I have so much that I wanted to write about this week, but not so much about stuff that I've done, more about amazing things that have just happened. We had an incredible City Conference yesterday, I hate it when I cry in public places. I only did a little though, and I don't think anyone noticed, so it's OK.
We were helping our babushka Alla from the car up to the church when the bus from Ussurisk showed up. As I saw a lot of my favorite Ussuriskiis coming up I noticed a shorter woman in a yellow jacket. I gasped! (I think it's the first time that I've gasped out of surprise in my entire life.) It was Tatiana, a wonderful woman who I baptized in Ussurisk, who not long after that stopped coming to church. I always felt like she's come back when she was ready, but until yesterday that hadn't happened. I was so happy to see her. I am pretty sure that everything is going to be ok with her now. The other members were all so good and so happy to see her. I think she really felt how we genuinely missed her. I did at least. It is so tough to see someone struggle, who you know has a testimony and can do better than they think they can. I got a little teary over that one.
Then the talks started. There were two youth speakers. First was Mark, who is 9. He was in my area when I was in Ussurisk with Elder Miller. He talked about how important it was to him to make the decision to be baptized, and how important it is to keep your covenants. The Spirit was strong, and testified even through a nine year old boy standing on a chair. Then Diana got up to speak. She's a young woman who lives on Churkin. She spoke about her parents, and how thankful she is that the Lord gave them to her. Her mom is a member and has incredible faith, her dad has met with missionaries on and off, and comes to church sometimes, but hasn't been baptised. During her talk she began to cry, talking about how great her desire is for her father to be baptized. I honestly think that it isn't too far away. He has some changes to make in his life first, but there is no doubt in my mind that he'll do it. I worked with them a little when I was on Churkin for six months. They fed me SO MUCH. I love the entire nation of Armenia thanks to that one family. They're great.
There were one hundred and forty people in attendance at the Conference, which was more than the room could hold, even after it was packed to the brim with chairs there were people sitting in the hall. The Spirit was so strong. There is a special spirit when the Saints gather together, and I felt it so strong yesterday. It was absolutely amazing.
Today we sat in counsel with the other Zone Leaders, Assistants to the President, along with Presidents Pratt and Lawrence, with their wives, and Elder Bodell. It was great. I've never seen councils work before like they did today. We, talking together, made some big decisions that set a new direction for the Mission until the end of the year. After reports and some instruction we started discussing by listing all of the problems that we would like to discuss, and then two hours later had a direction and program that we all felt good about and will be putting in place tomorrow. It was incredible. Zone Leaders' Council is one of the best learning experiences ever. President Lawrence said that being a Zone Leader is the best training there is for being a Bishop. Elder Spjut, who served as Branch President for three transfers doesn't like having more of those experiences that could lead to him having responsibility later, and he made a funny face, but he'll get over it. I think this is going to be another important turning point for our mission and everyone serving in it. The principles of council work, and that is a place where revelation is received. I'm really grateful that I was able to be there and to learn from those with whom I serve. The Lord has blessed me in so many ways as I serve as a missionary. It's incredible to me how much He teaches me from day to day. It's too bad that we have to make so many mistakes to learn the lessons that we're supposed to, but I'm so thankful for the time and place to learn and to grow. That place is a mission. I can't imagine how much of a disadvantage to the rest of my life not serving a mission would have been. Obedience pays off, that's why we trust the Lord and His prophets.
Well the future looks bright and I am optimistic about what the last quarter of my mission will hold, and the future of the Vladivostok Mission even after I'm gone. The Lord will direct His work.
Sorry I didn't share any of my other stories this week...there actually were some way funny ones too. Sometime later remind me to tell you about the time my companion got hugged and kissed unexpectedly by a teenage girl on the street....it was just on the cheek...but I learned my lesson, let your companion shake hands with people first. :D There's a lot of lessons that you never thought you'd learn.... have a great week.
Oh yeah, shout out to those of you who sang in the choir in General Conference. It was way cool to see some familiar faces. Cami, Steven, SaraKay, Brittany, Corinne...and probably more. You were great. I'll go through the hymns sometime real slow to see who I missed. And I thought I saw Elder Temus...but I'm not totally sure. And maybe I didn't actually see some of you who I thought I did...if you didn't actually sing, oh well, you're still cool and good job at life. :D