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

Monday, October 12, 2015

Week 18 - October 12, 2015 Let it Snow #Ponderize

     My dearest readers,

Whelp I can officially say I've been in a Russian snowstorm. 
It's getting super duper cold as of late. Kind of crazy. 
The first snowfall was on Wednesday and has been on an off ever since. 
This Southern Californian girl is far from home. But that's okay, I'm starting to like the cold. 
We drink herbal tea all the time here in order to stay warm. 
Plus we've mastered the corn chowder dish. 

Fun fact: So there is this general rule, that when you are a sister missionary 
and men/guys ask if you have a boyfriend you say yes. Whelp, I had never heard of it before. 
So when a guy from English club asked us if we had boyfriends and Sister Hansen said yes, 
I exclaimed: You do?? Thinking that she had been withholding valuable information from me. 
Only after the fact did this bright soul of yours truly understood why she said that. 
Now I have to come up with a fake boyfriend back in America. 
Maybe I'll just describe Captain America or Captain Moroni as my fake boyfriend. 
No one would be able to tell the difference, right?

I absolutely LOVED General Conference. 
That has seriously been one of the parts of my testimony that has grown the most. 
Prophets called of God truly speak to us as His mouthpiece today. 
Sister Hansen and I had been talking about the Second Coming a lot this last week 
so we were so intrigued seeing how much the people addressed it this conference. 
Kind of crazy. I was really impressed by the phrase 
"Your faith right now is not enough to withstand what lies ahead." 
It's incredible to see how humbled I needed to be before the mission. 
I honestly thought I was some hot shot who knows all about the gospel. 
I thought I didn't need strengthening when it came to gospel things. 
Man was I wrong. I have soooo much to learn. 
Thankfully Jesus Christ loves and accepts us for who we are today, 
not only who we can become. We all have this incredible potential. Everyone does.

Today we are going to Saratov for our zone conference and then splits for this cycle. 
We'll be hearing from and meeting Elder Cacher from the area 70 and 
Sister McConkie of the General Relief Society Presidency this week for a special zone conference. 
We want sooo badly for a stake here in Saratov. There is a special family night going on tonight. 
Hopefully there are enough members to make a statement! 
Hopefully the apostles approve a stake pretty soon. 
Things will really pick up here and in Russia in general if we do. Next step a temple!!! 

I don't have much time left, but I love you all. Thank you for your constant love and support. 
Please check out general conference. It will change your life. Always remember our Savior Jesus Christ. 
We are in perilous times right now. It's getting exponentially more difficult to be believing. 
We are all God's children. First love God, then love His children. 
I know that God has restored His gospel here on earth. We have living prophets who guide us today. 
No effort is in vain. 

S'Bogam (With God) and much love, 

Cectpa Graham

Monday, October 5, 2015

Week 17 - October 5, 2015 4 Months in- Coincidence? I think not!

       My dearest readers, 

I can't believe I've already hit my 4-month mark on a mission. Where did the time go? 
Days seem like years, but weeks seem like days. Then the month just flies by!

It's gotten sooo cold this past week.Good thing I bough the boots when I did. 
I also bought tights my first week so those are paying off right now. Tights are life-savers. 
Babooshky get mad when you don't wear enough clothing. They also rule the world. 
I'm going to buy winter stuff today, so hopefully we get some good deals.

We have this English Club where we talk to people in English and play games, 
and share a spiritual thought. When playing 2 truths and a lie, I say my beloved seagull story. 
This guy, Constantine, doesn't believe it. He knew of all my mosquito bites 
and when I tripped on the bus so his response was: "You got bit by mosquitos, a bus, 
and now a seagull? No girl could be so unlucky." 
Little did he know hahaha Russians are hilarious.

It's been a crazy week. We have seen some miracles for sure! I love Sister Hansen sooo much! 
We seriously have so much fun together. It's so important for us to rely on one another for help. 
We can do this alone! At the end of every day, Sister Hansen and I do a 
"my favorite thing about you today." It really helps me see 
that I've actually had an impact on this area and the people that live here. 
Satan doesn't want us to realize our potential or to see all the great things we are doing. 
Praising one another and expressing appreciation for each other's efforts is a way 
that the Lord strengthens us.

I've been working really hard on praying fervently for miracles, 
because we sure need them! 
There's no way the work here in Balakova will progress without miracles. 
One of the miracles that especially stuck out to me this week is 
when we were trying to stop by this member's home for a lesson. 
We literally went ALL around the city looking for it. 
First we went to this one place thinking it was right, only to find the right address across town. 
Then when we get there, we call the member and she says she lives in 14 not 114. 
So we go there and there's a completely different babooshka there. 
We call someone else to double check the address on the member list and he never calls back. 
Then we call our elders since it's in their area. 
At that very moment, our DL was looking at the ward list and had his finger on her name. 
Coincidence? I think not! 
Then he told us that she lives near them at a completely different address. 
So the elders tell us where to go. 
We finally find this lady's home and are welcomed by fruit tea and cookies. 
Not only that, this lady, Natasha, sat in on the lesson and shared how her daughter is dead 
and that she just feels so alone. We shared a little message that we can see our families again. 
It was such a miracle. We invited her to church. She didn't come because she had work, 
but we definitely are praying to meet with her again!

 Another great miracle was when we dropped by a random former investigator's home. 
She totally let us in and gave us tea. She has a cute little son who was totally freaked out by us. 
Turns out this mom, Larisa, has a daughter named Sasha, who was baptized last year! 
We've been trying to get in touch with her for the longest time. 
We made a return appt. so that we can meet Sasha. 
We are bringing a member who knows her so it will be great! 

Whelp I would write more but I've exhausted my fingers typing so much. I love you all soo much!!

Much love, 
Cecpta Graham

Ps: One of my favorite people on this side of the world, Cvyeta, says "Hello! I love you, 
Russia loves you, and Balakova loves you!" 
She's this awesome, youthful, babooshka(not really) who bakes like a master 
and goes contacting and works with us.