his clothes all wet and didn't have a change of clothes, something like that.  We went back to Vlad the next day and had a good interview.  He was baptized on Saturday.  I learned a little bit about patience and forgiveness as I had to make the choice whether or not to take a special trip and 2+ more hours on a bus so that he could meet his baptismal date for Saturday.  At first I wanted him to learn his lesson about standing us up when we had spent 4 hours on a bus to interview him, but then I did some repenting and we went back to Vlad.  I love that this work isn't about us, and that there is no sacrifice that is too great to help someone come to Christ.  Of course it's important that they're coming on their own, and not being dragged, but when they are willing we should always be there to help in whatever ways we can.  There are a lot of opportunities to be offended as a missionary, I think the Lord is trying to drive home a lesson for me.  It's not about me. 

It's still been crazy cold and raining all week, so it's been difficult to meet new people on the streets and things like that.  The gloominess has kind of gotten me down a little bit as well, but the sun's out again today, so that is good.  The other day we were walking in the park, and there was basically no one there, except for a mo-ped gang who came up and talked to us as we were trying to talk to a nice old lady with a cool dalmation.  As we were leaving to go home we must have walked off the sidewalk or something (there was a trail there so I still don't feel bad) and a police officer came and stopped us.  When I asked him the reason he was searching us and inspecting our documents he didn't have one to give, but I don't know how my Constitutional rights work here, so I didn't push it.  I'm pretty sure he was actually just looking for an excuse to talk to us, because he turned out to be pretty nice.  He had questions about what we were doing here, so I started telling him about things like the Book of Mormon.  Now it wasn't like Peter teaching the guard in prison, but it felt good that I had absolutely nothing to hide and no bushes that I felt like I needed to beat around when standing before an officer of the law.  It was a fun little experience I guess. 

Yesterday was fast and testimony meeting at Church, so obviously it was full of interesting moments.  I don't really feel like going into details, but it was one of my more crazy Sundays on my mission, and I've had lots of crazy Sundays.  The Sisters' law of chastity lesson for Sunday School was funny too.  Fun day at Church. 

After we got back to Artyom yesterday there were some crazy flash rain storms that came out of no where.  We were on the way to a meeting with a member and it started to rain as we left our apartment, and was pelting by the time we were on the bus, but when we got off across town it had stopped already and the sun was out.  We lucked out and only got a little wet.  Then when that meeting fell through and we started walking back to the bus stop another cloud rolled in or something and it started pouring rain again.  We got drenched waiting for the bus!  Should have listened to the dog lady in our building who told us to take an umbrella.  Teach me not to listen to the dog lady!  (She has like 18 dogs in her apartment.  They never go out on the street, just bark from inside.  Kinda weird.)  Then we decided to go home and have some dinner and make a plan for what we'll do the rest of the day, and somehow between the time that we were on the street, and the time we looked out the window of our 5th story apartment, the rain had stopped and the sun came back and was out the rest of the evening.  There was another bit of rain during the night, but it's all sunny and warm now. 

Well now that I've wasted all of your time talking about weather, have a great week! 

Elder Fife

Oh!  Just remembered.  My companion was astounded when my scouting skills paid off as I fixed the tube that connects our filter system to the faucet with a timber hitch and half hitch and a little bit of floss.  Who'd o' thunk?

May 29, 2011

This week was all kinds of fun.  We went back to Nakhodka to do a baptismal interview with a guy named Sergei.  It was a fun trip.  We showed up just in time for high school graduation (well basically the same thing.)  In Russia they have really weird traditions for graduation.  Not super weird I guess, they just wear weird clothes.  All of the graduating students wear old style uniforms that everyone wore in Soviet times, and there are really big lacy bows in all the girls pig-tailed hair.  They looked to me kind of like maid outfits, only with massive lacy white bows ...really goofy looking, and the guys just wore suits.  They all had sashes on, probably to show the honors that they graduated with or something.  I don't know how I missed that last year, but I was super confused at first, before I figured out what was going on.  Kind of a fun tradition I guess. 

Church yesterday was a little, interesting.  It seemed like things were going to be more normal, well at first.  We had good talks at Sacrament Meeting.  They kind of over planned it, so we didn't have time for the last speaker, but other than that it was great.  Then at Sunday School a member who was baptised a year ago taught and did an excellent job, he is doing great.  Then we got to the 3rd hour, which was combined because it was the 5th Sunday of the month.  They decided to let a brother hold a class on things that he has spent the last 30 years researching or something, he's really passionate about it.  He has compiled 13 steps to living to be 120.  Cool huh?  We only made it through the first 4 in the hour that we had.  I was translating for Elder Bodell, so it was a good way to blow my vocabulary of scientific and health terms out of the water, but I learned a lot of good things.  I now can understand when people tell you that you need to have a good alkaline level, balance your protein and carbohydrates, and how in China they use bio genetics to make peppers certain colors.  Super interesting class huh?  Ha ha.  I also figured out the word for carbonic acid without a dictionary.  Yep, not what I would have expected at your usual Sunday meeting. 

I am reminded of the classes that I taught back in Ussurisk from the manual "Teaching, No Greater Call" that the Church has put out.  One of the lessons was focused on teaching the doctrines of the Kingdom.  Now I know just a little bit better why they would want us to do that.  When we teach the doctrines of the Kingdom we are edified.  It invites the Spirit, which can touch our hearts and teach us the things that we need in order to live better and find answers to the problematic situations that we find in our lives.  When we base our teaching on the scriptures all can learn and be edified together.  All should be able to participate and to share their personal insights in order to help everyone grow, learn, and become closer to the Lord.  I say this realizing that most of the people who will read this won't be responsible for teaching classes in Church in the next week or two, but I think the principle applies a lot more than we realize. 

Family Home Evening is a great place, where parents should teach their children the gospel of Christ and the doctrines of the Kingdom of God.  That doesn't mean that parents should come with a thick book of prepared notes and lists of scripture references each week, you're much more creative than that.  As we read, discuss, and apply the teachings of prophets with our families we will invite the Spirit of love and reverence into our homes,  we'll grow closer to the Lord, and we will create memories that serve as a strong foundation for our lives.  I love how gospel principles actually do apply to everything.  Being a member of the Church isn't a place to be every now and then on Sundays, it's a way of life.  Lots of people don't seem to get that.  

Well that is a little of what has been on my mind lately.  There's a lot more that I've been thinking about, but that's all I'll give you I guess.  Have a great week! 

Elder Fife

May 22, 2011

Being in Artyom is a fun kind of self esteem boost.  Ha ha.  It's really weird and different from any of the other cities that I've served in.  I've only had a couple times when people have been negative to us, but I have had a lot more people reacting to us in weird ways.  I think it's because missionaries haven't been here in a long time and so we're the cool new thing.  The other day two small boys were playing in this tree as we walked past and one stopped, his jaw dropped, and he said "LOOK!  They're so good looking and in uniforms!"  He was probably like 8 years old.  It was super cool.  We've also had some less fun, but not less interesting situations like when some girls at a park started making the noises that people use to call cats as we walked past, yep, we were literally cat called...ha ha.  Funny stuff like that happens all the time here.  We kind of feel like we're super stars, and that helps us to not be afraid to start conversations with people that we might usually not talk to.  Like when we got back from Korea and when we got on the bus to ride home and one of our stewardesses was sitting there.  I sat by her and we had a great conversation, she was super cool.  My stop came faster than I had expected so I didn't get her number, but it was a cool story anyway.  Now she knows that the goofy Americans who wear suits and ride planes can communicate a little bit in Russian.  She was pretty much in shock when I started speaking Russian.  Good times. 

This week we had another visa trip to Korea.  We decided that for this one we wanted to take some time and play some football and do other sporty things.  I am still sore.  It was a good time realizing just how out of shape we all are, and I got destroyed playing basketball with some short Korean guys.  It was a good humbling experience I guess, but more just way fun.  We also learned that the soccer field at the Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea is not open to the public...but we got a few touchdowns before guys showed up in badges to tell us that.  Haha.  Whoops.  There were some guys in suits watching us play up until that point though.  The probably had never seen white guys playing American Football in person before.  Korea is always a great adventure.  We also got the wife of the owner of the Korean restaurant that we went to to sing "You Raise Me Up" for us.  She was so good!  Great Korea trip. 

We did baptisms for the dead in the Temple on Friday before we had to leave to catch our flight.  It was weird that the names were from Mexico, England, and Massachusetts.  When I was doing it they brought in some one's family names and so I got to do some Koreans.  Afterwards the temple workers pointed out the birth dates of two of the men for whom we had just done work.  They were born in 81 and 90 AD.  Can you imagine?  That's amazing to me on two different levels.  On the one side that they have been waiting for almost 1800 years for their work to be done, and on the other side that there are such good records kept that these wonderful Koreans can identify their ancestors up to 1900 years ago!  It was an incredible experience.  Family history work is one of the greatest things that we can do.  It's important to know where we come from, and to show our love for those who paved the way for us and whose blood flows through our veins.  We're a part of something much bigger than I think we realize very often. 

It's tough to get much done in our area when we travel so much.  It just seems like there are always so many unordinary obstacles.  Last week we were in Ussurisk, and then I went to Seoul.  Tomorrow we'll be in Vlad and then we have to run down to Nakhodka to do a baptismal interview with an investigator who is preparing for baptism this weekend down there.  I love that everyone is starting to have success, some more than others of course.  Ok maybe not in each area...yet.  Miracles are happening though.  We're also working on strengthening Artyom.  President Pratt gave us the go ahead to start looking into renting a place to hold meetings here in the future.  We're excited about that. 

Well there's a little bit about what's going on here.  Hope everything is going great for each of you, wherever you are and whatever you're doing.  I guess schools are letting out all over and people will start to have lots of good times.  Have another great week.

Elder Sam Fife