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