Sorry for writing a little later today, we played soccer this morning!
This past week was a tough one in regards to teaching, we had so many appointments fall through. But it was a really rewarding week as we rendered service in our branch calling and serving others, we also had a couple spiritual feasts!
One of those spiritual feasts wasZone Conference! The Spirit was so strong as it usually is, I love the special atmosphere that only exists when we all gather together, it is powerful! Sis. Miner gave a great talk about perfectionism, a big problem in our mission and a big problem for me! I learned that I am indeed a perfectionist and by the end of the week, I learned that I am so far from perfect, but that is how it is supposed to be! Heavenly Father does not expect us to be perfect, yet. We have a mission full of high achievers that are used to excelling in many different aspects of life and when we come on our missions and start to fall short, make mistakes, etc. we are hard on ourselves! "To be worthy does not been to be perfect," we are all just trying to improve and do what we can in the work of the Lord and our efforts are indeed enough!
Elder Weston taught us about faith, specifically about the faith to find new, prepared people to teach the Gospel to. He broke down faith into three steps: 1) Hope - hoping for something that is not guaranteed or seen with our physical eyes, 2) Act - acting on that hope, doing something about it, and finally 3) Evidence - evidence that what was hoped for in the beginning is in fact there, it is possible, and true, etc. I really loved those steps and they can be applied in so many different ways!
President Miner taught about the Savior and showed us the Church's video, 'The Lamb of God" and I felt the Spirit so strong throughout the film. I thought, as we watched, that I would feel angry or hate towards those that betrayed the Savior and ultimately took His life, but as I sat there feeling the peace and warmth of the Spirit, I realized that Christ is the Prince of Peace and not of revenge, hate, or opposition and that was a great lesson to learn.
Last week we were able to serve others by helping out with English! We are involved at a couple English schools and there are some potential people in both schools that could become investigators soon! Ilya (member) and Anya (recent convert) also asked us to meet with them and help with English and that was really fun and rewarding. As we were talking with Anya before we started, it was inspiring to see the fire she still has in her for the Gospel being baptized just a few weeks ago. She told us how last Sunday she got her Temple Recommend to go do baptisms for the dead in a couple weeks with all the youth and how she has been showing everyone her recommend. She also will be getting a patriarchal blessing at the end of the month and is so excited! She thought she had to wait for a year but we told her that she could get one and signed her up!
We got to visit Sister Toma a couple times this week!was her birthday and we took her some juice and flowers and the Sisters made a cake for her. She was so excited when we came, she said it was the best birthday of her life. She was going around thanking us all for coming and she looked at Elder Fisher and I and said, "especially these two, they saved me a couple weeks ago when they brought me some food." We also took her the Sacrament and showed her the Church's Easter video which she loved. She has a great testimony and is a special woman!
Last Thursday, the Patriarch arrived from Utah! His name is Gary Browning and he is just a humble, incredible man! He was the very first Mission President in all of Russia and although he is 80+ years old, he is magnified in his calling as a traveling patriarch and the members here have been blessed by his willingness to serve.we were in the branch while he was giving blessings and there really was a different, reverent atmosphere in the center branch that one member talked about in Church yesterday during a lesson. Everyone that received a blessing was just so happy and filled with the Spirit afterwards. Our recent convert, Ruslan, traveled in to get his blessing and it was my first time ever seeing him in the flesh and not just over Skype! The coolest part is hearing what tribe everyone is from. From all the blessings , every single person belonged to a different tribe. I am convinced that all 12 tribes are present in the Rostov Center branch now, but will confirm this week. We often read about the gathering of scattered Israel and hear about it, but to actually see it with my own eyes was an experience I will not forget. The House of Israel is being gathered! We have been heavily involved with these blessings as the branch clerks and 16 so far from the Center Branch have received their patriarchal blessing and there are still more to go!
Yesterday was Easter! Easter is a major holiday in Russia and the one day a year we can "proselyte." Everyone, and I mean everyone greets you on Easterby saying, "Христос воскрес!" (Christ is risen) and then you are required to respond, "Воистину воскрес!" (Indeed He is risen!) Everyone also eats these things called кулич, I will send a picture, as well as painting eggs and onions and other traditions I probably don't know about. One member said, "Although we celebrate Easter differently, we have one common denominator and that is the Savior!"
One of those lessons was with Aleksander who has been doing really well! He has been super sick and stopped reading and coming to Church but one night we went over and we saw him praying to bless his food through the window which made us so happy! He has started reading again with some new glasses that we got and he said that the hymn " Did You Think to Pray?" keeps coming to his mind as he prays and reads! As we left yesterday, he said with a smile, "I don't think I will miss Church next week." We had not even invited him but had just read with him and testified too him about the Savior and told him we all missed him yesterday! Slowly but surely!
I love you all! Христос воскрес!" Thanks for all the love,support and prayers!!