The days are really starting to blur together here. I had to think for about an hour and take notes so I could figure out what to write to you this week, haha! First things first, I've got some more news about my departure date. They write the dates on the dear elders we get, and when I got yours from earlier this week my date had been bumped to March 7. At this point we're pretty sure it's just something to do with the transfers needing to line up for when I arrive in Russia! So technically I won't be at my halfway mark until next week, but it's getting pretty close. I seriously can't believe that I've been here for a month, it's so strange how time moves here. The days feel like weeks and the weeks feel like days. After four weeks though it starts to feel like there was no life before the MTC and that we're never gonna get out of here, haha!
This week has been super good though, our investigators have been doing so well! Кирилл, sort of pronounced Kareel, has made so much progress. When we started teaching him he was an atheist and didn't believe in God. It's sort of been a struggle trying to teach him, but after a lot of prayer and direction from the spirit we were able to have him read from Doctrine and Covenants 122, and he decided that if what we were saying was true, and that if God was really there that he would answer him. He told us a story this Monday about his prayer after making that decision, and the overwhelming feeling that somebody was listening to him. We got to explain to him that it was God that was listening to him, and that he had received his answer. He had tears in his eyes as he came to that realization, and I may or may not have shed a tear or two as well. The spirit was so strong in that lesson, and it is truly humbling to me to see myself as an instrument in the Lord's hands.
This Sunday I had the opportunity to speak in church. They don't tell you before hand who is going to be giving the talk, so we all prepare one every week. It turns out what I prepared was definitely not within the 5 minute minimum, but actually somewhere around a minute and a half. Somehow though, I was able to continue to talk on the subject for another 3 and a half minutes and then bear my testimony of it. That scripture in Alma 26:12 has popped into my thoughts so many times this week. Without God, and without the Holy Ghost to help me out, I truly am nothing, and I would definitely not have been able to do that unless the Holy Ghost was there to call to remembrance the words that I needed.
I got to teach priesthood this week as well, luckily that was in English, haha, I don't know how well I would have done with that for 40 minutes. It was a super good experience though, our district is seriously the best! A new district came in yesterday! We were all so excited to get some more Russians, our numbers have seriously been dwindling the past 2 weeks. There were 18 people total in our branch last Sunday, and even though that number is still only 28, it's exciting to not be the newest district any more. We bought them all some Russian hymn books and wrote a message in there for them like the last district did for us! They all seem super cool and super bright, I'm confident that they're gonna do great! Also we did some rearranging of leadership within our district this week and my companion is our new district leader! It doesn't mean a whole lot is gonna change other than the fact that we can go grab the mail now instead of somebody else, and a couple of extra meetings here and there! Other than that not too much new has happened. I've started learning 25 new words every day, I've got somewhere over 400 words in my vocabulary right now, and in just over 3 weeks I should be at around 1000, which is what my teacher has been pushing me to do, so I'll keep you updated on that!
I'll just leave you with a couple of last spiritual thoughts before I wrap up my email this week. We had the opportunity to hear from one of the presidents of the 70 this Tuesday, and he told us a really cool story. He had read a biography about President Spencer W. Kimball about 6 months prior to the start of his story, and he thought it was interesting but didn't think much of it. He then had the opportunity to hear him speak or something of that nature, and after the meeting President Kimball came up, grabbed him by his suit jacket and pulled him down to about his level (President Kimball was a little small, and the speaker was pretty tall) and gave him a kiss on the cheek and told him thank you for everything he had done. President Kimball then moved towards the door, stopped and turned around, and then did the same thing again but on the other cheek. After that experience he felt so much love for President Kimball that just wasn't there before. He read his biography again, but now having established a personal connection with him, the words carried so much more meaning to him, and he read with intent. He related this experience to us and the Savior, and the importance of having a love for him, and that as we read with that love in mind the words will have so much more meaning to us. I'd like to add to his remarks just a few short sentences. While President Kimball showed his love with a kiss on the cheek and a thank you, Christ has done more for us than we can even begin to comprehend. D&C 19:15-18 gives a good idea of the suffering that he went through. The sufferings both body and spirit that caused him, even Christ the Son of God to tremble and shake and cry out father, please don't make me do this, the sufferings, how sore we know not, how hard to bear, we know not. I have felt the power of these words speak to me in the past weeks and months leading up to my mission, and my love for the Savior is real, and as I read I feel the truthfulness of what that President of the 70 spoke to us about this Tuesday, and I encourage you all to keep that in mind as you study.
The last thought that I feel I need to share is in Alma 14:13. I read this story this week and it really spoke to me for some reason, and when I got on to email this week, Brother Johnston had mentioned it in a message he sent me. At the time of this verse, Alma and Amulek had been preaching unto Zeezrom and his people, and they grew angry with him and the members of the church. They began to gather up the wives and children of the believers and cast them into the furnace. Amulek watched on in what must have been a horrifying experience, having only been traveling with Alma for the space of around a year or so. In this moment of fear, Amulek turns to Alma and says "Behold, perhaps they will burn us also". Alma, knowing that the Lord had desires for them to continue the work, turns to Amulek and says "Be it according to the will of the Lord. But, behold, our work is not finished; therefore they burn us not". They went on to bring many people unto a knowledge of the truth, preaching repentance throughout the land. The Lord provides for his servants, and there is a plan for all of us. The faith that Alma has in the Lord sets such an example for me. If we can have even a fraction of that faith, the Lord will make us instruments His hands, to bring to pass works that will leave the world in awe. I love you all dearly, and think about and pray for you all often. I hope you are doing well, and love hearing from you.
Until next time,
(Staryeshina Kempton or Elder Kempton)