MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE! Holy jeez, I can NOT believe it's Christmas Eve. This year's gone by so fast.
This is the best week in the history of weeks. This past Saturday we had our first lesson with an investigator here in Dachney. Her name is Nadia. She's a character. She told us to meet her at her store a couple blocks away. We walked over and asked for her then waited for a bit...then waited some more...then she walks up behind us wearing a white fur coat and a bright white shopka (hat) with sunglasses and gives us both a big hug and calls us "her girls." Then we went into her office and she started ordering her employees around to bring us cookies and candy. I felt kinda bead, but not really, since those same employees had been yelling at us not 20 minutes before that. Haha. She talked a LOT, and I don't know how interested she is, but I asked her to read the introduction and the testimonies in the beginning of the Book of Mormon for next time, so we'll see what happens!
Then there's church. THE DACHNEY BRANCH IS THE BEST BRANCH IN RUSSIA! It was amazing. Everyone was so nice! They walked up to us, introduced themselves, told us to dress warmer, asked where we were from, told us to come by and visit. It was great! We also got to meet with Pres. Shakirov, the branch president. He's a boss. I was kind of intimidated, actually. Haha. But this branch has so much going for it. They have four full time missionaries serving from their branch alone. That's UNHEARD OF in Russia. And they're practically self-sustaining. Usually missionaries have a lot of responsibilities in the branches here, but they're running like a well-oiled machine here. It's so cool to see. And they're SO CLOSE to a stake! President Sartori wants a stake here by June of next year. They only need a few more priesthood holders, plus a few other particulars. BUT, Satan's got it in for Saratov. They work's been really slow here lately. BUT, there are a lot of miracles bout to happen up in hurr.
And then there's CHRISTMAS! Christmas on the mission is the best. Actually, I've barely thought about Christmas this month. Haha. But tomorrow we have a lunch for all the missionaries in Saratov, which means I get to see E. Astle for the first time in 3 months! I've been jumping up and down all weekend. Haha. I can't wait! It's been so long since I've seen his little California smile. Haha. We're also performing the nativity. Sister Moffatt and I are angels (o'course). Then after that we have zone conference, which means we get to chill with President Sartori for the day and see all our friends from the zone. Then we have a ward Christmas party right after that that the members made us promise to attend. They're the best. I love them already.
Also, funny story. A couple nights ago a guy stopped us for directions. We had no idea where WE were, so we weren't much help, but we started talking to him for a bit. If I'm being completely honest, he was pretty attractive. Haha. So when it came time to say goodbye, I completely spaced on giving him something. We just told him our names, he told us his name was Andre, then we left. When we got home, Sister Moffatt kept saying he had the 'googly eyes' for me. (First of all, who says that? Haha. I love her. Second of all, WHATEVER). Well, this morning we got a call from the zone leaders saying they got a call from a guy who wanted to talk to us. Guess what his name was. ANDRE! We don't know if it's the same Andre, but we're gonna be teaching him! So, there you go. Flirt to convert, I guess...
I think I'm starting to get the hang of this whole 'missionary work' thing. This past week was kind of overwhelming, being shoved into a new city, just Sister Moffatt and I, living in a new apartment, starting out with no investigators, knowing where nothing is, speaking little Russian. It's been a trip. But I've had my soul stretched quite a bit here. I've ordered water over the phone, I've asked people for directions and carried on conversations in Russian, I've figured out the tramvay (metro) system, I've organized appointments, I've paid rent, and a whole bunch of stuff that I didn't think I could really do in Russian. They other day I started reading from the Book of Mormon in Russian (which is my biggest weakness, I wasn't very good at reading Russian), and I started reading faster than I ever have in my life! Then at church I could understand about 75% of what people were saying, wheras before I could understand maybe 30-40%. I can feel Heavenly Father's influence here in everything in do here. It's really, really cool. I'm so glad I'm here. I love this place, I love these people, I love this work. When I first submitted my papers, I just did it because it was something I felt I needed to do. I didn't actually think I would LIKE it. But, there you go. :)
I'm sorry I couldn't spend Christmas with you guys. I miss you a whole lot. Honestly, though, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world right now. In my first interview with President Sartori he told me that this work would bring me closer to God than anything else I would ever do. It really, really has. I've seen miracles here, straight up MIRACLES. I've had so many prayers answered, my faith's been strengthened, my heart's broken in all the best ways. I love it. This work is the best. I know it's the best thing I could be doing with my time right now. I hope you're all remembering the point of this little holiday season of ours, and I hope you're 'remembering' in general. Remember your testimonies, remember what you have to do to make them stronger, remember what was done for you to be able to be here on this Earth, remember that there are people here who need that knowledge. Just REMEMBER.
I love you all! Merry Christmas!