I usually avoid things like going to concerts that I'm invited to by women on the street...but you just don't say no to someone like Svetlana. Five minutes before I had asked Elder Thellmann what connections we had on the Island...I like to be connected.
Ok, everything turned out fine, and I didn't understand exactly who she was at the time...but this week I met the Deputy (I think that's like party leader) of the majority party in the Sakhalin Regional Duma (Legislature.) The Communist Party is currently the majority I guess. Cool huh? She invited Elder Thellmann and I to a concert they were doing at a nursing home this weekend. I do love old people. She invited us to add something to the table...so we baked something tasty and popped down there. The activity was really nice and well done. They had the directors of the Azerbaijani and Armenian cultural centers there to say some words of congratulations and then they had a middle Asian dance party for a little bit...pretty cool. As our friend made her speeches though, you could tell for sure which party she represented. She said over and over things about how great times were back in the Soviet Union and how we need to strive to make it like that again because they've gotten lots worse. Sitting there I kind of felt like I was back in the USSR, but she's really nice and seems to like us so far, so maybe we have found a good contact for the Church to do more to help the community.
The activity was a celebration of International Women's Day on the 8th of March. So...Happy Women's Day to all of you great women. You bring beauty to our world and are the crowning creation of our Father in Heaven. I wish you health, joy, lots of flowers and chocolate, appreciation for the great things you do, and success in all endeavors. (I've gotten a little better at making wishes for people in the last 15 months, huh?)
I wanted to share a recent testimony of one of my newest heroes. Her name is Sasha, she is nine. Sasha plays the piano amazingly well. I heard her play a little bit yesterday and it just blew me away. Well little Sasha was practicing for a regional competition, and really trying hard to do her best. She lives in Dolinsk, a town about an hour to the north of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, where the competition was to be held, and where her and her family drive to Church each week and to visit their grandparents (her grandpa's the sole councilor in the Mission Presidency.) Competitors at the regional competition would play on a grand piano, but all that Sasha's ever played on is an upright. Now I'm not very musically inclined, but I understand that there are subtle differences as you play, especially as you play pieces with difficult pedal work. Her teacher offerred for her and another girl from Dolinsk to play on the grand and become familiar with it more, in preparation for the big competition, but could only make that happen on Sundays. Brave little Sasha knows how important it is to keep the Sabbath Day holy, and without hesitation said that she wouldn't participate in the Sunday practices, even though many would easily justify themselves, and could even argue that piano playing invites the Spirit...Sasha has much more faith.
The day of the compition came and more than a hundred competitors of various ages and abilities gathered from all over the Island. There was some very high quality performances, but when all was said and done, our little, faithful Sasha took third place, even though she had never played on a grand piano before. She told us yesterday at Sacrament Meeting, as she bore her testimony, that she knows perfectly that the Lord helped her to play well and blessed her for obedience. I know that he will bless each of us as well. When we follow Sasha's example and with vigor seek to follow the counsel of Prophets and the commands which are from the Lord, he will be with us and will bless us in whatever it is that we strive to do.
I feel like there were a bunch of other things that I wanted to write about, but I can't seem to remember anything else now that I'm dying to say. We made cake batter ice cream last night...it is SO good. We ended up with a funfetti cake mix in Korea and we blended it with some melted ice cream...oh my goodness I was so happy eating it. Ok, now for sure that is it. Have a wonderful week and the best Women's Day ever!
Elder Sam Fife