Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Week 33 - January 25, 2016 Meeting with the Patriarch

           Dear Readers:

Man, what an incredible week!! So many good things have happened, 
honestly it's so incredible. So I'm not sure how much time I have again 
since I'm in an internet cafe soooo we will see. 
Last time I had to resend from the branch building. Well here are some highlights. 
I saw my beloved Sister Hansen again this week for the visa trip. 
It was definitely the highlight of my year!! She is soo darn tooin great, 
we truly are going to be besties for the resties haha. She is leaving Balakova 
and is filling in  Saratov somewhere. 
We had a great time catching up and just enjoying one another's company.

Me and the bestie finally reunited!! 
We definitely screamed and tackled each other hehehe...

It's been such a wonderful, busy week! I don't even know where to start. 
First off, I'm glad that we were all prepared these past few months with the CO2 detectors. 
Seriously HUGE MIRACLE! Who would have thought that the simple act of hearkening to the counsel given from our leaders would actually save our lives. Safe to say, I know that the Lord gives no commandment save for a wise purpose, that purpose only He knows (1 Nephi 9:5-6). 

The missionaries all met together in our first mission wide conference 
with the Eastern European Patriarch. What a great experience. 
I learned so much from that meeting. Oh dear I'm soo stressed, 
not enough time to write it all down. Well, in short, I just was so filled with inspiration 
from that meeting with him, and also the world wide missionary training. 
All the samara missionaries got together and watched it. We ordered pizza, it was awesome. 
Too many great things to record. Sorry that this letter is super rushed 
I just want to be able to send it out. 


Man, it has been incredible working with Sister Mckell. 
It's been a great experience so far working with her and really talking with people on the street. 
On Wednesday, our first full day together, we passed out 4 copies of the Book of Mormon. 
That is because we are actually talking with people. Not just talking at people. 
We have met so many great people and have been seeing so many incredible miracles. 
I'm trying to think of ways we can work on being more exactly obedient as a companionship, 
and I can't think of any. I know personally for me, it's probably to not be so "casual" 
in my language with other missionaries. I'll have to work on that. 

Me and Sister Mckell!!!! Ain't she the cutest?!?!?!

Thanks for all the handwritten letters I got this week! 4 this week. 
I felt soooo loved!!! You are all the best. Love you all!!!

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, January 18, 2016

Week 32 - January 18, 2016 Visa Trip!

         My dearest readers, 

Hulloo!!! Whelp I have a lot I would like to write about, but only 15 minutes. 
Let's see how many words per minute I can typo. Don't ask me what mine is in Russian. 
It's something like the degree of the weather right now, which isn't too shabby. 
Maybe in Celsius, which is like -17. sooo you get the point. 

Note to anyone who lives in Russia. 
Do not hang dry your wet scarf outside in your enclosed balcony. 
Your clothes will still freeze hahaha Don't worry it was fine.

Whelp I got my transfer call on Saturday. I will be staying here in Bezzi 
and will be "killing" Sister Mckell. To translate from missionary language to normal people talk, 
it means that this is Sister Mckell's last 6 weeks in Russia, on her mission, so I'll be her last companion. HOLLAH! Honestly, this is a dream come true! I met her my first day here in Russia. She had come up to me that day and said, "Sister, I don't know why, but I just have this feeling 
we're gonna serve together!" 5 months later, and here we are! What a miracle. 
I can't wait to learn so much from her! 
She's actually a member of our future all-girls indie-folk band 
named Борис that Sister Hansen and I are making.

Our last district photo together. . . .
Without Elder Fletcher haha He was out getting food somewhere. 
We'll be saying goodbye to Sister Grishina and Elder Vandermark. 

Speaking of Sister Hansen, I'll be seeing her tonight!! 
We are going on our visa trip together!! 
9 or so hours on a cramped bus together to Kazakstan is going to be the BEST!! 
I miss her soooo much!! Seriously. She's my best friend. I can't wait to be reunited!!! 
Yeah, missionaries are no longer going on 4 different plane rides for visa trips now. 
We are just going to be in a bus with about 13 other missionaries with no bathroom breaks lol. 
YAY! It's okay, at least I got to see Riga just once. That will be tomorrow! 

This is me and sister Palmer, the younger. 
The girl on the right is the mission president's daughter Jenni who served in  Minnesota. 
She is serving here with her parents until they finish in June

Also, there is going to be this special missionary broadcast 
where the 12 apostles will be training all the missionaries world-wide. 
We'll be watching it on Friday morning as a district since the actual broadcast 
is past missionaries' bedtime here in the Motherland. 

Here are the sisters we went on splits with last week. 
Sister Warnick, Sister Wagstaff, and me. Ft. Elder Buck. 

Hmm, I'm trying to figure out something about last week to share, 
or something super spiritual. Honestly, all I can say is that you will definitely have times 
where you don't think you'll see the end. you'll have times where you just feel completely alone. 
And maybe as a missionary, you'll want to go home, 
because when you are home you won't have any problems (not true haha). 
BUT, if you rely on the Lord. If you turn to Him. He will lift you up. Keep praying. 
Keep going. Do your best every day and it will be enough. 
If you have to take it one day at a time, one hour at a time. Then do it. Just keep going! 
I love Elder Dallin H. Oaks' talk in last general conference, 
"Strengthened by the Atonement of Jesus Christ." I recommend everyone read it. 
We can do this! 

Yeahhhh this is after just one hour out morning contacting. . .
yes my hair is frozen, and so is the fur on my jacket. I love Russia. 

I'd like to close with Sister Neill F Marriott in her talk "Yielding Our Hearts to God" 
in general conference, " When we offer our broken heart to Jesus Christ, 
He accepts our offering. He takes us back. No matter what losses, wounds, 
and rejection we have suffered, His grace and healing are mightier than all. 
Truly yoked to the Savior, we can say with confidence, 'It will all work out.'"

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, January 11, 2016

Week 31 - January 11 2016 Я не Понедельник . . .

       My dearest readers, 

How are you all doing? Thank you so much for the weekly love and support! 
I really appreciate it! It really is crazy how much time flies. 
Я не понедельник  means "I don't Monday." 
It's a common phrase amongst missionaries. 
It just shows how much we don't know Russian haha. 

It's been a great week. Splits are so much fun! 
You get to work with other sisters and different areas. Penza is a beautiful city. 
It's like a stretched-out small city, if that makes any sense. Their area is huge! 
Makes me appreciate having smaller areas. 
I couldn't imagine navigating around by myself.

 I was able to work with Sister Warnick. She was at BYU the same time I was, 
so we have a lot of things in common. Actually our personalities are pretty similar. 
I could see myself serving with her in the future. On Tuesday, 
we went out contacting for two hours and made a goal to give out 1 KM. 
We went out without much visible success. Just as we were on our way home, 
we contacted this babooshka. I didn't understand exactly what she said, 
but it was something along the lines of being a Muslim and not wanting a brochure. 
So we wished her a happy new year and kept walking. Then after a few seconds 
Sister Warnick turns around. Turns out that same babooshka was calling after us. 
She has a friend whom she wants to give the brochure to. She even took a KM! 
That's the second time this cycle that that's happened to me. 
Even though someone may not be ready to accept the gospel, 
there is always someone they know who is willing to take it. 
It was great to see this babooshka be a missionary for us. Then we had English Club. 
Oh English Club. You have the funniest times there. 
Короче (in short) I haven't laughed that hard in a while.

Wednesday I worked with our sister training leader, Sister Wagstaff. 
She's got one more cycle left. She passed on some great wisdom and we had a fun time. 
I love people. You just get to meet the craziest characters on your mission. 

Since I took no photos this week, I took a quick pic of my yummy lunch today!!! 
The powdered sugar thing is filled with peach jelly 
and the other thing is full of meat and rice and onions. I love Russia. 

Zone Training is this week, so that will be a lot of fun! We've got a busy week ahead of us 
and transfers are next week. It will be interesting to see who goes where and what not. 
We are keeping busy here, so that's always nice. 

I love personal study. That hour of study alone really helps me each day. It's my daily bread. 
I can't live without it!!! Today I studied some of 2 Nephi 4. Nephi is seriously one of the greatest people ever. The Lord has been so good to me. I can't let Satan steal this happiness away from me. 
I have to overcome the bad so I can always feel the good. It won't be easy, 
but it's definitely worth it. It you have a chance this week, study it. 

I love you all so much! I love Russia. I love the people. I love the Lord. 
I love the Book of Mormon. We have a prophet today! God speaks to us. 
I know this to be true in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, January 4, 2016

Week 30 - January 4, 2016 Winter Wonderland

    Hey There!!!

In honor of my 7th month on the mission, the world snowed!!!! 
It was on of the most beautiful things I've seen in my entire life, 
right up there with the sunset on the beach. It just started in the morning 
and by last night we had over 5 inches!! So much fun! 
I made gingersnaps on New Year's Eve ( like my trainer taught me) 
and shared them with everyone at district meeting. 

You could say I was ready for P-Day. . . 
notice how my cheeks are the same color as my beanie. . . 
it was below 0 fahrenheit. . . 

We stayed in on New Year's Eve since it get pretty crazy here. 
Trying to be as obedient as possible, Sister Grishina and I used that time to weekly plan. 
It seriously is just so great knowing we are using the Lord's time to the best of our abilities. 
That is definitely something I am dedicated to doing. This is the Lord's time, not mine. 
I know we received many blessings from our sacrifice of working diligently even on a holiday. 
We met with a lot of people this week. Like, man, I am not used to it! 
Our mission is piloting a program from our Area Seventy to start teaching less-actives every night. 
If we want a stake here in Samara and a temple in Russia, we have to strengthen the members we already have here! We have definitely seen miracles here in Bezzimonski. 
Yeah, it's pretty darn tootin cold here. I kid you not, 
while Sis Grishina was emailing and I was studying, 
I put out my water bottle near the open window. Not even an hour later, 
the water is icy, almost slush. Oh Russia. It's honestly just one big freezer. 
We are going to be going on splits this week in Penza! 

My icy heart. . . frozen?

It's one of the northern areas in the mission so that will be fun. 
I'll go on my first train in Russia!!! Hollah!!! Saturday, 
Sis G and I were walking with a member to go to one of our investigators homes. 
We were crossing over the big bridge, when they stop and point to the side of the road. 
We see this poor dog, lying on the side of the road, just freezing its tail off (pun intended).
 We say a prayer and try and figure out how to take care of this dog. 
There really isn't any type of animal control here so we were just trying to figure out what to do. 
Sis G and I hop onto the highway sitting beside the dog and trying to keep it warm, 
or at least comfort it. Sis G was petting the poor thing, and found blood on her glove.  
Then after about 15 minutes, some random lady pulls over and asks us what happened. 
Not a second later, she grabs a sheet from the trunk of her car, and then we all wrap the dog up, 
and puts the dog into her car. We tried to give them a pamphlet or Book of Mormon 
(we're missionaries) but she said she doesn't need it. Still, she drove off trying to save the dog. 
It was a great example of service for me.

Our District (from left to right): Elder Shae from Las Vegas, 
Elder Vandermark from Santa Clarita (hollah), 
District Leader Peterson from Utah, Elder Fletcher from Alaska, 
and me and Sister Grishina! 

With a new year comes new opportunities.Let's all take a moment and reflect on what we've accomplished this past year. I know for myself, every great accomplishment was made possible because of my faith in Jesus Christ. College. Family. Friends. and now my mission. 
 am so grateful for my Savior and His love and support in my life. 
He knows each of us personally. Prayer works. We can do hard things 
if we just rely on Christ and consult with our Heavenly Father. 
I testify of this truth in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham