Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Week 8 - July 29, 2015 Schto Takoy! I'm Going to Russia!!!!

           My Dearest Readers,

AHJSKFGISDHJNKSAUFJSHDIOF!!!! I'm actually going to Russia. 
In less than a week I'll be walking on Russian soil, scared out of my whits, 
but determined to make a difference in someone's life. 
I have been waiting for this moment for such a long time. Just yesterday, 
I was packing my bags to go to BYU, now I'm packing my bags for Russia? 
Schto??? (What??)

Me & My Russian Flag

The word "yeah" has left my vocabulary completely and all I can utter is "da!" 
I honestly cannot believe that I have learned a whole new language in just 9 mere weeks. 
I guarantee that I am not fluent. But I definitely know that the Lord has truly 
blessed me with the gift of tongues. 
I could not have done any of this without God's grace and my Savior. 
It's incredible. I have been soooo humbled this past week.

Me & Other Sister Missionary

I managed to go 8 weeks without having a mental breakdown. 
But I definitely was humbled through various experiences. I'm not going to lie. It was rough. 
The beautiful thing about it though is that through our trials, we are made stronger. 
Through sorrow, our hearts are stretched so 
that they have the capacity to love more than ever before. 
This video perfectly describes what I have been feeling 
and what I have learned through others. 
I know countless examples of those who go through trials 
and come out much stronger than ever before. 
This is all possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ:

             Now for updates on my mission life:

Last Wednesday, we have this thing called TRC 
which allows missionaries to teach members 
once a week in their mission language. 
We taught this wonderful RM with a great Spirit. 
We taught about the Atonement how it helps us though trials. 
He then told us about how he just found out that his little 4 year-old niece 
just went to the hospital for cancer. He promised us that he would share his testimony 
on the Atonement with them. Cectpa Foote and I were just ecstatic to know that our little, 
simple lesson could have helped someone. Truly helped someone! 
Why I was sooo happy that I was flinging my ring of little flashcards around afterwards. 
All of a sudden the ring comes undone and all 100+ flashcards fly across the room. 
Don't you worry my friends, Cectpa Graham is still that unfortunate clutz.

Our Fav Service Project EVER 

Monday, we did a Skype TRC with a native Russian speaker. 
The past two times we had done it, 
we OWNED it. Then this time we had a real bAbooshka. 
Emphasis on the A please. She corrected every word we said. 
We understood nothing of what she said and just said 
whatever we hoped would respond properly.

Schtooooo? We are going to Russia and the Baltics?!?!?!?!?! 

Then she prayed for us. I broke down in the middle of the lesson. It was gold. 
Then she kept talking for 5 more minutes, we thought she was insulting our language skills. 
We later find out from my teacher that our lesson went super well!! 
We responded appropriately and she thought I was crying because of the Spirit. hahaha. 
I fooled them haha. The time she spoke after the prayer was just her giving us 
a traditional bAbooshka blessing. You know the one where they bless you with many sons 
and a good husband and fruitful loins and what not hahaha. 
She actually lives in my mission and was telling me to visit her ASAP.

 Our Otkroog (District) 

The devotionals here are superb. I honestly love it so much. 
We found out yesterday that they will probably have an apostle come speak to them.. . 
the day after we leave. I was sad and upset. But God called me to this mission, 
at THIS time for a reason. I have to trust in God's timing. 
I need to put my expectations aside and follow the Savior's example 
and align my will with the Father's will. 

I love everyone so much. I am really going to miss my Cectpa Foote. 
She is going to a different area than me. We have grown so close. 
She knows me sooooooo well. I love my district and all the friends I've made. 
I'm excited to make new friends and makes new memories. It's soooo sad knowing 
that I went to the temple for the last time in the next 16 months.

Us With The Young-ins'  Vladivostok Will Be Lucky!

Going every week (except during temple cleaning) has truly blessed my life. 
Go to the temple. Be worthy to go to the temple. 
If you aren't a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 
then go to the visitor's center. It's beautiful. 
Not having a temple in Russia just motivates me more to help the people 
get one as soon as possible. 
I love you all sooooooo much. I truly do. 
I won't be able to email next week. But I'll write back soon enough.

If you love me, then watch this video. This is why I'm serving!!!! 

Wish me luck!!!!

Manoga lubov, (much love)
Cectpa Graham

p.s.: my name in russian cursive looks like "cempa Spam"

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Week 7 - July 22, 2015 12 Days Left In My Mother Land...

     My Dearest Readers,

     Wowsers, I can't believe it! I have just 12 days left here in the U.S. 
We get our travel plans on Friday. 
I anticipate a 30+ hour travel time. Won't that be fun? 
At least trips to Taiwan have prepared me for all this craziness. 
I feel bad for those who have NO idea what's about to happen haha. I am beyond excited, 
but I am super duper nervous. 
I just realized that I will be away from all that is familiar for 16 months! So crazy!

My favorite people so far. .. . St. Petersburg is one lucky mission. . . 

We are pretty restless here. Our good friends, Elder West, Crookshank, and Larsen,
 left for St. Petersburg on Sunday. Kind of hard to believe that they are in Russia! 
You could could say we notice their absence.

The last Breakfast with our Elders 

The MTC is great and all, but I just want to be out there in the field getting to work! 
Our teacher reads us her emails from when she served in St. Petersburg. 
It just makes us want to go there so much more!!! We really are just on the downhill climb. 

Honestly, things kind of have been blending together. Nothing life-changing in a while. 
We watched the talk Characters of Christ by Elder David A. Bednar again on Sunday. 
I seriously love that talk. 

This time, I learned a lot more on the difference between having a testimony 
and being truly converted. 
People with testimonies fall away from God. People who are truly converted endure to the end. 

I hope to be truly converted. One major way we can do this is to learn about, 
and become the character of Christ. Which is turning outward. 
Every time you are having a rough time, or that you are just feeling down. 
Stop thinking about yourself and help someone else. 
Christ turned outward when you and I would turn inward.

Selfishness is something I really want to work on. 
It is sooooo easy to just focus on yourself and your needs, 
especially if you are going through a trial in your life. 
We have been seasoned to only think about ourselves. 
But we really need to be mindful of all of those around us. 

Every single one of us is going through a trial right now. Every one of us has a story. 
Let's do each other a favor and just help each other, love one another. 
I have a lot to learn, but I am going to make it my priority to have the character of Christ, 
which is also known as charity. 

If you read Alma 26 and Alma 29 in the Book of Mormon, 
it's so applicable to what we are doing as missionaries. 
Especially Alma 29 for me as a Russian missionary. 
Even the best of best missionaries got discouraged. 
Through God and Christ's atonement, we can do everything!

I love you all soooo much. Your support is incredible. I have felt your love so much. 
I pray for you all everyday! Stay wonderful!

Much Love, 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Week 6 - July 15, 2015 Missing Everyone!

 My Dearest Readers,

I don't have that much time to write today, 
but know that I love you all so much and pray for you often!

Russians singing at the Temple on Sunday

On July 10th, the missionaries were able to watch President Boyd K. Packer's funeral. 
Even though we haven't had any apostles come and speak to us yet, 
it was really nice to be apart of the service for such a master teacher and loving apostle.

He's the one that helped work on all the footnotes in the scriptures that cross-reference 
from the Bible to the Book of Mormon and other books of God. 
It is because of him that I have been able to develop such a 
wonderful testimony of the scriptures.

Some of our zone with the flag upside down

It's official. I'll be in Russia in less than 3 weeks!!!!! 

Our favorite people here... they leave Monday :[

I can't believe it. Sometimes I still wonder what in the world am I going to be doing? 
I don't know anything about Russia! How is this little ol' me going to make a difference? 
I'm also super stoked about all the crazy things that I'll encounter in Russia. 
They say that most of the strongest members of the church are in Russia. 
I think it's by virtue of the tough lives they live. You have to be tough to survive Russia. 
I can't wait to become the person Heavenly Father intended me to be.

​Me and sister Thomas with our class

I'm definitely being humbled here. I need to work harder and obey more perfectly. 
It's hard to believe I've finished my 6th week here at the MTC. 
I have never made my bed so much in my entire life!!!! We are getting more Russians today, 
17 in our branch. One of which was a friend from BYU, Elder Foote. 
Cectpa Foote would care less about having another Foote but I think it's hilarious. 
Two feete in the Russian zone hehe.

A lovely blurry photo of the sisters in my district and our two teachers

We are saying goodbye to our teacher Sister Allred. She is amazing. 
She has helped Cectpa Foote and I a lot when we have our little meltdowns. 
She is going back to where she served her mission in Ukraine 
and then visit the Baltics where her brother served. She will be missed greatly.

We love singing!

I honestly have no idea what else to share, other than I love the scriptures. 
Each time I study, I feel like what I read applies exactly to me or those around me. 
I have a lot of work to do to be more Christlike, but I know that I can get there. 
I need to trust in the Lord and know that His grace is sufficient for me. 
With Him I can get through all the trials that are set before me. 
If we are having a hard time, it's only because He is trying to mold us into something more.

I love you all so darn tootin much! Write me, keep me updated!!!!!

Much love, 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Week 5 - July 8, 2015 Beautiful Mistakes

My Dearest Readers, 

   Wow. What a week. I've learned so much that it's hard to choose what to include in this email. 
First of all, Happy Fourth of July!! We were fortunate enough to celebrate it with a special 
devotional on Saturday night. 

    Sis. Foote was asked to carry the Latvian flag since she is going to the Baltics. 
I was able to join her 
in the flag "parade" for the devotional. We just got a good laugh from it. 
Some poor souls had to carry a piece of paper with their flags on it.  
We were just flag we didn't have to share it. 
   The devotional was really cool. After, the missionaries were able to stay up "late" 
and watch fireworks. 
I stayed up a solid hour later than normal: 11:30pm. It was great haha. 
I felt like such a rebel while I drank a whole bottle of root beer at 11pm. I seriously love all the Russian missionaries. We are all such oddballls.  It's fantastic. 

Friday was our halfway mark in the MTC. We had been in the MTC exactly a month. 
Now just one more month to go, then I'll be on a plane to Russia! 
I don't think it's hit me yet that I'm leaving everything that is familiar and comfortable in the states 
to a completely foreign country. 

As scary as this can seem, I know exactly why I'm doing this. I thought about this last night 
when we were discussing the devotional (or talk/sermon from a general authority of the church). 
I am serving a mission because I want to help bring people closer to their Savior, Jesus Christ. 

This knowledge has helped me so much in my life that it's the least I can do. Luckily, 
I'm doing the Lord's work. Which means that He won't let me fail. Of course I'll make mistakes. 
It's impossible not to. 
But there is beauty  in making mistakes. I am so grateful to the Lord for allowing me 
to learn from my mistakes. 
Some things just can't be learned without first trying unsuccessfully.The best part is 
that despite all my shortcomings, the Lord makes up the rest. Not only that, 
He helps us along the way, every step of the process. God's hand is in our lives. 
We just can't see it.

I really do love the MTC. It's incredible. 
Yes, it is super difficult and can feel like a pressure cooker. 
Yes, I can sometimes be frustrated with the language. 
Yes, I have eaten every meal they have to offer in the cafeteria. 

          But there is such a wonderful spirit about this place. Everyone here is worthy to attend 
the Holy House of the Lord. Everyone here just wants to help people. 
We are the 2,000 stripling warriors of which Helaman guides in Alma chapter 56. Each of us 
have made a decision to leave our loved ones, scholarships, career opportunities, 
marriage proposals - you name it -  to serve God and His children. 

Wow. Eighteen year old boys and nineteen year old girls roam these halls 
with such power and authority. 
Yes, we are young and naive. Yes, we are immature. 
But hasn't worked greater miracles than this? 

  If God can turn water into wine, have manna appear from nowhere, make 16 stones into lamps, 
divide the Red Sea, can't He also make use of us weak things? 
By small and simple things are great things come to pass. In choir practice on Sunday, 
our choir director, Ryan Eggett (the coolest person ever!), 
taught us something really special. 
Heavenly Father is so proud of us for serving a mission. We will never understand how much. 
He is just as proud when we reach out a helping hand, or befriend someone new. 

We are all God's children. How do you feel when you see one your kids helping another 
beloved child? Or maybe your child is the one sitting alone at the lunch tables, 
and another inspired soul sits next to them and keeps them company? 
Is that not love? God feels that way towards every single person on this earth. 
That person who passes you by on the street is a child of God. 
That person in line in front of you at the grocery store is a child of God. We are all different. 
But that's the beauty of it. No person is identical. Yet we are all of divine heritage. 
There is great power in this. 

Fast Sundays are always great in the MTC. We get to have mission conference in the morning, 
which is just another devotional but from our MTC Presidency, and an evening devotional. 
I was able to bear my testimony in Russian on Sunday. Simple but true. 

The Spirit could not be restrained that day. The evening devotional was so cool! Jenny Oaks Baker, 
a renown violinist and the daughter of Elder Dallin H. Oaks, gave a wonderful presentation. 
She went on in the various ways God has touched her life through music and personal revelation. 
Then she and her 4 children performed beautiful arrangements. 
I hope my kids can be musically talented. 
It made me think a lot about my dear Whitney Haddock. 
I would watch her perform a lot at BYU this past year. 

I love people. So much. I am so grateful to be surrounded by such great servants of the Lord. 
Of course I miss everyone back home and abroad. I pray and think about you all everyday!

            Tuesday night devotional was incredible. I feel so spiritually edified. Spencer J. Condie gave a wonderful talk on Joseph Smith and the First Vision. 
Wow. Joseph Smith Jr., a simple young man, saw our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. 
He spoke to them. All he asked was to know which church to join, 
but through his outstanding faith, 
He saw God. This actually happened. 

This is what started it all. Almost two hundred years have gone by and yet this vision still stands, 
just as immaculate at when it first occurred. 15 million members of the restored gospel, 
humanitarian aid  around the world offered, and a simple girl from Southern California 
going to Russia are results from this man's testimony and hard work.
It has to be true. If not, then all I have done my entire life has been a sham. I can tell you right now, 
it is not a sham. I am putting my life on the line for 18 months because of what occurred 
that day in that sacred grove. 
If you don't believe me, "ask God, He was there. He will tell you!"

God answers our prayers. 

It's so easy to blame other people or outside forces as to why we can't achieve a certain goal 
or why something doesn't work out in our lives.
Sometimes people even blame God for the trials in our lives. It's understandable. 
But what we sometimes forget is that someone else is trying to bring us down. 
There are opposing forces to righteousness. Satan is real. He has some power. 

However, God is real. Jesus Christ lives
They love us so much! God is our Heavenly Father. 
That means that He cares for us just as you care for your own children, 
or your parents care for you. 
If you don't have the best relationship with your parents, 
just know that you have a Father in Heaven 
who loves you and cares you so much, beyond your own comprehension and mine. 

Don't give up. We have a Brother who gave His life for us."Greater love hath no man than this, 
that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you." 
John 15:12-15. All He wants us to do is to come unto Him. 
Partake of the rich and wonderful blessings 
He has so freely offered to us. 

I would apologize for the length of this email or the outright testifying I have done, but I'm not sorry. 
This is what I believe and this is how I feel. If you wish to not receive any more updates I totally understand. This is honestly like a weekly journal for me. 
t's only going to get more interesting when I'm finally in Russia. 
I have a feeling I'll have some great stories to tell. I mean, I have been bit in the face by a seagull, 
and that was in the comfort of Zuma beach! 

I love you all so much! Seriously I do. Keep me updated on your life. 
I love getting letters (i've had a severe lack of this past week but that's okay, I still love you). 
Stay wonderful!

Much Love, 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Week 4 - July 1, 2015 Sailors Don't Ask Questions

 My Dearest Readers,

 Cannot believe I've been serving a mission for a month now. How crazy is that? 
We didn't see the prophet or any apostles. We were convinced at least one would talk to us 
since so many would be here anyway. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to trust in the Lord's timing. 
Cectpa Foote and I are just praying to have an apostle talk to us at least once our MTC stay. 
It stunk since we just missed Elder Holland and Elder Christofferson two weeks 
before we came here to the MTC. 
My beautiful cectii

So we had one of the new mission presidents teach us a lesson on Thursday and Friday. 
We were combining with another class. . . of Spanish speaking missionaries. 
The mission president came and could ONLY speak Spanish. 
It's safe to say we Russian speakers were thoroughly confused. I just laughed to myself. 
Luckily Spanish is close to English, and we had a translator. 

Candid photo of us and our Chinese pengyou (friends) 

It was amazing to see the impact the church has had worldwide. 
President Laboriel was so passionate 
about the gospel. He inspired me to just get out there and share the gospel with all my might. 
On Friday a general authority of the Seventy sat in with us, Elder Falabella, I think. 
He told us to ask the right questions and others will know the truth for themselves. 

Cectpa Foote and I got our first investigator to commit to baptism!!!!! 
We are soooooo excited and shocked. She is great. 
Although, now I'm just nervous about preparing her for baptism. I only know how to teach the 
Restoration in Russian! I feel like I'm starting from square one again.
Cecpta Foote did my hair 

We are teaching all of our investigators the Plan of Salvation. We have no idea what to say. 
It is so hard. i got a little discouraged, but Cectpa Foote and I have gotten way better about 
not getting down on ourselves. I can definitely be ambitious sometimes. 
I guess it's just not possible to know how to master the Russian language in a month. 
Oh well haha.

I seriously cannot wait to help the people I meet in the next 17 months. 
I've realized that this whole month, I haven't been doing much to help those around me. 
I'm serving a mission, but have i served any people? I'm going to make more of an effort 
to serve my district and friends. Today I made a couple sisters' beds. It's small but it still counts.
More love with sister Hullinger at the temple 

Serve others. It will make a difference in your life. 
I love the Book of Mormon. It is incredible. I love to read the scriptures. 
It's nice to know that there are such wonderful people who have walked this earth. 
I love my Savior. He is amazing. He knows each and every one of us. 
I've come to realize that I need His Atonement and grace every waking hour. 
Last week I talked about needing the Atonement. I know that everything I've accomplished 
since being here is due to my Savior. 

Our soon-to-be Taiwan, Taichung bound friends 

Hope is so important. If I didn't have hope to live with God again and see those I love again, 
then I would not be a happy soul. There are so many good scriptures on hope. 
I love 2 Nephi 2 and 2 Nephi 4 and 2 Nephi 9. Such great scriptures. 

I feel like this week wasn't all that exciting haha. Nothing new to share. 
Our teacher taught us a new phrase. "Sailors don't ask questions." 
It was random, but apparently it's a Russian saying. I love my friends here. 
I definitely feel fortunate to know such wonderful people. We all have our struggles. It's okay. 
Heavenly Father puts things in our path, because He knows what we are capable of doing. 
He knows I can teach in Russian. 

The strangers who asked to take a photo with us 

I love you all. Thank you so much for helping me through your letters and emails of encouragement. 
Just one more left then I'll go to the motherland!!! Can't wait!