MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! Today is Christmas (and a Christmas party at the bishop's house tonight), tomorrow I get to Skype with Mom and Dad and Mike and Reanna, and Friday I'm going to go to the Kiev temple to commemorate my official half-way mark of my mission (where has the time gone?!). What an amazing week! And as a Christmas gift from my dear Heavenly Father, He gave us...
A BAPTISMAL DATE! Yep, Alisa wants to get baptized! She picked January 25th to work toward, and I think we'll need about that much time to go through the lessons and make sure she understands everything and truly repents. She is such a sweet woman, and Sister Hunsaker and I have a great relationship with her. She even told someone that "we're a wonderful 'face' to the church." Great compliment! The members have been doing a fabulous job of fellowshipping her; the member last night invited her to Institute (for adults) and two men in the ward gave her a Priesthood blessing. I'm really looking forward to what the next few weeks hold for her. I also love her story because she basically walked into my life when everything else was falling down around me; after a long week of losing all our investigators and getting rejected by all our potentials, she just waltzed into the church on a Monday afternoon. God tore our area down just to build it up even better, much like He does with our life in general sometimes.
We also got a new investigator, Aliya, who is renting an apartment from one of the women (Lidia) in the ward. She just moved her from Uzbekistan and has absolutely no Christian background (prominent religion is Islam), but after sitting in on the end of our lesson with Lidia, we asked if she wanted to hear our message and she agreed. We've already taught the Restoration and watched "Finding Faith in Christ," and the Spirit has been SO strong in our lessons, it's so wonderful. She also has a super cute 3-year-old daughter and another on the way. It'll be hard to progress toward baptism because her husband is pretty anti, but at least we have the opportunity to spend time with her and teach her about her Savior. As we were walking away from our last lesson with her, I told Sister Hunsaker, "I just love being a missionary." There's just nothing like teaching people and testifying about Jesus Christ. It's been especially interesting to teach someone who, until a week ago, didn't even really know who Jesus Christ was. And now the sheep has found the Good Shepherd who has been searching for her. :)
Besides that, the work has really been progressing with members. We came up with a service list of all sorts of things we missionaries can do for the members and their friends, and we handed it out on Sunday and had great success -- it got us both member appointments and referrals, and the ward loved it. Also, our bishop, without any prompting from us, got up in sacrament meeting and gave a talk about how much we as missionaries bring the Spirit with us and how much of a blessing we are to the ward, and he encouraged everyone to invite us to their homes more often. It was incredible, and I love that we've gained his trust so much that he chose to get up and say those things to the ward. Have I ever told you how amazing our ward leadership is? Because seriously... wow.
Lastly, little spiritual thought. I've been reading "Our Heritage" lately, and I've been so inspired by the stories of the pioneers (my ancestors in many cases). I've found a lot of connection with them; though their trials were physical and mine right now are spiritual, the spirit of persecution from the enemies of truth is in large part the same, and (most importantly) the Source of comfort is always the same. The pioneer's trek refined them as Saints, and I can think of no better word for a mission than "refining." Also, I found it interested that about 62,000 Saints gathered to Utah in the mid-1800's, and now, in 2013, there are over 80,000 full-time missionaries serving throughout the whole world. First we gathered TO Zion, and now we're going out TO gather Zion. There's just something poetic about that. "Our Heritage" has helped me see and remember the big picture of the Kingdom of God on earth, and I would highly suggest it to anyone. I'm so grateful for the faith of the early Saints, for the things they learned through all their trials, and for passing those things down throughout the generations all the way to me.
Well, I hope this letters finds all of you having a very merry Christmas! Christmas here is more celebrated on January 7th (Orthodox calendar) so that's when most of the festivities will be. Have a great week; I love and miss you!
PS -- Pictures: me and Sister Hunsaker, me and Genadi, and me and a snowman. (Which is which???) Oh, and Mom, you can post these to the blog, except for the one with Genadi. Thanks!