Monday, March 28, 2016

Week 42 - March 28, 2016 Someone told me it was Easter...

     My dearest readers,

I am probably the worst missionary every since I forgot it was Easter yesterday. 
In Russia, Easter is May 1st. I always associate Easter with General Conference, 
so I assumed I still had a week or so. бывает. "It happens." 
Russia is just becoming a part of me. Pretty soon I'll be hitting the mark 
of when I got my mission call. It's crazy how much my life has changed in the past year. 
I must admit there was a bit of a fear when I realized I had 9 months left on the mission. 
Now slowing approaching 8 months. I'm serving with an elder who is a part of 
this big group of elders that are going home with me. Every once and a while it hits us. 
President Schwab, my mission president, sent me a really simple, 
but sweet message this week: "You have had a great first half of your mission 
and now have a WONDERFUL second half to look forward to. 
Yes, there will be challenges, but much more growth and much happiness" 
I am so excited to see what challenges, miracles, and experiences I'll have. 
I know that the Lord is ever so aware of each one of us. 

We had an incredible lesson with a member this week. 
Natasha watches over her 96 year old grandmother. 
Natasha was planning on going to the temple for the first time on Saturday to Kiev. 
Natasha had spent the last few months finding family names to take to the temple. 
She had her ticket and bags all packed, only to find her grandmother's health worsening.
With no one else willing to watch the ailing woman, 
Natasha had to forego her long anticipated trip to the House of the Lord. 
We stopped by trying to give her support and love. After reading "Yielding Our Hearts to God," 
from last general conference, Natasha shared that she had had a dream. In that dream, 
she was at he grandma's old country home. When we walked in, 
she saw all her ancestors whose names she had found and prepared, 
with one of her grandmas in the center. Natasha remembered saying 
"They are all here! Wonderful!" 
Then her deceased grandmother said, "No they are not. 
You forgot (list of specific family names). You need to find them." In tears, 
Natasha finished telling us her dream. She said she had in fact forgotten those family members. 
She took this as her answer as to why she wasn't able to go this past Saturday. 
Then she said, "My bags are still packed. I know I'm going to go to the temple this year. 
I just know it." I have never felt my testimony strengthened so much about the temple 
and family history. Natasha had enough trust in the Lord to recognize this incredible answer. 
I finished this past Sunday feeling so refreshed and blessed. God has all wisdom. 
He knows what He is doing. Even when it seems like everything is falling apart, 
it actually means things are falling into place. 

I'd like to end with a scripture that perfectly explains to me 
why Jesus Christ took upon so much pain, suffering, and anguish on our behalf. 

1 Nephi 19:9 And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. 
Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness 
and long-suffering towards the children of men.

I know this to be true. I love Him with all my heart, might, mind and strength. He lives!
Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, March 21, 2016

Week 41 - March 21, 2016 Hola? Privyet? Ni Hao? Hello?

            My dearest readers!

I thought I was in California for a little bit this week. 
I was on splits with sisters Thomas and Nielson. It was super fun! 
I hope I can serve with sister Thomas before she dies next cycle. 
We've always seen each other around transfers, but were finally able to serve together 
and just loved every second of it. Including our excursion to a Mexican restaurant. 
No, unfortunately there was no Horchata there. Yes, I was very sad. 
Yes, I did sing Vampire Weekend's song starting with "In December. . . " 

Sister Thomas and I went to a Mexican restaurant in Russia. . . 

It's been a good week! Zone training was just what I needed to kickstart this next cycle. 
It's really hard to realize when you are letting doubts and fears get to you. 
In Lehi's dream, he refers to them as a "dark mist." It's SO true! 
Mist is something that creeps up on you, gradually, of which you don't realize 
you are in until it's thick enough to fog your vision. For this reason, 
God commands us to "pray always, that you may come off conquerer (D&C 10:5)." 
We have to keep asking for help and protection. If we don't do so continuously, 
then we are telling God we don't need Him that day. 

I read something really interesting in Jesus the Christ about prayer. 
James E. Talmage talks about the "ask and ye shall receive" promise of the Lord. 
He then goes on to share two parables, the one of the "friend at midnight" 
and the "Importunate woman." Both these stories talk about how the "importunity" 
of both these people lead to them receiving that which they desired. Importunity, 
I have concluded, means pleading persistently. These two people have "proper purposes" 
for pleading, for us missionaries is it a "righteous cause."  
The moral of the two parables was that our perfect, loving Heavenly Father 
would give us those things that we ask for, that which are good. 
Talmage also says that sometimes, out of mercy, the Lord withholds blessings 
for a little while so that our prayers become more fervent. It really hit me. 
Sometimes the Lord makes us wait a little longer for blessings to see if we really want them. 
We need to keep asking, just like we need to keep practicing 
how to shoot that three-pointer until we can get the desired result. 
If we stop asking or practicing, then we lose that which we had acquired. 
I want to really improve my prayers so that my works are backed up by my faith. 

We made yummy teriyaki chicken!! 
Yay for sugar, soy sauce, and water! 
Happy mum? I took off my glasses haha

Whelp I'm out of time again! Last week, I forgot to tell you that 
I met with a babooshka in another sisters' area. While introducing ourselves, 
sis Thomas, the younger aka from my district, explained how she wants to do something 
with biology. Then the babooshka went off about how she thinks that people who go into 
public relations have no future and she hates everyone of that profession. 
Safe to say i said nothing

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, March 14, 2016

Week 40 - March 14, 2016 The Power Puff Girls, Three Musketeers, Charlie's Angels. . . .

         Yo Yo Yo!

All good things comes in threes! Whelp, what a week! 
Since Sissy Mckell went back home last week and my new companion Sister Hoffman 
didn't come until Thursday night, I spent the whole week in tripanionships. 
I would with 7 different sisters this week. Kind of crazy haha. So worth it. 
I love all the sisters in our mission. We all are truly beloved daughters of God. 
We each have our own gifts that touch the hearts of those around us. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I had for learning from so many disciples of Christ. 
I worked with Sisters Warnick, Bierman, Hoffman, Thomas, Reed, Johnson, 
and Jenni (Schwab). What a treat!

​I spent the week with a bunch of different sisters. 
Aren't they sooo cute??

 March 8th is this super cool holiday for every single woman (Mother's Day has it's own holiday). 
We wanted to give flowers to this less active we were going to stop by, 
but I wanted to make sure not to be ripped off. So I went up to this one lady, 
and she told me the price 100 rubles. I was like, uhm no let's try looking at a different place. 
Then these three younger guys were selling flowers. I asked about the fancy looking flowers 
and he said, 300 rubles. So I thought "hard pass." Then I asked about these super popular yellow. .  .branches? Flowers? The guy said " без платно" and gave me a handful. 
Then he gave some to the other sisters haha. We still got it! 

​We got free flowers on Women's day

We went over to less-active Galina this week on Women's day. 
I was pleasantly surprised to see two sisters from our branch sitting in the kitchen. 
They had spent the whole day with her! These great sisters did their visiting teaching! 
I was so happy to see them there. Galina was just shining with happiness. 
You could tell how much it meant to her that these sisters stopped by, 
and then having missionaries over was just icing on the cake. 
I just love them all so much!

YUMMY FOOD!!! Soo Russian. I love it!!!!

Sister Hoffman is just the cutest! She's from Washington 
and is probably the nicest person you'll ever meet. She works hard and isn't afraid of anyone. 
We are learning the language together so I'll have to step up my game. 

Served with Sister Johnson and Thomas. 
Then we all had sushi at the mission office. . . 
yeah the elder with the yellow tie is eating a sushi burrito. . . . 

Bee tee dubs: We met our Book of Mormon count!!! Sister Warnick and I passed out one KM 
and then Sister Mckell and Sister Wagstaff gave one out at the airport! 
Woooo 70 Book of Mormons in 7 weeks!! That truly is a miracle. 

​We had super yummy food from this great family!!!

Whelp the time has gone. LOVE YOU! Read Alma 19 it's all about faith!

Super cool buidling, Big Brother status. . .circa 1984

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, March 7, 2016

Week 39 - March 7, 2016 Pure Faith?

My dearest readers,

So I am staying in Bezi! Suprise! Not really haha. I will be serving with Sister Hoffman. 
She came to Russia three months after me, so we are going to have a lot of fun adventures. 
I've heard only good things about her so I am excited to serve with her this cycle.

I am so grateful to the Lord that I have been able to work with Sister Mckell 
her last two months on her mission. It's incredible to see the "end" result of a mission. 
She truly has been such a great example to me. I am definitely not the same missionary I was 
before I served with her. I have improved so much! She is just incredible. 
I look forward to developing the same qualities and skills and hope one day 
I can be as great of a missionary as she is. 

Waiting outside for our taxi that never came. Gotta love the Derp Face.

We have seen some great miracles, we have found three people this week 
who have super great potential! We were walking home after a long day 
and decided to talk to one more person, Tania. She readily accepted what we said 
and to read the KM. We stopped by again at her work and at that moment  
she had just started reading the KM. Not a coincidence. Then Thursday night, 
on our way home, we said hello to this one girl, Katia. She gave us a huge smile 
and was so excited to talk to us. She said that she used to meet with sisters last spring 
and wanted to learn more. She hasn't come to our church yet, but she said she wants to! 
We got her number again. Then just this Saturday, we ran into her again! 
It's obvious that us running low on money and having to walk to more places 
is just according to the Lord's plan. He is putting people in our path, 
even when we least expect it. I am so grateful to be serving the Lord. 

The District! From left to right: Cts. Allred, Fletcher, Peterson, Shea, me, Sissy Mckell. 
I had to set the self timer and ran over and shuffled awkwardly around, 
hence the judging gaze from Ct Shea. 

Something that I studied last week is that there is a difference between someone 
with a good quantity of faith and someone with quality faith. I think we can tell the difference between quantity and quality of faith when we look at the sincerity and motivation 
behind the faith. Quantity can be related to "outward" faith. We may do a lot of things 
that show a large quantity of faith, but if we aren't doing it for the right reasons, 
is it really good quality? If I am sincerely doing something for the right reasons, 
then is it pure faith. No matter how small and limited or weak the efforts may seem, 
it still means a lot to the Lord. I am going to work really hard to improve my faith!

Props my favorite district photo of all time. The thug life with nametags. 
Who said missionaries aren't cool?

KM count: 68
We are going to work hard to give out the last two KM to people today!!!
Much love, 
Cectpa Graham