Monday, May 30, 2016

Week 51 - May 30, 2016 One year older and wiser too!!!

Hey there hey!!

My dearest readers, I just want to say thank you so much for all your love and support!! 
You are the besets! I will be hitting my one year mark and 20th Birthday this Friday!! 


I have been transferred from Bezi to Toliatti. I will be serving with Sister Miller. 
I heard she is just the pal. Can't Wait! I leave tomorrow morning. 
Sorry no time again! Love ya !!!!!

A year into the mission and 7 planners in. Never made my own planner.

​My super messy desk. My life for the past 6 months....

We had a great training for district meeting about teaching with love. 
It seemed to have been a theme for me this past week. I feel like I have hit that point 
in my mission where I have already developed the habits of missionary life 
and can finally work on refining my teaching skills. Something that hit me really hard 
is just really teaching with love. When we teach with love, we'll teach with the Spirit. 

The beautiful sisters and I on our way back from 
District Conference in Samara!

We'll say the things that will touch their hearts because we truly love 
and desire their salvation. I think it is very unlikely that the Spirit is able to 
testify strongly enough to bring the messages to the hearts of the listeners if the speaker 
has no love for them in the first place. It is impossible to have that kind of love 
for someone you just met without help from our Savior. We need to have charity. 
There is no way to love fully enough without praying to God for that gift 
like Moroni suggests with "all energy of heart." I have felt that love the past two weeks 
and I felt that kind of love manifest when we were teaching our investigator Regina. 
We went over the whole plan of Salvation lesson and after a long discussion, she just said, 
"I don't know why but something inside of me just can't accept this to be true. 
It's not going to be like that (pointing to the pictures Sister Schwab made of the plan)." 
My heart just sunk. We've lost her, I thought. There were moments where I lost 
my patience with her in the lesson, she's 19 and pretty stubborn haha, 
but once I just tried focusing on teaching with love, we were able to commit 
to reading the Book of Mormon each day and try and find out different ways to feel 
God's presence and love.

 I loved my time in Bezi. I am grateful for every cycle, every month, 
and every week I spent here. It was definitely challenging at times, 
but I have learned a lot. I love the members here. So blessed to have known them. 
We are just so lucky to be able to meet there long lost friends. 
I already can't wait to come back with my loved ones to meet all these great people.

When you don't have anyone else in the room to take a photo, 
you end up getting a super awkward angle. . . 
Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, May 23, 2016

Week 50 - May 23, 2016

     My dearest readers,

Surprisingly I have enough time to write a decently well thought letter to you all today. 
Well, not really I have ten minutes, but that is much better than in the past. 
Well, a lot of things have happened since I've last written. 

Crazy people stealing my camera

Days feel so long because so much happens in each day. 
You have a lot that gets done when you are living and breathing the gospel 24/7. 
We had Zone Training this week. Our Zone Leader, Ct Fletcher and Pacheco 
did a good job about teaching us different methods other than just street contacting, 
such as knocking and transport contacting. We always need to be finding, 
so we are always talking! President Schwab is reaching the end of his mission, 
by the end of June. I am just so sad to think he and his family won't always be here. 
He is truly full of inspiration as a life lived in the service of God. It's not the end yet, 
but we are sure going to miss him!

Asian pose. . the dark ones as we call ourselves

"The gang"

Wowsers, Sister Hofmann just reminded me about all the miracles this week haha. 
We were contacting Tuesday morning around 10:30am and met this baba. 
We were able to give her a KM and set up a meeting with her later that evening! 
She talked all about her life and what is was like living in the Soviet Union. 
She told us how her father died when she was five due to the war, 
and doesn't even have a picture of him. Just letters. Then she told us how she felt rich 
when she had bread and sugar to snack on. Her husband, who is now bedridden, 
invited her over to his family's house when they were dating. His parents had potatoes, 
and she thought "Wow they are so rich!" It really put things into perspective for me. 
I will never be able to understand what is was like to live here 50-60 years ago. 
They are just so strong. I am honored to serve them. 

God loves you!
Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, May 16, 2016

Week 49 - May 16, 2016

     My dearest readers,

Hullo!! Sorry for not writing very much last week. It was kind of crazy 
with Mother's Day and Victory day all on P-day. We just spent the whole day skyping home 
or emailing home and traveling. But I will be somewhat better this week. 

Skyping family was great! 
Sad I wasn't able to snap one with the Pops, but it was all good! 
Love yall! 

I did not describe the last two weeks very well last time, but a lot happened! 
The biggest thing has to be our investigator Alexander ( Sasha). He is such a miracle! 
We were out contacting a couple weeks ago, dropping by some former investigators. 
We try and greet everyone we come into contact with on the street. 

When you go knocking on the 14th floor.

So when we were walking, probably a foot away from the former's home, 
we said " Добрый Вечер!" to this man passing by us. He pauses as we keep walking 
and asks if we are from a different church. We say nope. He then walks up to us 
and asks from which church? He could tell by the books we were carrying 
(wearing nametags is forbidden in Russia). We end up talking to him for 30-40 minutes. 
He's been looking around a lot of different churches and has never read the KM before. 
We then gave him one and invited him to church. This was before Russian Easter, 
and he told us that he was already planning to going to two churches tomorrow 
so he couldn't come. Well, he came last week and yesterday! We hadn't been able 
to meet with him this week, but we called him yesterday morning around 9:20am, 
and he answered enthusiastically. " Доброе Доброе Утро!" He was wide awake 
and ready to come to church! The members here love him, especially the Бабушки. 
They all want to help on our lessons with him haha. He's 27, a kind young man, and fairly good looking so it's no wonder they want to help!  
I love them haha. 

​Half Asian, Half European. A Walk to Remember???

I've had a lot of moments of the Holy Ghost guiding us. His influence is so real. 
It is as subtle as a whisper so we have to keep trying hard each day to stay in tune. 
I love my savior Jesus Christ. He is the only way to true happiness!
Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, May 9, 2016

Week 48 - May 9, 2016 Happy Mother's Day

    Dear Readers:

Sorry friends I don't have any time this week. Know I love you all!

It's been a good week. I really has flown by. We went on splits and it was great! 
We had a huge miracle happen. Since Orenburg is an hour ahead of Samara 
we didn't set our phone to Orenburg time. So by the time we had to get ready to leave for our train, our alarm wasn't set to the right time. Our train was at 5:15am. We set our alarm for 3:40am. 
Which ended up being 4:40am Orenburg time. I woke up to the alarm and then all at once 
it hit me that we were going to be late and miss our train. It was definitely the Spirit 
that let me know that it was not the right time. We have about 35 minutes from the time 
that we wake up to the time the train leaves. We rush and call a taxi. 
We by some miracle made it to the train on time. We said a prayer of thanks when we made it. Something that helped us is that even through the craziness of getting ready, 
we still said a baby prayer to ask Heavenly Father for help. He definitely helped us. 
We have been improved on getting out the door more on time. 
We pray everyday for miracles and they are showing up especially as we show our gratitude. 
We had a meeting with Sasha on Saturday, it was great! 
He is such a miracle. He even came to church for all three hours! 

Much love, 
Sister Graham

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Week 47 - May 2, 2016 I Love Eggs!!!

My dearest readers,

So I've just been super obsessed with eggs. I eat them ALL the TIME! 
Every morning I make a runny fried egg and put it on a piece of toast. It's heaven. 
Then for the Russian Easter, everyone gives out burgandy, hard-boiled eggs!!! 
Kopochi, I love eggs. 

SO the Russian tradition on Easter is to dye eggs, 
using red onion juice or beets (all natural) 
and then to make this bread cupcake thing? and to give out candy 
to little kids who knock doors ( like Halloween!). 

These nice old ladies on the street randomly gave us an egg each 
last night and some candy. I then wrote the common greeting "Христос Воскрес!" 
on my little egg. I was super obsessed with him, put a face on the back. 
So perfect! 

We've been out on the streets a lot this week. 
None of our investigators have been able to meet. 
We just keep praying for them and had a special fast for them this Sunday. 
Something that has helped me cast out doubts and fears has been just "going and doing." 
A lot of things happen in missionary work that we did not plan for, good and bad. 
But if we get stuck on the things that did or didn't happen, 
then we allow for "the evil one [to] have place in [our] heart[s] 
to destroy [our] peace and afflict [our] soul[s]." 
It wasn't until I gave training last district meeting that everything clicked. 
If something doesn't go "our way," then we have to suck it up and do it the Lord's way. 
When we do so willingly, He greatly blesses us! 

We haven't taken a selfie in a while so here it is. . ..

 For example, we had a tough Saturday. 
Other missionaries in our area were out doing a fun service project, 
but because we didn't have an investigator or less-active there we couldn't go. 
So we ended up having an 8-hour contacting day. 
Not to mention things that morning just weren't working out for us. 
Our hot water was turned off; we had a really long, frustrating contact on the street; 
our investigator cancelled on us that evening. Things were just tough. 
I just turned to the Lord and said, "Look, I don't feel like going out and walking around 
to talk to people. I'm going to need your help." Luckily the Lord blessed me 
with a great companion who never complains, and we just went to work. 
The Lord put special people in our path. We ran into that English Anya again 
and talked to her for a while. Then made contact with two girls who wanted to meet next week. 
Then later that night, we were doing former investigator drop-bys and on the way, 
we just said "Good day" to this man, Sasha,  passing by, who asked where we were from 
and turned out to be super prepared. He has been investigating different religions for the past 15 years. Sasha goes to different churches, but something just doesn't quite fit for him. He's met with them all ... except for the "Mormons." He wanted to check out our church and read the Book of Mormon. He was super nice and wants to come to church next week! What a miracle! 

Last night we met a super sweet young woman, who just absolutely loves her family. 
We set up a return appointment for next week to talk more about God's plan for us. 
She, like Sasha, has been looking into different religions, but nothing quite fits. 
We are confident and have faith that she will find what she's been looking for!

Every day the Lord give us something to be grateful for. 
While we have been on the streets a lot this week, we've been finding a lot this week. 
And potentials we call are actually willing to meet with us. 
While things don't always work out like we hope, the Lord is always with us.

Thanks again for your love and support!!! I can't believe i\I'm 11 months into my mission! 
Next month will not only be my year mark, but also my 20th birthday! 
So crazy how much has changed but I am so blessed! Love you all!!!
Much love, 
Cectpa Graham