Monday, December 12, 2016

Week 79 - December 12, 2016 Goodbye Motherland. . . Hello Mother!

Wow, where to even start? Honestly, I'll just talk about my last week, 
because it's been incredible!

Monday: We went to our weekly film club at the university. We were on our way and 
got of the metro (subway) and saw this group of young people singing outside in negative 
degree weather! We went up and took a little video. They are Christians from Korea! 
They study here, but they also share their testimonies about Christ as much as possible. 
They were out singing songs about Christ. It was super sweet and inspiring. I'm glad I was 
able to talk to them for a little bit and tell them that we greatly respect them and we believe
 in Christ, too! Then at film club, we brought the uke and geetar and played our famous, 
"Come, Come Ye Saints." They asked us to play it again, then we taught them the words 
and the next thing you know, all 15 of us are singing this beloved hymn! We then talked 
about the historical significance of the early pioneer saints. It lead to more questions, 
which we couldn't answer because of the religious law, 
but it was still a super sweet, tender moment!

Tuesday: Packed my suitcases. . so sad! Then last minute souvenir shopping with 
a member and a friend, Anton. We got sushi at this pretty cool place. Anton is one of 
our friends from the university. We have spent some time with him this past month 
and a half. He has become of our really good friends! 

Wednesday: Met with Vera, one of my favorite babooshkas ever! She is hilarious and 
stern all at the same time. She wished me all the best luck, especially at finding a husband 
(a common blessing here in Russia). Then we had institute! It was really good. 
I got a bunch of polaroids with members I love here in Kazan. 

Thursday: Met with our dear friend Gyzel and Lera! They are the sweetest girls ever. 
Gyzel drew me a picture in my planner. So sweet. Then later that night we had family night. 
It was Japanese themed and we made sushi rolls. I taught them the tricks, 
but honestly they preferred their rolls to have cheese in it. . . .yes you read that right. 
Cheese. Cream cheese is best :/ I don't get it either haha. Anyhoo, we had 4 friends there. 
We had the incredible experience of sharing the gospel with our friends (Anton included) 
and telling them about the Book of Mormon. Almost gave them out, but they wanted 
hard copies. Anton was SO interesting in the KM since he had never seen the book before. 
Luba, a young woman in the branch, shared a beautiful spiritual thought on Patience. 
She asked someone to read Mosiah 3:19. Anton's hand shot up and he read it for us. 
Then he continued flipping through the book with great eagerness. Sister Palmer and 
I almost cried with joy. It is sooo much more rewarding when you are sharing the gospel 
with a good friend. It just means much more!

Friday: BEST DAY EVER! Did service at an elementary school with our friend Marina. 
We all made t-shirts for one another in our district. SO FUNNY.  Saw all of my friends 
in Kazan for one last big hurrah. We went ice skating and had snowball fights. 
It was literally bliss!!!

Saturday: Traveled all day. Elders helped move all my bags and our friend Marina met us 
at the bus station. She made sure we were all settled in and even bought us some juice and 
muffins as our lunch. She's like our russian mama here. Her daughter is member in 
Los Angeles so I amgoing to meet her sometime when I get back. So cool!! 
Then we left to Samara. The sisters fed us and took care of us!

Sunday: BEZI!!!! Man, I've missed this place. They were in a new building. 
It was incredible. The members have been waiting for over a year to move to this new 
building and it is BEAUTIFUL!!!! 3 stories high and so wonderful. There was a 
special spirit in that meeting. My good friend, Elder Pacheco, was then release as 
a branch president there for the past 5 months. It was incredible to see the change in the 
whole branch since the time I first served there (exactly a year ago) and now. 
It is night and day. I am so grateful for the Spirit. Then a member invited me 
and Elder Pacheco over for dinner at their place. 
We went on elder-sister splits. . . .lol just kidding! We went with our companions. 
It was super sweet!!!

Anyhoo, super long letter. I'm sorry, but I hope you enjoyed that! I love my life. 
I love the Lord. I know He loves you. God is good. I know that. I have felt that. 
And you can, too! Please feel free to ask me how you can have more happiness 
and peace in your life. I would love to have a long chat about that.

I have no regrets!

LOVE YOU ALL!!!!!!!!

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Week 78 - December 5, 2016 2nd to last email. . .

My dearest readers,

Wow! How crazy is that?I can't believe I only have one more emailing day! It is weird. 
Yesterday, I said goodbye to the members here in Kazan. I'll be staying here in Kazan up 
until Saturday, then I'm going to Samara so I can say goodbye to the member there in Bezi. 
So strange. I'm really going to miss all my friends here. We've got a full week planned 
so time will really fly!

 The other sisters came for splits! Hollah

Just a nice announcement: I'll be returning home December 16. I will be having a little get together next Saturday December 17. I know my mom has sent out some invites on Facebook. If you are interested and able to come, I would love to see you there! Just email me and I'll give you the details if you don't already know. I love you all!!!!

Service activity last week! Remember this guy? 
We served my first 3 weeks in Russia together. 
Now my last three!!

Last week:

Quote from film club when talking about caves: "When you spend enough time in darkness, 
you know the real value of light." I loved that thought! It is true. This is a testimony as to 
why we need opposition in our lives. I read the conference talk from April 2016 from 
Elder Oaks. Opposition is really how we grow in life. An athlete can't gain muscle 
without resistance. The same goes for our spirits! We can't grow without resistance! 
It is a principle easier said that applied. But I'll try my best!

One of the highlights of our week was when we were sitting home, doing studies in the 
morning on Wednesday. We get a call from one of the youth telling us it was her mom's 
birthday today and wanted to know if we could do something real quick for her. 
We said we could figure something out. We bought a cake at a store and then took the 
30 minute bus ride over to their home. Looked like we weren't going to have 
full studies and lunch. .. again. We got there and her mom was SO happy! 
We showed them the cake and card. The kids starting saying, "Whoa! How did they 
know that we always buy that cake???" The mother then replied, "They prayed about 
which cake to buy, of course!" I thought to myself, well, not exactly true, but we do pray 
to have the Spirit with us always and to do the will of the Lord. So, that counts, right? 
We were really grateful to be an instrument in the Lord's hand in that moment. 

We are waiting for our friends.

An inactive member, Marat, rented out a gym for us to play volleyball with him (yay!) 
and told us we could invite friends. So we did just that! It was super good, we had 4 friends 
there, and Marat and his 2 friends and random people from the gym joined us. It was sooooo 
nice to play volleyball again! I wasn't horrible either! A lot of people asked if I was a 
professional volleyball player. I wish I could have said yes haha. Then we were able 
to talk to the people there who work at the gym, too. He is so good at getting us to talk 
to people (he is the one who gave us the referral who we sent to Moscow). It was great!

 Does he count as captain Moroni??? Creepy kid's museum.

Honestly, so many good things. I have no idea what to say. I love my time spent here in Russia. 
I wouldn't change it for the world. I love the people here. I have been so blessed. I look 
forward to seeing many of you soon, though! I hope you have a great week!!!! 

Much love, 
Cectpa Graham