Monday, September 26, 2016

Week 68 - September 26, 2016 Ukulele in Kazakstan?

       Hey there beloved readers!

I bought I ukulele and have been learning a lot. So hopefully when I get back, I'll be a pro! 
We are having our last visa trip this week. I'll be bringing my uke (Максим), 
so he'll be all over the world soon enough. 

When you have too many volunteers at the bus station.

Bussing it with the elders.

Man, so much to update y'all on...

Tuesday: Zone Training! It turned out pretty well! The Zone leaders had the great idea of having a zone breakfast before training. Usually we skip breakfast those days because we just don't have enough time to go, but we woke up at 5am to get ready and eat some good pancakes, 
has browns and eggs. Good one elders. 

We go hard for breakfast at zone training! 

More Food!

 Just like old time with Sister Miller!

Then we had some good training and then we had our bake off!! Woooo! 
While the elders put up a good fight (almost had me convinced they'd win) 
the sisters pulled strong and despite a mistake on my reading coherency, 
we managed to win!Hollah!!! 

          The winning cookie! Go sisters!!!!

    The vote on the Battle of the Sexes: Bake Off. 
   The sisters won even though I put a tablespoon 
  of salt instead of a teaspoon. . . oops haha

After we had Family History training from a Russian member 
from Moscow teach us. . . in English! What a champ. 
He is actually from Samara and he loves the volunteers! He is super awesome!

The Zone leaders and Sister Palmer and I 
rocking that training! Elders Call and Allred are such the homies. 
Notice the intentional matching of our zone. 

 Derping it at Zone training

Wednesday: We went to institute and were able to study about the fall 
of Adam and Eve and the Atonement. Agency and responsibility are two precious gifts 
we need to treasure. How great is it that we can choose to be happy?

Thursday: We had a Chinese Night (naturally). We had a decent group come. 
We printed out the Chinese Zodiac and some phrases in Chinese to teach them. 
While in the midst of teaching Russians how to speak Chinese, a young couple walks in . . . 
who are from Mainland China studying here in Kazan. Boy, did I feel pressure 
right then and there. If anyone knew how to say "ni hao," they did! Luckily, 
my simple Chinese was good enough and it turned out well. 

Notice the Russian to Chinese pronunciation guide 
on the board created by yours truly?

They LOVED the activity and are planning to come back next week. 
The members just about fainted seeing real Chinese people at our Chinese Night haha. 
I love them. The young man, who is one of the elders' friends even came to church! 

AHHHH They are so great!!!!! I felt so at home with them!

Friday: We met with the Family History specialist in our branch, Galina, 
who is the lady who called the museum. We tried to share some of the new skills 
and training from this past workshop, but she ended up teaching us! 
It was awesome, she knew everything and was just so kind. 

We were at a members home and they give this 
Russian fruit thing with a lot of seeds, 
so I spelled my name out with my fruit seeds haha #tooclassy

Sunday: We made brownies for a member's birthday and for the primary kids we teach. 
They LOVE it when we shared our homemade goodies with them. Later this Sunday, 
we found out that one of our members had all of her stuff stolen from her storage unit. 
She was just sobbing at church. We did our best to comfort her, but we can't bring back 
all her stuff, so we felt pretty useless. After church she headed back home. 
She had forgotten her bag so a member asked us to drop it off to her. 
Well we were walking and I felt so bad that she didn't have much food either, 
so we decided that this was a worthy cause to buy something even on the Sabbath. 
We just went to a nearby food shack and bought her cookies and crackers 
and hid them in her bag. We gave the bag to her, she had no idea we stashed a treat for her, 
but I just felt so good inside. The sum of the money was less than 2 dollars, 
but I was able to get so much more out of it. God truly does love all His children.

This week is conference. As usual we will be watching the week after. 
Tell me what your favorite talk was, or all of your favorites. If you are going to t
he conference center, give President Monson a great ol' hug from me and Russian volunteers!

Made some yummy chicken and cucumber stir fry. 
Thanks mom!
Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, September 19, 2016

Week 67 - September 19, 2016 We're Not in Kansas Anymore. . .

   Hello there my beloved readers!

I can't believe it's already Monday. Time is flying by. Seriously, I can't catch my breath. 
Neither can Sister Palmer, but that is because the poor thing has a constant battle 
with bronchitis, so it's a different story. 

It is super cold now in Russia! 
So we took out our tights, coats, and beanies! 
Wish us luck!

We have been sooo busy and so much goes on. We literally have NO time to do anything haha. 
Being busy is a really good feeling. Here is a day-by-day play-by-play:

Monday: We went on a little shopping spree at a mall and I was able to get 
some super cute clothes. Then we had FHE with one of my favorite members in Bezi. Zina. 
She is just such an inspiration. She is 80 years old and yet still goes to church every Sunday 
and does her monthly visiting teaching! What a super star.

Me on the bridge over the street. 

Tuesday:  Splits with Sister Howe! It was so much fun. We met with a great member, Inya! 
She is so wonderful. She, as a senior sister, served a full-time mission with girls like me 
about 20 years ago. What a pro! She went out contacting and knocking and all that jazz. 
She is super sweet and has a lot of experience that would really help us if she just 
came back to church. It is so sad to see someone so great not take the steps to church attendance. 
We got interviews with President Ottesen before our training this week. 
He is just a wonderful man. He really helped me see what I needed to do in order 
to just give my all over to God. 

Prayer! It is sooo important. That is how we are able to get to know our Father in Heaven 
on a super personal level. He knows each of us personally. It's only fair that 
we get to know Him personally! We can do that through sincere, heartfelt prayer. 

Then we went to game night at Bezi. Man, I love these people. So crazy.

The sisters made Borsch!!!!

Wednesday: We have this new program coming up, "Behind the Wall." It has been 
running a lot in Ukraine already and other places. We are finding friends through 
common interests, such as volleyball or music. So we went to a park looking for people 
to play volleyball with. It didn't turn out well since is was overcast and cold so no one 
was at the park. But instead we talked to the people who worked the booths and rides 
(think tooney town at Six flags or lagoon statues for my Utah friends). 
Then we went to a members home and helped them with English.

We found this bad boy in the park this week. 

Sister Johnson and I on the sketchiest Ferris wheel ever!

Thursday: MLC. We were able to discuss a lot of things that have been going on 
in the mission and with the new law and aspects of the work that are or aren't working. 
Then I burned a cake while still managing to have the batter uncooked in the middle. 
#skills. Then we met with Yulia and she did our hair and then we had FHE. 
They are crazy haha. 

Bonding with the Bezi sisters!

Friday: Bussed back to Kazan. Then we dropped by the branch to visit the relief society sisters. 
They made a blanket/comforter thing. So fun! We didn't have any plans, 
but the Lord provided for us to serve the sisters!

Saturday: Busiest day ever!!!! In the morning I realized that I left my scriptures 
and study journal from my mission on the bus. My life! Seriously it was 
the saddest moment ever. That is the most valuable thing to me out of all my possessions! 
Then I had to do district training, then we had sports day, 
which no one came cause it was too cold.

 I felt like sharing my beautiful face with the world. . .

 PUPPET THEATER!  Our cultural activity for the week was a puppet theater 
which looks like a palace. The elders told us the times randomly while we were 
on the bus so we had no idea what to expect. It turned out to be a show for kids, 
so there we were in a theater full of Russian children. Lucky for us, 
because the concepts were not too hard to digest. It was The Wizard of Oz . 
I know right? How lucky are we? We understood it all and it was super sweet to see. 
Also, simultaneously creepy. . .oh puppets.

Us after the puppet show. So beautiful. It is literally a castle!

Then, we asked these guys with a cello and violin if they knew where to buy a guitar. 
Sister Palmer has permission to buy one to teach members and what not. 
They turned out to be performers and had a gig later that day. We dropped by 
and they are just amazing! We roamed around and met wonderful people! 
It is all a dream to me. 

Sunday: Church was fabulous! We had a great sacrament meeting and the kids 
were soooo darn tootin cute as always. We taught on prayer. They are just so sweet haha. 
Then choir practice and then we went on a search for my scriptures. 
The lady at the bus station made a lot of calls and then gave me info on 
how to reach the bus driver. She told us to come back tomorrow 
at 7am to see if it was still there.

Luckily, we dropped by today and they were there!!! They said I was super lucky. 
I know it was the hand of the Lord. I was super sad when I found out that I left them, 
but I knew that God values scriptures and spiritual knowledge. With that in mind, 
I knew He wouldn't let me lose those golden plates. I was never too worried about it. 
I am so grateful that Heavenly Father wants to give us good gifts! 
We just have to let Him!!!

This is us in that museum from last week that we talked about.

Picture with the Elders for our Pioneer night activity

 Indiana Janes?

Love you all!! I have my first training as STL in front of our zone of 12 volunteers haha. 
We are small but great!

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, September 12, 2016

Week 66 - September 12 Chinese at KFC???

        Hey there beloved readers!

Whelp, to start off, sorry no photos today. We are emailing at an internet cafe 
and I forgot my usb drive thingy so just have to wait until next week. Sister Palmer 
and I just got into Samara this morning . . . at 3 am. We took a night bus at 8pm. 
Yeah it was a tough one. We probably won't be doing that again. We just have a lot of 
traveling this cycle since I'll be working with the Bezi sisters this week and 
then I have MLC this Thursday. Man, I love visiting Samara. 
A piece of my heart has forever been placed here. 

So much happened!!! Here are some updates: 

Tuesday: We saw some super cool miracles this week! We went by an active member 
this week in order to go over the branch list to see if there were any less actives 
we should start visiting. While meeting with her, she fed us super yummy food 
(we had pushed back lunch in order to meet with her) and then instead of doing 
our original plan, we ended up doing family history with her since she is the director of 
Family History. She loved it! She loved looking back at our family trees 
and helping me figure out some of my stuff. She felt like had something to offer us, 
not only to receive. She is just a dynamite of a member. While closing up our visit, 
I felt impressed to ask her to ask her to keep her eyes open for service opportunities 
for us to serve in museums. She then kind of does her own role play, " So if I were to 
just pick up the phone and call a museum, I could say: ' I've got 4 native english speaking 
volunteers who want to work for you for free.'" We said yes of course! Then she replies, 
"Let's do it right now!" 5 minutes later we have a meeting the next day with a museum 
to figure out a service activity. She is amazing!!!

Hat shopping with Sister Miller...

Another miracle was when we were eating at KFC, we saw some Africans, thinking, 
"Whoa they probably know English! Let's go talk to them." We sit next to them, 
however, I get super distracted because, like music to my ears, I hear the people 
to my other side speaking Chinese!!! I was in awe! You know how everyone thought 
for sure that I was going to a Chinese-Speaking mission, well jokes on me since I'm in Russia. However, thanks to Sister Miller's boldness, we ended up talking to them all night. 
I found myself struggling so much just to squeeze out a few phrases in Chinese 
(the gift of tongues is so real) while automatically switching back to Russian. 
We exchanged numbers and ended up meeting again later in the week. I am beyond words. 
In all my 15 months on my mission, I had had yet to speak to Chinese people. 
My heart is full, and soon, too, will be my stomach. They invited us over 
for REAL TRADITIONAL Chinese food!!! 
I am so excited! Miracle of my mission!

The 2 Chinese Ladies and Me!

Friday: We meet with the two Chinese ladies and had lunch together. 
They are soooo sweet. They said that anytime I go to China I can just call them haha. 
They asked why we were here, we tried to explain that we are from church, 
but can't talk about our church. They were really confused about the new law. 
You and me both kid. But, we have plans in two weeks to go over to 
their home for Chinese food! Hollah! 

Saturday: We had sports day. We bought a volleyball, so now me and my love 
are reunited for a time. Then we wandered around trying to drop by members 
and ended up just talking to this sweet 20 yr old for about an hour or so. 
She was super sweet. We gave her fudge. We got food afterward, 
and since my companion is gorgeous, 
the worker there gave us free dessert. YAY! 

Sunday: We were super nervous since no one who is called to Primary 
was going to be there. We had to take over the whole two hours ourselves. 
Luckily a young woman was there too and helped us out. It was her and her four siblings. 
It turned out so great! It truly was a miracle cause we were sooo worried. 
After that we took Vera, the less active from last week, back home 
and then prepared for our night bus. . . And now we are here.

I love you all sooo much. Heavenly Father loves us so much. 
Our trials are meant for our good. Doctrines and Covenants 98 talk all about that! 
Have a great week!!!

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, September 5, 2016

Week 65 - September 5 Where am I?

      Hey there my beloved readers!

Wowsers, I can't even explain how incredible these last few days have been. 
We are super short on time (I always try to give those who personally email me 
a personal response). Plus Sister Palmer has a hair appointment. I'll be super quick! 


Thursday: Met with this family in our branch. They are the best! Seriously so nice to us. 
I love them. Then we had our Italian Family Night. We made pizza with the members. 
Each of us had an individual part to do with ingredients. When we put it all together 
we related it to our spiritual gifts and how we need to share them to help others. 

Friday: Met with a sweet older woman who has a hard time getting around. 
Luckily with the cooler weather, she agreed to taxi to church with us. 
The best part was that a member who is the Family History adviser was there early, 
too and took the less active under her wing and taught her how to do family history 
when we had to go to branch council. Then we met with a cool, young couple 
who are busy with work a lot. They actually came to our sports day on Saturday.

Saturday: We had a sports day and district meeting. I love serving here! 
Then we went to our cultural activity which was a traditional Tartarskii meal and show. 
It was FABULOUS!!!!!! I am in love with this city. Then we walked around the city. 
Fun Fact: A cute little boy a little over a year old walked right up to me 
and gave me a huge hug. They we just wouldn't leave and kept hugging me. 
Yes I am in love haha. 

Can I be a ... Snow White?

Such a beautiful building, just have to touch it!

Sunday: CHURCH! Yay! I loved being at that branch. Some members here has 
a 2-3 hour trip just to get to church! I am just so amazed by them! I was able to 
share my testimony, especially since it was my first Sunday at the branch. 
They are wonderful. I have a calling here as a primary teacher with Sister Palmer. 
It is so refreshing! One little boy said he wanted to serve a mission in China! 
Love them. Then we went out with one of our "friends" to the Kremlin again. 
She is super sweet and made us take a lot of photos. So much fun. 

Me and Sister Palmer

I love you all! grace of God is SOOOOO REAL!!!! Please look up the talk 
'His Grace is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox. I love that talk. God loves you! I love you!!

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham