Saturday, January 30, 2016

Week 4...I think

Здраствуйте! (Hello)

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,

-Старейшина кэмптон

(Staryeshina Kempton or Elder Kempton)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Humility & Harvest



How are you all doing?!?! The time here is seriously going so fast, it feels like yesterday I was here emailing you on my last p-day. The days are all starting to blur together here because the schedule is so rigid.  We do the same stuff everyday so it's hard to remember a whole lot. I've had to start writing down things to put in my emails so I don't forget by the time p-day comes around. 

I've had a lot of really cool experiences teaching this week. Last Friday we committed one of our new investigators to get baptized and that was such a cool experience! Even though I know they aren't real, I'm so excited for them! We started doing TRC this week, which basically is just lessons with members of the church that speak Russian. We go into a room and just talk with them and then share a message, it's a super cool experience. It's been pretty humbling though, I've learned that that's one of the most important qualities to have as a missionary speaking a different language! My companion went into that lesson feeling super good about his language skills, with pretty much 0 preparation, and the spirit just was not there at all. As a result of that, both of us struggled to speak the language and we couldn't remember a lot of our really basic vocab, it was so frustrating! The next lesson though we both changed our mindsets and just asked for the spirit to be there, and it actually ended up being a super awesome lesson. That scripture in Alma 26:12 has been one of favorites this week, it helps me remember that everything I have, even the things that I think are my own, are from God. Ammon was such a good example of humility, I've been reading a lot about him in my personal study this week and he's probably my favorite Book of Mormon missionary right now! 

One of the other district's left this week, and it was super strange! They've been here since we arrived and we were all pretty close, so watching them leave was really weird and really awesome at the same time! It's getting me so pumped to head out though! We're over a third of the way done with the MTC and it feels great! 

We had a member of the quorum of the 70 come speak to us this Tuesday for our devotional and he had some super cool comments. At one point he was talking about how we have the ability to baptize thousands on our mission. He had a senior couple stand up, and said to imagine they were a couple we converted on our missions. He then had 5 missionaries stand up to represent their children. If each of them had 5 children ( I know that's a little unrealistic) there would have been 25 more members. He did this 3 more times, and the entire audience was standing up. It was super cool to see the effects that a single baptism could have, and it gives me hope knowing that I can potentially have that big of an affect on the lives of so many! Another super cool experience from this week! We had a worldwide missionary broadcast and received special training from Elder Bednar, Elder Anderson, and a couple of other general authorities! This was the second time in history that they had ever done anything like this, so it was cool to be a part of it! 

Also, my companion is definitely not from Sweden, unfortunately for Cole! He's from Las Vegas, and he's super cool! I'm having such a good time here, and I love having the ability to study for 10 hours a day. It's like a dream, honestly, being able to devote myself so wholly to one thing, and have no distractions! 

I'll just leave you guys with one last scripture that I thought was really cool this week! In Alma 17, the sons of Mosiah meet up after having been separated for something like 14 years. Alma's heart is full when he sees them and realizes they are still strong members of the church. They talk and travel together for the space of a day or two, probably swapping stories from their missions and having a good time. Around verse 13, they arrive at the borders of the land of the Lamanites, and know that they must go their separate ways. The words in that verse are so cool to me. "They separated themselves and departed one from another, trusting in the Lord that they should meet again at the close of their harvest; for they supposed that great was the work which they had undertaken." I feel like a son of Mosiah at times, and I have departed from you all for a time, but I have faith in the Lord that this is a great work indeed, and that I will see you all again at the end of my harvest. I love you all dearly, and think about you often. I'm so thankful for all that you do for me and have done for me.

Until next time,

-Старейшина кэмптон

(Staryeshina Kempton)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

2 Weeks down!!

Hey mom, dad, family, and anyone else who might be reading this!

Week two was just as awesome as week 1! The language keeps getting better and better. We have two new investigators, Vika and Kirill. We taught Vika about the restoration last night, and my companions throat was pretty sore so he didn't get a whole lot of chances to speak, but I was able to teach for about 30 minutes without any real pauses or anything like that, and I feel like she understood everything we were telling her. As I bore my testimony about the first vision, and the blessings that it can give her in her life, the words seemed to just roll off of my tongue, and even though I used the vocabulary of a 3rd grader, the spirit bore powerful testimony to me, and hopefully my investigator, that what I was saying was indeed true. There's been a lot of focus this week on the first vision for some reason. I sing in the MTC choir here, and this week we sang Joseph Smith's first prayer. The choir director told us some cool details about the song and about the Joseph Smith story in general, but he said something that really struck me and got me thinking. It doesn't matter that Joseph Smith was the one who went out into that grove some Spring morning in 1820, that was not the miracle. The miracle of the restoration is that Jesus Christ and God appeared to him, and that all of God's children are worthy to receive revelation from God so long as we just ask. 

This week was full of all kinds of cool and funny experiences. My companion ended up getting some sort of food poisoning earlier this week, and he barely made it to the bathroom. We stayed in our residence hall for around 4 hours just to be sure that it wasn't anything more serious than that, and then we went back to work. The next day his voice pretty much went out, and he's been recovering from it ever since. It's been awesome to see how committed he is to this work, and how much he still contributes even though his voice has been so bad. There have been general authorities and members of the quorum of the 12 here since Sunday, so a lot of places in the MTC have been blocked off to keep the missionaries from trying to meet them. We were told we wouldn't get to see any of them, but Tuesday at our weekly devotional Elder Neil L Anderson spoke to us. It was a cool experience being in the choir with hundreds of other missionaries as we all bore our testimonies through song. He spoke to us about the doctrine of Christ, as outlined in the 4th article of faith with the addition of enduring to the end. He told us a story about Elder Scott, and some experiences he had serving in what I believe was Brazil. He spoke to a large group of people, many of which had traveled long distances for the opportunity to see him. After the conclusion of his talk, a sister gave him a letter saying that she really enjoyed his words, but that she had traveled for many hours and sacrificed a lot to hear an apostle's witness of our savior Jesus Christ, and that he had spoken only of doctrine. Elder Scott made a commitment that day that "he would always have Christ's name on his lips." As a missionary, I realize that I too have been given the call to proclaim the reality of Jesus Christ in all things I do, so I too have taken up the same commitment to always be a testament of Christ.

I've really enjoyed getting dear elders from you guys! Aunt Trish sent me one the other day and it made me smile knowing that I was in her families thoughts, you'll have to let her know I say thanks! I got your care package with the SD Card reader, so I'll send all of those over to you in one way or another. I've got tons of pictures! 

I meant to mention this to you guys last week, but it completely left my mind when I was writing to you. When we eat lunch, all of the Russian speaking missionaries sit in a little alcove on the far side of the cafeteria, with a few pillars up that really separates it from everything else. The German speaking elders usually sit on the other side of it, so we've decided to call our little area the iron curtain. I thought it was pretty funny, haha, but it probably really isn't. I'm starting to go a little bit insane from lack of sleep, it doesn't seem like it would be very exhausting sitting down for 14 hours every day, but the 10 hours of studying is extremely draining. It seems like 8 hours of sleep is nowhere near enough, which is really strange. It's great though, I'm seriously loving how much I'm learning about the language. Our district has started speaking only Russian with each other on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and then just using as much as we can the rest of the time. It goes so much faster when you're completely immersed in it. Our teachers have spoken very few sentences in English, but we all somehow manage to understand and learn from what they're saying. Let me know how everybody's doing and if there are any super funny or cool stories you want to tell me!  I love you all so much, and can't wait to hear from you!


-Старейшина кэмптон

(Staryeshina Kempton)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

MTC Week 1


How's it going everybody! I'm super excited to start hearing from all of you every week. I got my email changed so now you can all send me emails whenever you'd like at! Feel free to spread that around to any of my friends back home so I can hear from them as well! 

First off I'd like to thank you guys for that care package, it was super awesome! You must have been inspired with the number of cookies you sent because there were just enough for me to give one to all of the elders in my district, they all appreciated them! I'm one of the few that's received letters and care packages, so when you send care packages just give me enough to share with everybody else! I don't have the cable for my camera with me, so I'm not able to send pictures right now, I'm sorry mom. If you want to send me a card reader that I can use that would be great, because I can't seem to find the cable that came with the camera in my bags 

This week has been so incredible. You guys have no idea how cool everything is here. The first few days I found myself just smiling at everything because I just love the fact that I'm officially a missionary now. We study on average about 10 hours a day, and I'm loving every second of it. My companion, Elder Powell, is a lot like me, in the sense that he prepared a good amount before he came out, so me and him are both sky rocketing with our language study, and we can help the rest of our district out. Our district is absolutely incredible. The Lord knows who and what we need, and when we need it. The fact that everybody in our district was called at the time they were is nothing short of a miracle. My companion, Elder Powell, waited 8 months to report, two of the elders waited 6 months, for one elder it took him 11 months from the time he decided he wanted to serve a mission until the time he reported. On of the sisters gave up her job after 4 years of schooling and an incredible job. Everyone here is here because the Lord knew that we needed each other. We've already started teaching in Russian. We've taught four lesson to our investigator so far, and it's been absolutely incredible! Last night we invited her to be baptized, and she said she would be when she was sure that it was true. In my broken Russian I was able to look her in the eyes and say something to the effect of "Lera, I give you a promise, that if you will read this book, and if you will pray to know that it is true, God will answer you." As I spoke I felt the spirit so strong. It was such an amazing experience to see that although my words were clearly weak, and my grammatical errors must have been plentiful, the language of the spirit speaks with conviction and clarity that cannot be misinterpreted or misunderstood. I haven't really made a whole lot of funny language mistakes yet, other than a few days ago at the end of a lesson when I accidentally asked her if she would return, when I meant to ask if she would pray. She laughed and I immediately corrected myself. Other than that it's going super well! 

I've only prayed in English about 2 times since I've been here, everything else has been in Russian. That's been a super cool experience as well. When you have such a limited vocabulary you learn how to stretch the few words that you do know really far. It's funny how much you can express to your father in heaven with the words of a 4 year old. I've already learned so much since I've been here. One thing in specific that has helped me more than anything is focusing everything on the Lord and on the people. The first couple of days here I was so excited to learn the language, that that was all I spent my time on, and nothing seemed to be sticking. Then on Sunday we listened to a guest speaker at a devotional, and then watched a talk given by Elder Bednar exclusively for missionaries. The spirit must have had a message for me because I heard them telling me to focus on Christ and the people about 500 times. They promised that as our focus shifted outwards from ourselves, that everything else would follow. Since then I have prayed sincerely for my investigator, and devoted a large amount of my personal study time towards things that could help her, and I have become so much more proficient in the language, in the spirit, and in my teaching abilities. The Lord will provide for us if we give ourselves to Him and turn our wills towards his. I'll just share with you a couple more thoughts and then I'll sign off. 

First, I found a scripture that fits dad so perfectly, when I read it I laughed to myself because it reminded me of something that he would say. When you get a chance, look up 1 Corinthians 13:11. Second, I learned something cool about a Russian word. The word for family in Russian is Семья, pronounced "Semya". "Сем" in russian means seven, and "я" means "I". So the word for family implies that you're taking 7, or any number of people and making them one. Just a cool thought! I love you all so much. The time here seems to be flying by, it's already been more than a week since I arrived, and it feels like I've only been here a day. Tell Wyatt, Cody, and Cole that I miss them and love them dearly. Please send Wyatt a copy of this email, and let them know to email me back whenever they get a chance, or send me a dear elder, those work really well because I can think about a response throughout the week. On p-days we only get an hour to respond to emails, so I print them off and then read them before I start my one hour to respond. Sorry if this email is ridiculously long, I just have so much I want to tell you. Feel free to post whatever portion of this email you would like to the blog. I'll send pictures next week.

-Старейшина кэмптон

(Staryeshina Kempton)