Pictures: Elder Hancock and I down by the river, doing area book calls, eating ice cream! Then Elder Walker (the young one), who is getting transferred out of Omsk to serve in Novokuznetsk.
I hope you're all having a fantastic P-Day! I know I am. It's the last P-Day of the month and we're actually not broke! So we're going out to Burger King after emails and we actually get to eat this week!! So that's good.
I want to write this week about a few specific people and kinda tell their stories.
Malo is a young black man from Angola, Africa who has been in Omsk studying for the past few years. He speaks Portuguese, as well as some Spanish and Russian. The Sisters contacted him on their first day moving down into our area, gave him a Book of Mormon and invited him to church. He was really accepting to the Book of Mormon as he said that he "loves the word of God." He came to church three weeks ago half way through sacrament meeting and then had to leave right after. The next week he came again and managed to get there right after the sacrament, and was able to talk to people afterwards. Yesterday he came for the third week in a row. He really likes church and has said several times that he will be coming every week because he "likes it here." At our branch there is a Gospel Essentials class that is what we bring investigators to when they come to church. Well the teacher wasn't there and they didn't plan for someone else to teach the lesson. So I grabbed the books, passed them out and started the lesson. I glanced through the list of chapters and decided to teach the Atonement as it's easy to touch on other doctrinal points from there. Malo, the sisters, Elder Hancock and I were the only ones in there along with Denis, one of the members. Turned out to be a great lesson that allowed Malo to open up a little bit more. We're having a Portuguese Book of Mormon sent from the mission office that we'll give him next Sunday. We have a lot of hope for him!
Cris is a 23 year old girl that wants nothing more in life than to be happy all of the time. She has been floating around for a while. Coming to youth activities since November. In the beginning, she would come in, sit kinda in the corner and leave right afterwards. She'd keep to herself. Even when I came to Omsk in March, she was a lot more reserved. She had met a little bit with some Elders back in December, but they were never real lessons. Now, if you came to youth activities for the first time, you'd think that she was one of them. She's friends with all of the young men and women here and she absolutely loves all of the missionaries. Especially the senior couple Elder and Sister Walker. They have a really good relationship with her. About a month ago, we started working with Cris to be able to meet and have lessons. We see her a lot at all of the youth things and English practices, but she doesn't come to church. Our first lesson with her was interesting, we ended up just talking about the standards of the church which she was interested in, and we emphasized free agency. Last week, we met with her and talked about Jesus Christ and his Atonement. It was a really good lesson in which she prayed! She prayed in English and something she mentioned in her prayer was for the missionaries to never leave Russia. She has made a lot of progress and she seems like a completely different person than when I first met her. She has her "own religion" that she won't tell us what it is exactly. We think it's Hindu. She's so great and would make an awesome member.
Jamshit is an old contact from the potential investigators section of our area book. We've tried calling him every once in a while, but he's never been in the city. He works far away from Omsk. We called him up this week and set up a meeting. Come Saturday, he showed up to the branch! He's in his 30's, Muslim, from Uzbekistan. He's lived in Omsk for a few years now. He's married to a Russian who is a Christian (Russian Orthodox). I'd never taught a Muslim before, so we went about teaching the restoration a little differently. He was so nice and respectful to what we had to teach him, even though he is devout to his faith. We taught the best lesson on the Restoration that I've ever taught on my mission. He had good questions and understood everything. He took the Book of Mormon and Restoration pamphlet and said he would pass them on to his wife who likes reading "these kind of books." He was open to the message and open to understanding why we believed how we do.
Водитель Такси Волкеров (The Walker's Taxi Driver):
The Walkers take taxis all over the place and they have gotten to know a few of their taxi drivers over time. This driver, whose name escapes me and who is from one of the Stan countries, is in his fifties with a wife and a 17-year-old son. His mother passed away a few weeks ago. He speaks a little English, and the Walkers speak a little Russian and they have become good friends. The Walkers have his personal number and he said to call him anytime they need any help. He will go to the store with them, help them shop, carry their groceries to the car and from the car to their apartment, he will go to the fruit market with them to make sure they don't get ripped off or to make sure that they are given the best fruit available. (Market people rip off foreigners all the time). He's just a super nice guy! The Walkers want us to help work with him because of their language barrier. They want their driver to take them to a big Mosque that is about 40 Km south of Omsk. Outside of the city limits into the country which means outside of our registered area. Elder Walker has contacted President Gibbons and gotten special permission for us to go out to this Mosque together and to kinda drop the gospel on him in the car ride there, the walk around the Mosque, and the car ride back. So on Tuesday this is what we're going to be doing! This guy is in a great place and situation to be susceptible to the gospel message, and we have this great opportunity to be with him for about four hours.
Pavol is deaf, and a little mentally handicapped. A while back, missionaries met him and somehow started meeting with him. Elder Foster who left Omsk last transfer was a big part of teaching him. When I was on exchanges, I got to go on a lesson with Pavol. He teaches us Russian Sign Language so that we can communicate with him better and teach him. Vanya Akulov, one of the members here that is 19 years old knows a little sign language and helps on the lessons. Pavol is always happy, and loves the missionaries because we put in the effort it takes to be able to communicate with him.
Иван Акулов (Ivan Akulov):
He is a member of just over a year. 19 years old and just a great guy. I've sent pictures and talked about him in past emails. If he could, he would be with the missionaries 24/7. He wants to go on a mission and plans to in a year, and he also wants to attend BYU. Two weeks ago when the branch here was reorganized, he was called to be the 2nd councilor in the branch presidency. So a 19 year old, hasn't yet served a mission in a branch presidency in Russia. Pretty cool! He's had a hard life, and has a tough family situation. He found the church because missionaries talked to him on the street one day and his life is changed because of that. He's really awesome, and we are great friends.
So those are a few of the people that I get to associate with on the mission. Russians, Angolians, Uzbeks, it doesn't really matter where they are from. Everyone has their own different stories and pasts that somehow, somewhere brought them into relation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and all of those who have allowed this relationship to do so have been blessed in their lives. I think all together, these stories show how the work is going forward, and show how God works in small ways, to accomplish great things.
As for normal stuff this last week, Elder Hancock and I are doing great. There are ice cream stands on every street corner here, and we eat a lot of ice cream! Right? Ice cream stands in Siberia...who knew. We contact a lot down by the river where it's nice and clean and has a fresh breeze coming off the river. There is so much pollution here. When I went to Finland for Visa trip a few months back, we suck our heads our the airport doors and just smelled the fresh European air. :)
I hope you're all doing well! I'm coming up on a year on my mission which means half way already. Pretty crazy!
Love and Miss you all. :)
Elder Benjamin Moore
Have a great week!!!