Monday, October 31, 2016

Week 73 - October 31, 2016 Halloween at Hogwarts!

     Happy Halloween!

"You're Volunteer, Sister Graham!" Do duu dododo do doooooo do, do dududu do duuuuu. 

My poor rendition of the Harry Potter intro music. 

Our Hogwarts district!
(from left, Hagrid, a Slytherin, Snape, Harry Potter, Cedric Diggory,
Cho Chang, Ginny Weasley)

This week was incredible. I feel like I say that about every week, but it is always true! 
This whole week was spent preparing for our branch halloween activity. It was incredible. 
Words, pictures, and videos do not even come close to describing how great that activity was! 
The small branch building was pouring with people. We worked all week with our dear friend 
Gyzel and her friends. It was a huge success. We had about 50 people there at our activity. 
Half of them were friends. We got a lot a less actives there as well. The members were 
all so impressed with how well it turned out. We all put in a lot of work and effort 
and it definitely paid off. We needed all the hands we could get!

Gyzel and her friends really made all the difference for our activity. They were super stars. 
One of them, Tania, invited 20 of her friends. It was incredible. I have never seen so many 
youth at an activity before. God definitely blessed us with miracles. The members all loved 
the activity and thought it was a huge success. 

We bought this asian acne mask thingy 
and also special cookies for the holidays

Honestly, this is just a big testimony to me that when we put the work in, the Lord 
will provide the rest. We were stressed out a lot this week and overwhelmed right before, 
but it paid off so much! So many people came and had a great time. Now we have 
really solid relationship with friends now and the members.

Sister Love!

 I know the Lord takes care of His people. I love the time I have here. God loves us 
and is ever so aware of us!

Redyed my hair. A cute member did it for me :D

I am emailing at an internet cafe today, so I will try and send some pictures later today 
at the branch when I have time. I got in touch with my inner babooshka and crocheted a wig 
for Elder Shukin to be Severus Snape. So many good pictures with so little time. 
Today we are throwing a surprise birthday party for Elder Shukin. It was yesterday, 
but we did nothing for him. Poor kid has no idea.

I made Snape's hair.


Me and my hairless cat...
Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, October 24, 2016

Week 72 - October 24, 2016 What didn't happen this week. . .

     My beloved readers,

Talk about a crazy week. I wish I could tell you all in great detail, but alas I cannot. 
I fear I cannot even give you a decent update, but I will do my best. 

Our trip to Tolyatti for conference. Back of the bus fun!

Our zone at our breakfast!

Biscuits and gravy! Hollah! 
We use salami instead of sausage 
because we don't have sausage here in Russia. . . 

Korochi, almost everything in life and work changed this week. We found out Tuesday 
after lunch in zone conference that two sisters, Hullinger (from my MTC district) 
and Hofmann (my old companion) are moving in with us on Thursday night and will now 
be working in Kazan. Surprise! Everyone knew except for us. Whelp, life happens. 
Good thing I love those sisters to death.

Singing with Sister Palmer in the Zone Conference.

Having desert!!!

Watched my first (and not last) Russian Ballet! It was hilarious. No pictures or videos, sorry. 
But the lead dancers were from Japan. Cool huh?

First Russian Ballet.

Had the miracle of Gyzel: On our way to a meeting, Sister Palmer and I were walking to 
our bus stop and saw a girl with a Gryffindor scarf. We decided to talk to her and ask her 
where she got her scarf. Gyzel told us it was a gift and we just chatted for about 20 minutes 
at the bus stop. We exchanged numbers since she really really wants to go to our activity. 
She even offered to help plan and invite all her friends. She texted us the next day to ask 
what she needed to do to help and what time so she could invite her friends. 
We met with her yesterday and she is just the cutest! 

Also, we have an African Big Brother here in Kazan. He is the coolest. We talked to 
his students in English and then ate chicken nuggets at Burger King. . . . 

Life is great and crazy. Life on the other side of the veil (of my mission) is starting to 
hit me aka college. But that is okay, the Lord will provide. 

I love my life, but not at much as I love my Lord and my Father in Heaven. 
I love Russia. I love Kazan. I look forward to my time here serving the Lord. 
Each day gives me something to smile about!!!

Tolyatti Zone Conference
Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, October 17, 2016

Week 71 - October 17, 2016 Ohana means family!

      My dearest readers,

It has been quite the week. It has been filled with meetings, service, adventures, tears, 
and the haka. But not always in that order. We did a really cool service with the elders 
this week talking to some students at an art college in English. They were soooo cute. 
Seriously, I love them all. It was so cute seeing them swoon over the elders, too. 
Oh to be young again. 

Waiting at the university for our member.

We have developed really good relationships with the members. It is just great seeing them 
and having them actually want to meet us. They absolutely LOVE our musical instruments 
and want us to play for them all the time. It is a really good way to do something small for the members. Then we did this really cool service for a less active. It was super cool, 
we talked with these art students in English. They were all so cute. They made us 
feel so cool haha. This week we did a Luau for our family night. It was a huge success. 
We had 4 members and 4 friends. It was really fun. We taught them how to Tahitian dance 
and Haka. They loved it! They didn't want to leave! It is really evidence of God's support 
of our efforts to make our activities better for the members. 

Selfie life!

We went to an asian fusion cafe and they gave us 
the biggest lemonade . .  . each!

I love those little things that happen to us that are just huge billboard signs of God's love for us, 
but on a completely personalized level. Yesterday, a member shared an experience of an elder 
who served here. He cannot draw to save his life, and for some reason he felt really impressed 
one day to draw something. Nothing turned out, but a few pieces of paper later and dreams of becoming the next Leonardo Da Vinci out the window, he drew a very humble bird. 
Then they went off to serve. They were at a bus station and saw a frantic young mother 
and child. They offered some help. She then told then about her husband's death and they were 
on a way to a funeral. He felt impressed to give her the simple picture of the bird. She took it 
and started crying. She said her husband always drew her those kinds of birds. This experience 
and countless others of my own are just such great testimonies that God really is a loving 
Heavenly Father who knows us personally.

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, October 10, 2016

Week 70 - October 9, 2016 Circus, Service, and Sublime Messages from High!

   My dearest readers,

I love you all so much! I have to apologize ahead of time. We just have so much to do 
and so little time to do it in. Highlights:

Monday: We went over to my dear friend Anya's house for some really yummy 
traditional Chinese food! It was the highlight of my life! 

Me and my beautiful Chinese friends!!!! I was soooo happy. 
I wore that dumb smile the WHOLE time!!!

Tuesday: We did some service at a members home. We also said goodbye to our ol pal 
Elder Rouche. He will love Toliatti.

Our lovely district! I love them already! 
I get to practice translating, too. 
German is a wonderful language...

Wednesday: We had four meetings that day with members. It was incredibly busy, 
but we were able to do much good! The Lord is blessing us with chances to serve 
members all the time. We are so lucky!

Thursday: FHE! We watched Legacy. Man, what a great movie! 
It inspires me every time. 

Friday: We helped an active member in our branch garden. Super fun. 
Sister Palmer also got attacked by the pet hairless cat. Second one in Russia 
and in life haha, so fun. then we cleaned the branch building.

Saturday: General Conference was amazing! Seriously, I have been so inspired! 
God is love! We met our new district of foreigners . . or natives since we are the foreigners.
 The CIRCUS is awesome!!! 

We had a primary activity to go to the circus. . . I died of happiness!

Us outside the circus.

Sunday: General conference! It was awesome! Seriously, I love it. 

Watching conference!

Made sushi for general conference! 
This one turned out a lot better since I had rice vinegar. 
;D The members loved it!

Life lesson: We have to keep trying. We all make mistakes and we need to 
keep trying to do the right. I love the talk given by Elder Renlund April 2015

When we almost miss our ride. . . 

 My invitation to all of us is to evaluate our lives, repent, and keep on trying. 
If we don’t try, we’re just latter-day sinners; if we don’t persevere, we’re latter-day quitters; 
and if we don’t allow others to try, we’re just latter-day hypocrites.10 As we try, persevere, 
and help others to do the same, we are true Latter-day Saints. As we change, we will find 
that God indeed cares a lot more about who we are and about who we are becoming 
than about who we once were.

Sister Palmer thought I should get a picture 
with these puppets. . . I wonder why?
Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Monday, October 3, 2016

Week 69 - October 3, 2016 Hopping Boarders and Serenading Patrol Officers

     Dear Readers:

Whelp, I have had a crazy week! I don't even know how to update you on all that happened! 
First things first. Today is my 16 month mark on my mission. Hurrah! Crazy. I never thought 
I would make it to this point. It's not like I was doubting my abilities or decision to serve, 
but 16 months just seem so far away when you are just at 2 months. 
I have loved every moment of it. 

So many memories and fun events, I'll just highlight you on the best stuff.

         Luau Night:

Pineapples & Tangerines 

Our Luau drinks

shhhhhhh...cheer everyone...

My Uke solo show

Here is all of us and our Pal Paul! 
The Luau will see better days!

Miracles of this week start with our member, Vera. She is that baba whom we help 
take to church in a taxi. She feels super sad whenever we don't meet with her. 
We haven't had much time to meet with her these past two weeks, so we stopped by on Monday. 
She told us then how it was her birthday on Friday, although she didn't think it was anything special. She wasn't looking forward to it. I felt pretty bad. We wanted to stop by and make her something, 
but I knew we'd be in Samara on Thursday for my visa trip so we would have no time to see her. 

Us on the way to Samara. 
Honestly I have no idea what we were thinking haha...

We got to Samara around 7pm and we were super hungry, 
so we ate at the KFC at the Bus station together. 
Yay for healthy eating!

However, due to registration reasons, we had to be back in Kazan Friday morning. 
So after waking up at 4am to go on a bus to Kazakstan for about 10 hours, 
I was right back on an 11pm 8-hour bus ride back to Kazan. You could say it was not 
the most comfortable situation. We got home around 5:30am. Despite the business 
of the day we  were still able to make a super simple cake and drop it off to her. 
We weren't planning to stay there long since we had a lot of stuff to do that day. 
We got there and just chatted with her a little bit. We had nothing planned, 
but Sister Palmer felt impressed to share 2 Nephi 2:25. After her testimony about 
having joy in this life, you could tell Vera was super touched by that thought. 
Then it hit me all at once. She is the reason why we took that long, uncomfortable 
bus ride so late at night. Heavenly Father sent us to her. He made it possible for us 
to be there with her on her birthday. I then expressed my realization with her 
and she felt the Spirit testify of its truthfulness to her. It was one of the most 
beautiful moments of my mission. It was so simple, but it meant so much to her. 
God forgets no one. 

My grill after Sister Palmer pulled the foil from her gum wrapper. 
Now it's my gum's wrapper. 
I look so thug that I should be called the "Gum Rapper" 

We met with a bunch of members this week and it was so nice! 
We also went back to the puppet theater and watched a super creative version of Cinderella! 
I loved it. 

Waiting for the Cinderella puppet show

Cinderella puppet show

Sister Palmer and I at the puppet theater

Whelp wayyy to much, sorry. 

I am super excited to watch General Conference this weekend.
Sister Palmer and I are staying together for another 6 weeks in Kazan. YAY!
We are getting a new German elder and a Russian mini-"volunteer" from Saratov to serve 
here with us in Kazan. Elder Plettig is training them both. We will have the most culturally 
diverse district in our mission!Chinese food today in about 30 minutes!! Yay!!

More next week. LOVE YOU!!!!

Here is me in pants! We dressed down for our visa trip, 
and I just had to snap a pic. I have legs! 
Ft. all the foams beds for the sisters 

Me and sissy Miller. I love her to pieces. 
Too bad she'll be in Saratov now :[
Much love, 
Cectpa Graham