I now know a little bit better what the guy who gets voted off on Survivor the very first week feels like. I got voted off the island. I wasn't supposed to leave, and I was only there for one transfer, but then things got crazy about two days before transfers and President Pratt ended up changing the plan a bunch. I had never been so sad to leave an area before, mainly because I had barely gotten comfortable there, and because I love Elder Thellmann SO much! But oh well, I'll miss you Sakhalin.
My new area is a pretty unique one in our mission. I am living in the city of Artyom. The only missionaries in the city are my companion and I. Artyom was reopened to missionary work about 3 months ago. There are 2 active members, both in their 70's. We took a taxi to church with them to Vlad yesterday, but usually go by bus with just one of them. The less healthy of the two only makes it to Vlad once a month for church, and we take her on a taxi.
My companion is Elder Naumov. He's a great missionary and I'll be his last companion. He's from Yakaterinburg, Russia of course, and has just over a month left on his mission. It's going to be a super adventurous transfer serving with him, always way fun. He draws all these crazy pictures all the time and is constantly thinking of additional features to build into his backpack or waterbottle or something...super funny. He served in the Russian Navy before his mission, and that makes him even more interesting of a character. He made a flame thrower out of toilette paper roles and air freshener...I'll have to show you the video sometime...yeah, this transfer is going to be interesting.
This is about the biggest contrast from Sakhalin as I could think of. There we have a super-active Branch Mission Leader and members who give referrals and just beg to help on lessons with you. Here we have a total of about 10 members of the Church, only a few of which will actually meet with us, and even less that even consider going to Church each week. I'm only the third missionary to serve in this city since it's been reopened, and the first American, so I am kind of guessing that I'll be here for a while to help set a good foundation and get the work moving here. Both of the missionaries who have served here will be home this summer. I'm not stressed...not yet at least. But this is going to be a good challenge to keep me busy for a while. Never a dull moment for me.
One funny Artyom story so far. So I get on a bus to go home the other evening, and I stand on the bus looking out the window, Book of Mormon in hand. The guy sitting in the seat between me and the window had a beer in his hand and was drinking as the bus went. He kept looking at me uncomfortably, and told me to go sit down somewhere else on the bus. I said that I didn't want to sit and then he told me again to go somewhere else, because his beer wasn't sitting well with me holding a holy book right in front of him. Two interesting things that I took out of this experience. One, guilt gets you every time, no wonder reading the scriptures helps us to avoid temptation. And second, It's always easier to expect someone else to change than to do it yourself. Kind of a weird story to share I guess...but it made me laugh.
Well it's obvious that I have my work cut out for me here.
It was so good to back at church in Vlad yesterday. I saw a lot of people that I used to work with when I served there, and they all seemed to be doing great. After sacrament a teenage girl walked into the room. She looked familiar, but I didn't recognize her right off. After a few seconds of stupor it hit me who it was. I had tried so hard to work with this girl's family the entire time I was on Churkin, but had not once been able to see her come to Church. It was so good. After we talked for a few minutes I leaned in a little and whispered "Did you ever fishish reading Alma?" (I had given her that assignment a long time ago) and she said "I never even started," "I KNOW!" She was embarrassed a little and kind of punched me in the arm...haha. 15 year old girls are super funny. I'm really glad that their family is doing better. They asked me when I was going to come visit them at home, and I really hope that I'll get that chance again. I still have so much love for people that I've worked with in every area that I've served. No wonder Ammon stayed with Lamoni's people for 14 years...
Well that's probably enough for today. I'm sure I'll have a bunch to write about next week after I get blown away by General Conference next week, home you enjoyed that by the way! Then the weekend after that we'll get a visit by Elder Lawrence of the Seventy, who spoke at General Conference last fall about courageous parenting. It will be way sweet. Lot's of good things are happening here. Thanks for keeping me in your prayers.