Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Week 29 - December 28, 2015 One Christmas down, two more to go. . .

         My dearest readers, 

Thank you so much for all your love and support each week!!! 
It really helps me so much!! You have no idea!!!! 
What a great week. I don't even know where to start. 
I'm going to try and work on keeping things short and to the point, 
so I can cover more material without sending y'all an entire novel. . . 

So Russians celebrate New Years like we celebrate Christmas. 
A tree and everything hahaha. Also, Christmas is January 9th here in Russia, 
so I'll be able to celebrate it again!!! Hence three Christmases this year!! 

Yeah...I love Christmas!

Zone Christmas Conference. So darn tootin' amazing! 
I got to see all my favorite people!! 
My old district is doing great, looking gorgeous per usual. 

The sisters from my original MTC district ft. photobombing elders. . . 

Met some great new missionaries. Saw people from my first cycle district. 
We worshipped together and learned together. We stalked about 
how important obedience with exactness is. There are many reasons to be obedient, 
the main on should be your love for the Savior. 

All the sisters in the Samara and Toliatti Zones

We watched the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional, 
so wonderful to see familiar faces again! We ate a DELICIOUS dinner 
and dessert from Sister Schwab. She is such a champ, 
she and he daughter spent days fixing up dinner for almost 100 missionaries. 
She even baked us all cookies and brownies!! We got maple syrup extract, yumm, 
and taco seasoning. Merica. I am so grateful to have spent Christmas Eve 
with all of these wonderful servants of the Lord. We are truly united in a great cause!!!

​Sister Schwab!!!! And my district!!! And more photobombing elders. . . 

I met Sister Palmer, the younger. She was trained by my first trainer... 
Sister Palmer. She's so cute. She practically knew my whole life story and I hadn't met her. 
She's funny and loves to chat and share stories. We'll probably serve together one day. You 
betcha my polaroid game is still going strong!!! It definitely attracts attention. 

Meet Sister Palmer! Nope not my first trainer, her trainee. . . 
who is my "lil sister" I braided her hair like any good ol'sister 

I love Liahonas. Seriously makes me so happy. 
Also, I especially loved and appreciated the Taiwan, 
shout out in the December issue of the Liahona. Woot woot!! 
Well, I find myself short on time, also I've been emailing/typing for three hours now, 
so I'm going peace out. 

If you have any yummy recipes you are willing to share with me, 
I'd love to try them out!!! I love cooking and throwing things together. 
So if you have some, feel free to shoot me and email. 

Our Christmas Dinner!

Also, if you have any good ideas for New Year's Resolutions, let me know. 
Or funny ones, too. I'll share mine next week!

Last but not least. I love my Savior. I know He lives. He was born, crucified, resurrected, 
and now He lives today. Come unto Him!!!! 
The Lord doesn't need people to die for His sake anymore. 
He needs saints who are willing to live for Him. It's a hard world we live in, 
but with the Savior by our side, it gets a whole lot easier. 
We can be cheerful and joyful in this life!!

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Week 28 - December 21, 2015 Рождество!!! Christmas!!!!!

   My beloved readers,

Sorry, I'm short on time again. I just want to make sure I reply personally to each email 
I receive from y'all. Honestly I can't express enough how much I love you all. 
I have the best support system in the world. It's so incredible to know that 
I have so many people rootings for me and praying fro me back home. 
You are all incredible. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. 
I wish I could share so much more with you 
but time is the Lord's here so I will try and be quick. 

My camera is cold. .. Meet Sister Grishina!

I know that Jesus Christ lives. He is our Savior. He loves you. He knows you. 
I have felt His influence in my life, very personally this last week. 
He will never leave us alone. We are never alone. 
For Zone conference, we will be asked to share our three favorite scriptures about the Savior. 
Here are mine: John 14:18 "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." 
I testify that this is true and I am evidence of that. 
The Lord has comforted me and is with me through various loved ones. . each of you! 

D&C 6-33-37 "Fear not little flock; do good. . . Look unto me every thought; doubt not, 
fear not. Behold the wounds which pierced my side, 
and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet; 
be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of God." 
Mosiah 24:14-15 " I will ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, 
that even you cannot feel them upon your backs. . . 
that ye may know of a surety that I, 
the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. . . 
The Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, 
and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord. . ." 
I know these things to be true. The Church of jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 
is the true church of God. Jesus Christ's church is once again on the earth in it's fulness. 

This Christmas, come unto Christ. If you want to know why on earth I'm in Russia 
and not home in California, ask those young kids on bikes in your neighborhood 
with a black and white name-tag, also known as missionaries. 
They will tell you all about it! If you need help finding some missionaries, let me know. 
I'll help ya! They are doing the same exact thing I am doing here in Russia. 

I have felt the Savior's love so strongly. I have had the wonderful miracle of getting an email today from one of my friends from BYU who is serving in Taiwan. I gave him my family's address and he has been able to contact my grandma! She's going to be taught by the missionaries!! 
This is one of the greatest blessings of my life. Pray for her and my family there. 
Shout-out to Elder Matt Smith for being the true MVP!!! 

Long letter already but here are some highlights of the week: 
Made a snow-rock. Wasn't the right snow for a real snowman. 
His name is Olaf.Talked to a 96 yr old babooshka. She showed us her porcelain? lioness. 
She was hilarious. 


Happy 2nd Anniversary Alene and Dean! Every time I show your wedding photos, 
people ask me is that's my husband. I guess we still look like twins hahaha. 
I have officially reached that point on my mission when I say, 
"This time next year. . .I won't be in Russia. . . WHAT?!?!?!!"

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, December 14, 2015

Week 27 - December 14, 2015 There's No Growth in the Comfort Zone and No Comfort in the Growth Zone

  My dearest readers, 

So I don't have much time this week so I won't write all that much. 
I just hate not involving you all in my experiences. It's been a rough week. 
I feel like I've left on a second mission. I've said goodbye to all my beloved friends in Balakovo 
and am now starting from ground zero here. New faces, new streets, new food. 
I must say it is so darn tootin' cool to have traditional Russian food. . . at every meal! 
Hurrah! It's awesome. 

Sister Grishina is a hard-worker, knows her area well, and a phenomenal teacher. 
She's practically pre-trained so not much for me to do here haha. 
I have a lot of work to do here. The branch here is incredible! So many young families!!! 
It warms my soul seeing the fruits of so many missionaries. What a strong people!!! 
I have a lot to learn. I am going to grow so close to my Savior I just know it. 
I am going to learn how to rely on Him fully and be guided by His Spirit. 

Keep us in your prayers! I love the emails and letters of support. 
You are just the best!!!!! Hugs and kisses! 
Unless you are male then that is not allowed hahaha 

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, December 7, 2015

Week 26 - December 7, 2015 I made a Russian Бабущка cry. . . .

     My dearest readers, 

I am very sad to admit that I made a Russian grandma cry yesterday! 
Because I'm getting transferred!!!! 
I'm leaving my first area and zone to go serve in Bezzi in Samara!!!! 
I am going to finish training a new sister. That's right, you heard me. I'm training!!! 
Wait it gets better. . . she's a native Russian speaker!!!!! 
Now I'm truly going to be immersed in the Russian culture! 

My District!

I am soooo nervous for all of the challenges and adventures that lie ahead. 
I have a lot of work to do, so keep me and my new companion, Sister Greshina, in your prayers!!!
I know that my Russian is just going to become exponentially better. 
Not only because I'll be senior companion, but also because I'll serve with a Russian. 
Thank goodness she already knows English pretty well. More good news, 
Elder Fletcher, from my first month in Russia, will be in my district, 
so at least I'll see one familiar face. And I'm much closer to the mission office so 
I'll get mail and packages much quicker. 

 I've seen so many miracles the past few days. I have been praying fervently 
ever since I could remember to have an overwhelming love for Balakovo. 
I can testify that I have received that love!!! I absolutely LOVE the members here! 
I am going to miss them so much! I haven't been able to tell in the past  
how much of an impact I've made on the area. Just yesterday, 
I felt so much love for and from the members that I just can't believe it! 

My heart isn't big enough for this! There is one young woman, Nastia, 
who I have gotten to know very well. She can sometimes be a punk ahha 
but I love her to pieces. Nastia, one of the only "youth" in the branch, 
was sitting next to me in sacrament meeting. We have gotten very close the past 4 months. 
I jokingly nudged her to go and bare her testimony during sacrament. She quickly declined. 
But after a while, the Spirit worked within her. While her mother was testifying, 
Nastia turns to me and says, "I love you. This is for you. I'll go first and then you go after me." 
This is the first time since I've been in Balakovo, and I'm sure much longer than that, 
that I saw Nastia go up and bare her testimony. I could not believe it. It was awesome!!!

What a great change! I know everyone in the room was surprised as well. 
I just love her so much and am so glad I got to know all these great members. 
One of the babyshkie whom I met with sometimes started crying as I said goodbye to her. 
I cannot believe how much I love these people. I need to come back to Balakova, 
at least in the next 5 years. 

There is a lot of change happening in the next few days. I leave Balakova on Wednesday. 
I know that my mission president was divinely inspired when he called me to this new area 
and with this new companion. I am going to learn and grow so much this next cycle. 
Man, I'm going to miss Sister Hansen so much. We have become the best of friends. 
I love her soooooooo much!! We have so much in common 
and we've gone through so much together. 
Luckily I'll see her in about 6 weeks for our visa trip, but still.

 My dear Sister Hansen!

The last few days have been really hard on us. 
I never understood the meaning of bittersweet until Sunday. 
It's honestly like leaving on a second mission!!!! 
I'm definitely leaving a huge chunk of my heart here in Balakova. 
The members here are just so incredible. No regrets. Every single second was worth it. 
I have to say goodbye to my district tonight at FHE. 
Luckily Sister Hansen is coming up to Samara with me to pick up her trainee. 
This is already a super long email, anyway. I love you all!!!

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, November 30, 2015

Week 25 - November 30, 2015 Thanksgiving!

 Dear Readers:

Sorry y'all I'm out of time. I love you!! 
The Church is true! The Book of Mormon will change your life! 
Here are excerpts from my letter to my mission president about my week:

It has been quite the week! We had splits, which is always a good time and learning experience. 
I loved working with the sisters and finding ways I can improve on being a more effective and diligent missionary. I have been trying to accept the Lord's will as my own. 

Sister Leavitt! The Sister Training Leader (Also sister Hansen's trainer)

Also, I made a beautiful realization this week. 
I have been praying for the longest time to have an overwhelming love for Balakova. 
While I thought I have not had that yet, Saturday at the branch activity and this morning, 
I realized that I LOVE the members here. 
That's all that matters when it comes to loving an area. I truly love the people here. 
I can't believe I would have lived my whole life not knowing them 
if I hadn't served my mission, especially here in Balakova. 
This has helped me through the hard times. I just have to have faith and hope! 

Oh my goodness, we've seen and INCREDIBLE miracle this week. Last Sunday, 
we weren't sure if our branch was doing anything for Thanksgiving since it is an American holiday. So I mentioned it to some of our beloved members and they said of course they do something. 
So with a week to get everything together, we set on having a Thanksgiving activity on Saturday. 

It was not looking good the whole week. 
People kept saying they would try to come but they weren't sure. 
We were so worried that there wouldn't be enough food and that no one would come. 
Saturday morning, we missionaries were scrambling to find things to get the activity together. 
We planned for 3:30. A few people came with some treats. 

The beginning of Thanksgiving

Then, just 50 minutes later, 
the branch building is full of people and the table is overcrowded with delicious treats. 
It was a hard week, so this made all of the struggles worth it. 

I've never felt so happy and full of love and gratitude in my entire life! 
I was missing home since Thanksgiving is one of our big family activities. 
I discovered that I have a new family, here in Russia. Truly a miracle! 
Balakova hasn't had a branch activity in 10 months.. Yet it took only one week, 
many determined members, and the Lord's approval for this miracle to happen! So cool!

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, November 23, 2015

Week 24 - November 23, 2015 Thanksgiving is BEFORE Christmas!

    My dearest readers,

Thank you so much for your love and support each week. 
I appreciate the prayers on behalf of me, my family, and the people I serve. Prayer works! 
Sometimes it just needs time, but an answer will always come!

​Hipster photo of Balakova

This week has been pretty interesting haha. 
We have this great referral from one of our eternal investigators Misha, 
who just recently was drafted in the army, and her name is Enessa. 
She is seriously so incredible! We first met her a couple weeks ago. 
She really wants to learn English so she agreed to meet with the missionaries. 
She knows that we can only teach doctrinal lessons. 
She's very believing and is seriously the sweetest! 
We met last Tuesday at this super hip cafe. 
We weren't able to have the lesson we prepared 
but we were able to build a stronger relationship with her and learn more about her. 
She comes to English Club and is always so nice. She's super cute and is like 6'1". 
We really feel like there is so much potential with her! 
She even agreed to go to our Thanksgiving activity!

On the Volga

So, to finally explain my heading. My dear, sweet, lovely, obedient, 
beautiful companion thinks that it's okay to put up the Christmas tree ON Thanksgiving!!! 
Like after they eat dinner!!!!
 Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Christmas just as much as the other toy elf, 
but I am a firm believer in waiting until the day after Thanksgiving to start decorating. 
The Lord says to every thing there is a time and a season. That goes for holidays, too!!! 
Poor Thanksgiving is the middle child of all holidays. 
I am just a defender for all those who are forgotten. Anywhoo, we are SUPER excited, 
because we are planning a super last-minute Thanksgiving activity for this Saturday. 
We weren't sure they celebrated Thanksgiving here so we didn't bring it up. 
Turns out they do something every year since the missionaries 
(who are a huge part of the branch) are always American haha. 
So we are going to have a spiritual thought, then eat some yummy food, 
then some music. Lol trying to figure out Thanksgiving music.. . .That will be interesting. 

Let it snow!!!

It snowed like crazy on Friday! It was almost up to my knees at some areas. 
It's seriously sooo beautiful. The cold weather is really rubbing off on me. 
Now 50 degrees is like perfect weather. Beanies are great and so are cute booties! 
I mean I still love the beach and California and all. 
It's actually pretty fun to see people's reaction when I tell them I'm California. 
They think it's the coolest thing ever. Sad part is that I've lost my tan completely! 
I feel pretty pale, but Sister Hansen always reminds me 
how much darker I am than most people here lol. 

My first snow angel!

Anywhoo I know this is a pretty long letter, but that's alright. 
I guess what I'd like to share is that I know that the Book of Mormon is the Word of God. 
Just read 3 Nephi 17. It's probably one of the most beautiful chapters recorded 
of Jesus Christ in all the history of the world. 
You just feel the love the people have for our Savior, 
and the love that the Savior has for us. He truly is incredible. 

I love the Lord, I love my family, I love the Russian people, and I love you all!!!

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Week 23 - November 16, 2015 Stake in Saratov

      My Dearest Readers, 

HURRAH!!!! We did it!!!!
It's been about 25 years since the church was first introduced to the people of Saratov. 
That means for 25 years, members and missionaries alike have been diligently working so that 
there could be a stake in Saratov. What a great blessing it is for me to play a tiny part in this effort. 
I'm lucky enough to partake of the fruits of all these labors. 
These members totally deserve this stake! It's incredible. 
Seeing all of the priesthood leaders be called and sustained was a great experience. 

My favorite part of the whole experience was the bus ride to and from Solnichni.
The church hired a bus to take the members from Balakovo and Marks to the conference.
So many strong members. It was about a 3 hour drive.
I spent most of the time talking to one of the members, Настя.
She's my age and is super tiny ahaha. And super sassy. But luckily we love each other.
It's crazy to think I'm developing the skill to communicate with a whole new nation! Super cool!
We had a good time talking about random things. Then on the way back, Света, her mom,
brought Kolbaca and bread for us to eat afterwards. Within the 3 hours span we were in the meeting,
it had snowed like crazy!!! It was a beautiful winter wonderland!! 

On Friday, we had our Zone Training. It was such a spiritual experience.
There are 24 missionaries in my zone. They are all so great and inspiring.
It started on a note of repentance. Repentance is real. It's the main thing God
and our Savior ask of us.
Have faith and repent and then the kingdom of Heaven is ours for eternity!!
What a marvelous promise!We need to repent everyday. 
Even just having a righteous desire is enough for Christ. Rely on Him!!!!

   Fun Facts:
  - I dyed Sister Hansen's hair. .. . twice.. .. in one day. I felt like I was back at BYU when Whitney
     was the one dying my hair! So that was a fun experience!
  - Ran away from our first drunk guy. No worries, it was in the middle of the day, he was super old,
     and didn't run after us. Don't worry beloved parents haha. I'm safe :]
  - We and the Elders are going to learn how to make Borsche at a member's house today.
     Super stoked!!!! 
  - Elder Dorius, my District Leader, now has the second worst photo of me in existence.
     I fell asleep on the bus ride home. He and this member got a great shot. 
     My mouth was hanging for all flies to settle. Yeah.. . .  

I love you all!!! Stay safe and beautiful!!!

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, November 9, 2015

Week 22 - November 9, 2015 Get Ready to Go Camping, Cause There's Gonna be a Stake!

           My Dearest Readers, 

Yup, you heard me. The 3rd stake in Russia will be in Saratov!!!! 
HURRAY!!!! My mission president came to Balakovo this past weekend 
to visit with the members and bring the great news! 
The stake will be made official this Sunday when we are in District Meeting. 
The Balakovo branch will be going to one of the meetinghouses in Solnitchny (Sunny). 
It's pretty exciting stuff! They are even getting their own Patriarch. 
This is a HUGE deal because all the members had to wait once a year 
for the other Patriarch to come in order to get their Patriarchal blessings. 
What a treat that is! I will never forget the sacrament meeting 
when our branch president announced the stake. 
Gasps of joy and astonishment filled the room, along with a powerful Spirit. 
These people truly deserve the blessings of a stake. 
They and every person in the area, will be greatly blessed because of this huge step. 
Next on the agenda is a temple!!! I hope and pray they announce a temple in Saratov, 
Russia in one of the following conferences!!!! They are ready and deserving!!! 
So say lots of prayers! 

It was so great to have President Schwab with us for a little bit in Balakovo. 
We've been having a pretty rough time. None of our investigators are progressing, 
we contact on the streets for hours on end, and we just don't feel like 
we were accomplishing anything. He gave Sister Hansen and me really great counsel. 
I know that he was called of God to serve our mission! 
I also know that the Prophet Thomas S. Monson and the First Presidency 
are inspired men of God and absolutely CANNOT say anything contrary to the will of the Lord. 
Jesus Christ leads this church through these men. This is Christ's church. 
I know and testify of this truth in his name. 

The most beautiful part of the message I share every day is 
that you don't have to take my word for it, 
or your bishop's or some random professor at Oxford. 
You can know for yourself these divine truths through prayer. I know that prayer works. 
I also know that you will not receive an answer to your prayer 
if you don't do the things the Lord asks of us. 
BUT If you do what He has taught the children of men for centuries now, 
then you will receive an answer. God lives. 
I know this as much as I know that I live. He loves us. 

I am super short on time so I'll just do highlights, 
or copy and paste from family emails lol:

              -We gave out 7 copies of the Book of Mormon this week.  
                That's a record of my whole three months in Russia. 
              -I totally threw it down, like Abinadi status, at our first institute on Friday. 
              -I translated for President Schwab's daughter. 
                Shout out to my homegirl Sister Foote for translating a few weeks ago!! 
                You da tru MVP! Love ya! 
              -I am slowly figuring out what I want to do for the rest of my life. . .. . very slowly. 
              -Read Alma 36, 37, and 38. Great chapters. 
                Chapter 38 is really great for return missionaries.

I know that everything I am going through is to help me be a stronger person. 
Have hope! Believe in Christ! The blessings will come. 

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, November 2, 2015

Week 21 - November 2, 2015 Oh, the Places You'll Go!

     My Dearest Readers, 

What a great week! First off, the visa trip. Man oh man, what a great time! 
So we leave on Tuesday to Samara. It's about a 4-5 hours drive. 
Elder Dorius (in my district for 10 weeks now), Sister Hansen, and I all had visa trips, 
plus all of Elder Dorius' MTC district (about 7 elders) and my MTC district 
(4 other sisters and 2 elders). Safe to say it was a party. 

It was amazing seeing my old district again, all but Elder Lee. 
I missed everyone soooo much!! Especially Sister Thomas. 
Apparently she had missed me just as much because her trainer 
said that she talked all about me haha. I love her. Just like I had hoped, 
Sister Hansen and Thomas became instant friends. It was just such a great reunion. 
All of the sisters in my MTC district will be serving with one another! 
In the same zone too! I'm the odd one out in Saratov, but that's okay! 

We had 13 missionaries in our visa trip group. We made it to Moscow, then Riga, 
then back to Moscow pretty safely. Even though we were only able to stay in the airports, 
Latvia is such a beautiful place! I'm definitely visiting when I come back to Russia. 
Somehow, an elder lost his ministerial slip, which allows us to stay in Russia legally. 
So he and another elder had to stay back in Moscow while the rest of us returned to Samara. 
It was super stressful. Normally all the missionaries make it back to our area haha. 
Luckily everything got sorted out and they are working hard right now in their respective areas. 
It was so crazy, because everyone except Sister Hansen would be going home the same time. 
Elder Dorius' district come back with me and my sisters. 
I had $12 fro-yo at the airport and it was soooo worth it. 
I missed out on T.G.I. Fridays hot wings so I'll remember that for next trip haha. 

We had a pretty busy rest of the week. When we were about to leave Samara, 
we managed to give a KM (book of mormon) to the taxi driver who was super nice. 
Then we had a lot of work to do, despite the fact that we haven't slept fully. 
It takes about a week or two to get back to the swing of things. 

So I saw absolutely NO Halloween costumes on Saturday! I was so bummed! 
So if you had an awesome Halloween costume, send me a photo! I'd love to see them! 
It was English Club on Halloween so our district bought a lot of candy and decorations. 
We then decorated the chalk board for kicks. 
The Elders got us cute little witch-hat-headbands to wear. 
It counts as a costume, right? We ended up having a good time. 

Sunday was cool because there was this broadcast for the Eastern Europe Area. 
A couple of the Seventy, Sister McConkie (who we met), 
and President Russell M. Nelson all spoke in the broadcast. It was cool. 
We watched it in sacrament meeting. 
It was all in Russian, but I got the gist of it. Good news! 
I can understand most of what people are saying in church now! 
Hurrah! President Nelson said something really cool about fasting, 
"Going hungry to help the hungry." It really put things into perspective. 
We don't know why they had the broadcast though. 
There is going to be a huge District Conference (like Stake conference) 
in two weeks where really important people are coming 
to speak to the members of the Saratov area. I am SO EXCITED!!!!! 
Maybe an apostle will come! We might get a stake!! AHHHHHHHH. 
Thankfully, since I'm in the Saratov district I can go to this meeting. 

Whelp, that's all for now. Exercise faith IN Jesus Christ. It's not easy, 
but it can work incredible miracles that will change your life! God lives. 
He loves you. Only good things come from God. 
He will hear your prayers and answer them! Trust me, I know. 

Much love
Cectpa Graham

Monday, October 26, 2015

Week 20 - October 26, 2015 "Sister Graham Style..."

      My dearest readers, 

Yup, another one of my favorite quotes from Constatine in English Club. 
So we all know that I talk with my hands all the time. I couldn't stop to save my life. 
Whelp my lovely district has been pointing it out all the time. 
Then Constatine started doing an impression of "Gangnam Style", 
but instead sang "Sister Graham Style." Man, I love Russians haha.

My district for last cycle and this cycle!! 

So I will be staying here in Balakova with Sister Hansen. WOO!!!! Man, 
when you and your companion just love each other, it's truly like one big fat sleepover. 
We have so much fun together. We also work our butts off as well. 
We are glad to have had that last cycle as a time of refining 
and molding us into better missionaries.

Our fav ice cream in Russia!

Now, we hope for this cycle to be a time of kicking butt! 
We are so pumped to be instruments in the hands of the Lord. It's not going to be easy. 
None of it has. Honestly, it can be really hard. We have really nice people here, and not so nice. 
But it's our job to give everyone the opportunity to hear the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. 
If you see any missionaries, wherever you are, say hi. Give them a chance to talk to you. 
Tell them that they are doing a great job. Maybe give them a snack or two (we love food).

On our way to Saratov for Conference 

Last week or so, I gave a quote from conference that I really liked. 
Here is a better more updated version: 
"What you have right no is not enough for the work that lies ahead. 
We don't need to be perfect. We just have to be good at getting better!" 
This quote is from Kim B.Clark in the Sunday Afternoon Session of General Conference.

Rockin' our fall looks 

I'm going on my first visa trip tomorrow. We are going to the Riga, Latvia airport. 
First we go to Samara, then Moscow, then Riga. Then reverse. 
It's a 23-hour trip of flying and lay-overs. It will be pretty cool to go out and about for a little bit. 
Sister Hansen has a visa trip with me. She'll finally meet my original district! 
I'll be seeing my dearest Sister Thomas from the MTC. I cannot wait to see her. 
I've missed her and my first district so much!!! I'll be spending most of this time studying, 
talking to people, and writing letters.

Me & The Fall

What has helped me cast out doubt and fears 
is getting on my knees and praying fervently for help. 
I distinctly remember doing this last week, and then it hit me. 
The Lord can work no miracle in me, 
if I am constantly going about not appreciating all the blessings He has already given me. 
I now find myself pleading for help, then expressing gratitude 
for all the miracles we have witnessed and praying for others around me. 
It has helped so much! I must admit, I had a slight feeling of disappointment 
when I found out I would be staying in Balakova. I let the difficulty of the area get to me.

Me & my Russian BOM
"The grass is always greener on the other side." Or maybe for me, 
"The field is always whiter in the other city." 
The Lord has promised us that EVERY area has a baptism. 
Every missionary has the opportunity to find, teach, and baptize. 
I am determined to be an instrument in the Lord's hand for the people here in Balakova. 
I want to love this area and be devastated when I have to leave. 
I know as I do all the things the Lord and this mission asks of me, 
then I will receive these great blessings 
and become like the sons of Mosiah and Alma the younger.

We found this place with cool tree lights 

The Lord is truly pouring out His Spirit on Balakova. We have witnessed so many miracles! 
While Lena was not baptized on Saturday, we discovered that people on the streets 
were just so much nicer to us. We've met some great children of God. 
We are working really hard to prove worthy of the Spirit of the Lord. 
We even got a baptismal date from that same potential investigator 
I called from the area book last cycle! We still have a lot of work to do, 
but I am confident that the Lord is softening the hearts 
of the people here and our hearts as well.

KFC With Sister Leavitt!! She is so great!

Also, I gave my first talk in sacrament yesterday! I was so nervous!!!! Luckily, 
each member of the branch is so loving and understanding. 
I spoke on why God gives us commandments. 
At length I came to the conclusion that God gives commandments 
because He is our loving Heavenly Father who desperately wants us to return to Him. 
This is His work and glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. 
Once we realize the characteristics of God, 
we will understand that every commandment is for our good and is from a loving, 
all-knowing Father. 

Whelp out of time, but Christmas is in two months!!! How did time fly? Isn't it still summer? 
The rain and snow would tell me otherwise. Stay beautiful and kind and lovely!!!

Sister Howe and Sister Hansen ft. a blue jacket and fur.  

Fun fact: You never notice how many people wear pants 
until all you can wear are skirts and dresses.

The first and probably only time we've worn pants in public 

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, October 19, 2015

Week 19 - October 19, 2015 Great week for Miracles!

     My dearest readers,

Man oh man, what a miraculous week! We have been blessed soooo much this week. 
I don't even know where to start. Well I have 20 minutes to catch you up on errthang that happened. 
So I probably won't write it all. 

I met Sister McConkie (1st counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency) 
this week at our Zone conference! Oh man, she is seriously so incredible. 
I was able to meet her and talk with her a little bit. Her husband is so great! 
He really knows how to relate to missionaries. What impressed me the most about 
Sister McConkie was how she interacted with the members after her training later Tuesday night. 
I had the opportunity to sit in since we were on splits. 
Even though she didn't understand a thing they said, she showed genuine love 
and care for these members. She talked with all that would approach her. 
She truly is Christlike. 

Elder Kacher of the Area 70 really laid down the law for our mission 
and how we can reach our goal of 40 baptisms between now and the end of this year. 
We have to exercise GREAT faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to be exactly obedient. 
Our attitude matters. It's not enough to just go through the actions. Faith without works is dead. 
Works without faith is dead(er). Sis. Graham original right there haha. It's so true though. 
When we just try and obey the commandments would actually believe in Christ, 
they are just hollow commitments. We must BELIEVE! 
Much good can come from the prayer of faith. I encourage everyone to study that topic. 
Enos, a prophet in the Book of Mormon is a great example of a prayer(s) of faith. 
We must pray for an answers, and then commit to that answer. 
One of my goals this week is to be more decisive. I need to commit to what I'm doing. 
I need to rely on the Savior in everything. 

Sooo many miracles this week: We have been praying so hard for miracles, 
and one big miracle specifically: that Lena (our investigator) will be baptized this Saturday. 
It's a hefty goal considering her extremely complicated life. She's had a lot of challenges in her life. 
We fasted yesterday in hopes that she will be qualified for baptism on Saturday. 
We've honestly received so many miracles this week! 

A couple weeks ago we dropped by this former's house who had a daughter 
who is actually a member, Sasha. We set up a return appointment so that we could meet Sasha, 
but later received a text that Sasha didn't want to meet with us. 
BUT we got a text the Thursday we returned from Saratov, that Sasha wan't to meet with us! 
Then on Friday we met her. She's such a gem!!! 

On Saturday, we had English club.  As of late, not that many people have been showing up, 
but this week we had so many people! Even a potential showed up. 
After English, Sister Hansen and I exercised faith and got over our fear of bus contacting 
by talking to these super cute girls. Turns out one speaks English super well, 
so we gave them restoration pamphlets with our info on the back. Hopefully they call! 
Also, we had so many less-actives show up to church on Sunday. 
We had 4 show up, plus an investigator. 
I know the Lord has been pouring out His Spirit on Balakova. We've been blessed in areas 
that we haven't even anticipated! 

Also, I had KFC last week in Saratov, where we did splits. Man I miss fried chicken. 
We are attempting to make some this week. Wish us luck!! 
Also I bought a winter coat. It's huge. But sooo warm. 
Everyone is Russia dresses soooo well in winter! Cute coats every which way. 
Also, all the babooshkas wear these bubble like hats. 

Please, if you have time, pray for our investigator Lena this week. 
We want her to be baptized this Saturday. It's definitely a HUGE leap of faith! 
I love you all sooo much. I love my darling companion Sister Hansen. 
We are going to do sooo many things together when we get home. 
SO glad we are together!

Next week I have tranfers and my first visa trip where I go out of the country
 for a day to get a new passport and visa. Maybe Ukraine or Latvia :D 
We will see. I'll keep you updated on where I go and who I serve with. 

Cectpa Graham