Monday, December 30, 2013

С Новым Годом!

This one is going to have a lot of pictures! A lot happened this last week. 

It was CHRISTMAS! Which means I got to Skype all of you. It sure feels like longer than a few days ago that we "Hung out". As I am with a German companion, I used it as an excuse to have two Christmases (one on the 24th and one on the 25th). I opened a package from Dad and a package from AnnaMarie on the 24th, and the second one from Dad on the 25th. That was pretty awesome! For Christmas, Elder Bergmann and I got each other presents. I got a snow globe!, and Elder Bergmann got a plastic toy hockey set (to make morning exercise time a little more exciting). 

This Christmas was a lot different for a lot of reasons. #1 I'm in Siberia... Then there's the missing strawberry pancake breakfast etc. It was different trying to celebrate Christmas while still being focused on the Missionary work...but you do what you can! After we Skyped on Christmas, we went back home for a little while before going to our Tomsk District Christmas "party" at the sisters' apartment. We made Blene and ate lots of American candy from all of our packages. (American Snickers taste different than Russian ones... ) It was nice to have the district all together to celebrate Christmas. It's like our makeshift family for the Holidays.

After our District party, we went to the Branch and Skyped Elder Bergmann's family. It was really funny watching Elder Bergmann try to speak German again. I had to translate somethings for him once in a while. He's been speaking nothing but Russian and English for the last 4 months. His family is really nice and they are just straight up German. His mom sent him a package with 7kg of chocolate in it. It was funny to see the difference between our families. I'm the 3rd one to go on a mission, and we've all been away from home for extended periods of time so our family kinda has the drill down. Elder Bergmann is the first one to ever serve a mission in his family, as his Dad was a convert. They were asking him so many questions about this and that... the little things, or the stereotypes that none of  you would ever really ask about (unless it was Dad joking :P). It was also funny to see what kinds of things Elder Bergmann said about his time here versus the things that I said. 

After we Skyped his family, we had the Branch Christmas concert and social before going home at our normal time of 9:00. Elder Bergmann, Bladimir, and myself sang a German song for the concert.

A couple of days after Christmas, the Zone Leaders came to Tomsk to go on exchanges with Elder Bergman and myself and also to interview the other elders' investigator for baptism. I was with Elder Hendryx while Elder Bergmann was with Elder Johnson. The exchanges were good and it was a lot of fun to serve with Elder Hendryx for the day. 

For Christmas, the missionaries in Novosibirsk all went with President to go see the Nutcracker Ballet in the largest theatre in Russia. (When it was built, the architect was killed because it ended up being bigger and nicer than the one in Moscow... yay Russia!) So all the missionaries NOT in Novosibirsk were all given an extra "Christmas" culture night. Our district chose from a list of plays at the theatre down town in Tomsk. So we get there on Saturday morning. It starts at 12... We get there about 11:45. Not very many people there, but then they started coming. The only thing was that the ones that started coming were all 3 or 4 year olds accompanied by their parents. We just started thinking... oh no, what have we gotten ourselves into! It's about time for it to start so we follow the crowd into the concert hall. Not even the real big one that they had there, but a small side room with a little stage. So we sit down, followed by a heard of little kids. The average age in the room must have evened out to be about 4 years old. So there we were, 8 American missionaries sitting near the back of the theatre planning our escape out if it gets bad. We lasted about 10 minutes before leaving to go explore the city.

We ended up going to a Russian Orthodox Temple where we saw a baptism of a little baby boy. It was interesting to look around in there at the paintings and ceremonial stuff and make connections to where it all may have come from. 

After our adventures, we ran some errands and went to the branch building to have Vladimir's baptism. It was really cool to see the Russian Orthodox baptism earlier and then go to our baptism a few hours later. On the way home from contacting after the baptism, Elder Bergmann and I passed the bus stop with the Ukrainian Super Konteek cookies... we bought a lot of them... 

On Sunday Morning we got some awesome news! The text message passed to us from the Zone leaders was this:
"Dear Elders and Sisters, we just wanted to share some wonderful news with you on this beautiful Sabbath morning. Yesterday, in the mission, four people were baptized! Today, another two, at least, are scheduled. AND, our incredible office elders found two more missing baptismal records. That brings the total number of baptisms to... 100!!! This is an absolute miracle. The Lord is doing amazing things here. Thank you for all of the hard work that you put in this year and especially these last few months. Please continue to pray in faith and gratitude. We hope you have a wonderful Sabbath day!"

That's some pretty exciting news! Our new goal as a mission for 2014 is 120 baptisms. That averages out to 12 baptisms per city in our mission which means one a month for Tomsk between the four companionships that we have here.

With that good news comes some bad news. My investigator since my 3rd week in Russia, after over 25 lessons, 12 times at church and a lot of other events has dropped us. He says that maybe in a few years, but this isn't the time for him. We've done with him all that we can do, and as Preach My Gospel says, if we do all that we can do, we may still feel disappointments, but we will not be disappointed in ourselves. 

This next year will be my only full year in the field, so this goal of 120 baptisms will be the only mission goal that I will be able to see from start to finnish! I'm excited to find out what happens in this next year! No doubt, the Novosibirsk District will grow into a Stake. 

Lots of love to  you all, and a Happy New Year

Elder Benjamin Moore

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