This is our "Happy and Sad day" because we are happy for you but sad for us! We have really enjoyed being together with your son/daughter these last 30 hours and pray that all will go well with his/her last transfer home!
So many people have been counting down for me, I've been saved from having to do it myself. Instead, I can focus on the things that are really important like working! I don't feel like I'm going back to "normal" life because my life here seems normal.
This week was so exciting. I'm not even sure what kind of emotions I've been feeling. Going home is a nice excuse to use to get people to meet. We had some potential investigators FINALLY make an effort to meet to say goodbye. It was interesting to see who went out of their way and who politely brushed us off.
We visited a woman from our potentials list who has three kids who are adorable. Her ten-year-old son kept speaking English with us. He's a very polite, well-behaved kid. Her other two girls are twins, and they're only one year old. They kept her busy! She's interested in practicing English, and she was so nice. She would be such a nice addition to the branch. Our conversation didn't touch much on the church, but I hope the missionaries and the church can befriend her and help her see what kind of blessings are available here.
We also met with a former taxi driver that we've kept in contact with over the past few months. He said he's having a hard time in life and actually said he sometimes has suicidal thoughts. This is the first time I've seen him since he gave us a taxi ride, but he is openly looking for help and is ready to learn.
The other potential we saw was the primary president's daughter. She ALMOST came to church, but she was babysitting a neighbor's daughter and didn't know when the parents would be back. She also wants English help for her son. I can see her just falling in love with the church.
Church attendance was low, but the people are solid. I'm really going to miss everyone here. They've shown so much love. I know that sometime in the future we'll see each other again. :) The Church is true!
Я вас люблю! :D (I love you)
This week we were able to share the first vision twice and extend a baptismal commitment. I can't explain what a thrill it is to say those. I wish it happened more often. Another success of this week was return appointments. We met with two people a second time after our first initial contact. It was so great, and so miraculous. Everything is step by step. That was one of the topics I ended up studying today. God works line upon line, precept upon precept.
We talked with the primary teacher about how to make primary more interesting for the kids, and she really wants to help the kids gain a desire to come to church each week. She now is planning lessons from what she learns from the primary book instead of trying to just read the book with the kids. It really helps that she can teach with her own words. The singing part has also helped the kids pay attention. None of the members know any of the primary songs yet, so for a while, it will have to be the missionaries' responsibility to lead singing time. With time, I know the leaders will learn the songs for themselves. Like a member said, they haven't grown up in primary and have no idea how it's supposed to run.
We were able to donate the extra clothes hanging out in the branch to the hospice that we found. They really appreciated it and were so nice. I also called a woman from our potentials sheet who sounded SUPER excited to have Americans over as guests. We'll see if we can meet with her this week.
Today I had a wonderful talk with a man while on a bus. It was so refreshing, and so simple. I know that missionary conversations like that are not going to stop when my mission's over. In fact, they'll probably get better.
My mission has been such a journey, and I've learned so much. This last week, I'm excited to give it my all. I also want to share a part of my testimony.
I have gained a stronger testimony of Jesus Christ and of the reality of the Atonement. I know that Heavenly Father loves each of us, and I know that our personal light and our love for others grows through service. The scriptures are true. They are a source of comfort, answers, and knowledge. Everyone can learn, change, and progress, and weaknesses can be turned into strengths. There is an eternal plan, and God is just and merciful. God fulfills his promises. I'm grateful that I have been able to serve in Russia and experience the wonderful blessings that God has poured out here. God is a God of miracles, and miracles occur every day. I know that the Church is true.
Happy Pi day! In Russian, Pi is said "P" (like the name of the letter). That's why today is the best "P" day ever. We're in Vladivostok today with permission from the mission president to get some medicine for one of the sisters, and that also meant a blessed opportunity for sight-seeing, picture-taking, and souvenier-shopping. This day may have made up for a whole mission's worth of pictures and shopping.
March 8th was Women's Day. Thanks to all the women in my life! Tulips are a huge gift on this day, so there were lots of little stands selling tulips. Yesterday was also the first day of "Maslenitsa," a holiday to celebrate spring. There was a big gathering by the cultural center in Artyom.
One of the less-actives came to an activity late. He usually doesn't participate, and he didn't that night, but he was even quieter than usual. After the activity I asked him how he was doing, and we somehow talked for about fifteen minutes. He himself says it's too late to change his life and that he can't get what he wants, which is to go back in time and change something from his past or something like that. Even though I wasn't able to give him a perfect answer, I think he needed somebody to talk to. He has so much bottled up inside. That gave me a different perspective on the phrase "talk with everyone."
We visited another less-active and sang hymns with her. Even though it felt small and a little awkward, she was grateful for it and called it "miraculous" in her prayer. Also, her TV broke the night before, so she stayed up late reading the Liahona magazines. Oddly enough, today she was healthier and happier than usual. Coincidence? I think NOT!
We've also been trying to find a place where we can donate clothes that have collected in the branch, and we stopped by an old folks' home. They then pointed us to a hospice run by a church called "Path to Salvation." The lady that we talked with was very nice, and she shared her story of how she came to believe in Christ. As they walked us along the hall, Sis. Hawley recognized one of the grandpa's as one of the less-actives from our church. We have had no contact with him for about a year, and we randomly found him at this out-of-the-way hospice. I can't fully describe how neat this place was. The last crazy thing was that they have a giant blown up picture of Christ at the Second Coming that looks a whole lot like the one in our church. (It's the one where Christ is surrounded by angels, wearing white, hands outstretched.) I want to find the real picture and show it to them. We're going to go back soon to actually donate the clothes.
Those are some of the cool happenings in Russia. What a blessing it is to serve here!
I don't have much time today because we now have three sisters in Artyom, and that means trying to figure out how to let five missionaries write home from one computer. Sister Payne is staying with us until the end of her mission... I mean, our mission. All three of us go home together.
We were just working and hosting all week because of zone conference. I really can't explain the tiny miracles that happened. We also visiting a Russian Orthodox temple and had a long chat with one of their leaders and learned more about their religion. I hope the pictures speak more than I do.
I can hardly write about zone conference without crying. It was my last one. I felt like I learned so much about learning. The Kachers (from our area presidency) are such nice people. I also loved seeing everybody at the Sunday meeting, especially the people from Nakhodka whom I haven't seen for almost a whole year. That was a tender mercy. Artyom didn't have high attendance there, but the people who came are definitely strong.
I also can't express how wonderful I think Sisters Hall, Cox, Robb, and Jossie are. This mission is blessed to have some truly incredible sisters. Their examples are inspiring. I was blessed to serve with them this week. Even though I want to be so much better than I am, thankfully I'm better than I was.
Basically, I love missionary work and love being here!!!
From Sister Perkinson (mission president's wife):
Dear Brother and Sister Springer
We have been blessed this week to be edified by President and Sister Kacher, General Authority of the church and Area Presidency of our mission.
We have been encouraged to be urgent and use time wisely! We have been instructed to increase our ability to be led by the Spirit! We were reminded to teach Repentance and Baptize Converts, those truly converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
We were asked to have faith in Jesus Christ to overcome any mindsets that we may have. We were asked to learn to seek answers to questions of the soul thru the Book of Mormon and then teach this in our missionary work. We were asked to teach repentance as a blessing in our lives and that the atonement is for all people, no matter their past. We were asked to really work with less actives and seek to be led by the spirit.
Vladivostok Russia Mission Statement
I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of Him to declare His word among his people, that they might have everlasting life. (3 Nephi 5:13)
We are a Preach My Gospel Mission!
We live by consecration.
We sow exact obedience.
We grow mighty faith.
We harvest precious souls.
We expect and facilitate daily miracles.
We talk with everyone.
We find with faith.
We teach repentance and baptize converts.
We are happy, dignified and hard working!
We Love God and show charity for all His children.
We are the Vladivostok Russia Missionaries!
We have a desire to live the Mission Statement that we recite daily in our studies and when we gather in District meetings and Zone Conferences.
These two sisters have been an amazing companionship in Artyom! Their love for the people will be missed! They both gave such sweet departing testimonies.
We are very grateful for Sister Springer's talents on the piano! She brings the spirit into each meeting with her talent!
We love sharing the gospel with your daughter and we are grateful for your prayers in behalf of our Vladivostok Missionaries!
President and Sister Perkinson
Vladivostok Russia Mission
No updates on investigators. Our baptismal date is still gone, and we haven't been able to meet with the man from the stairwell who talked about people who don't practice what they preach.
We met with the Relief Society president, and she said she wants to be doing more for her calling. She said she's been thinking of ideas for activities, and she also wants to reorganize visiting teaching. Coincidentally, Sister Hawley and I had already talked about visiting teaching and about what we can do to help it get started again. The lesson during Relief Society was on visiting teaching, and it sounds like the members are excited to find old faces. I'm so grateful to the Relief Society president for having those desires.
Sister Hawley and I came up with a way to track our tracting. I think it will help missionaries avoid hitting the same areas in short amounts of time and annoying people instead of giving them time for the Spirit to work in their hearts. We've found that it's better to tract in the evening when people are home after work and school. We have lessons whenever people can have them. Street contacting is also a lot better in the day when it's light outside and people are out and about.
We went back to a building that we had started tracting and saw a man whom we talked with the first time. He said that he looked up Mormons and found out that we have polygamy. We told him that we don't, and he said that he won't become a Mormon because we don't have polygamy. He was just joking. Some people look for any kind of excuse to not become a Mormon.
What do you do when you're tracting, a man opens the door, is interested, but is mute? We came across that this week and were caught off guard. That's definitely a first. He seemed nice, and he really was interested. Unfortunately, we don't know his name. We're planning on sending the elders back (prepared with notebook and pen).
One of the members visited a sick less-active with us, and the atmosphere was soooo wonderful. The less-active appreciated it and seemed to think even harder about how she could get to church. Members make such a difference!
We also had a lesson with the primary teacher and talked about her calling in primary. I think it helped to have a lesson on what she can do for the children and what kind of influence she has for them. She's so wonderful, as is everyone here. I love this branch so much. Everybody here is special.
This week was slower for us. I went to Korea, and then I was sick all day Thursday. I slept most of the day, and Sister Hawley patiently took care of me. Attendance at church wasn't as high as it was last week. Several people were sick or working. The meeting was still good. We had a great branch council meeting yesterday after church. Three of our solid youth were there, and they got so into helping the less-actives in our ward. I was surprised how much they know about people that we know so little about. They were more than willing to help. They talked about whom they can call and who is friends with whom. What we missionaries can do is help them channel their energy. Tonight we're going to make cards for less-actives as part of our family night activity.
Our fifteen-year-old member took the lead on sharing the spiritual thought at youth night, and she did such a good job. It was so nice of her to volunteer to do that, and now she's passed it along to somebody else. Sister Hawley and I also were able to substitute for the sick institute teacher and teach Saturday night institute. Institute lessons are interesting!
Our baptismal date didn't come to church. She wasn't in Artyom for some reason yesterday. Our lessons with her this week went so well. She started her own "experiment" of reading and praying every day for a week. She listens and accepts so well.
Like I said, other than that, our week has been very slow. Nobody and nothing new, but the gospel's still true.
After our miracle Sunday, we had another miraculous and crazy week of service.
We did not get to meet with our stairwell investigator. We can only meet with him if a member comes with us, but he lives sort of far away, so it makes things harder to coordinate. He promised us that he was going to come to our Valentine's Day party, but didn't, and we don't know why yet.
Our baptismal date with her sister and brother-in-law were all at church again! We've had wonderful lessons with her and her sister. She's progressing so well, even though we're going slowly and simply.
We had another miracle attendance of 24 at church. Lots of people were there to say good-bye to the Andersons. The Andersons have made such an impact in the lives of the people here, and there was so much love yesterday (appropriate for Valentine's Day, no?). It was also Sister Hawley's birthday!
We found some old addresses from our potential sheets and learned that two people died.
I think most of the referrals we get are people pointing to their neighbor's doors.
A less-active who has been in a hospital somewhere far from Artyom called last night and said she's coming back to Artyom this week and wants to meet. That was a nice surprise. She said she gets our nightly texts. It's nice to hear that those are making some sort of a difference in people's lives, even if we don't know about it.
Our Valentine's day party was lots of fun. An investigator (the one who teaches English and likes the Gospel but won't be baptized herself) brought two relatives to the party, and our Relief Society President brought her nephews. Her sister (non-member) wanted to come, but she unfortunately was sick. We had several investigators, potentials, and other members promise to come, but they didn't show up. We don't yet know why for most of them. We played games like Pin the Arrow on Cupid, Ninja, made Valentine's hearts, ate pizza and dessert, and had lots of fun.
We tracted one night, and a man shut the door on us. We kept going down the hall, and that man came out, dropped into the Russian squat, and had a smoke. While we were waiting for people to answer, he yelled at us and asked what we were doing. We talked to him for about 15 or 20 minutes after that. He said that he just got interested as we were talking. He ended up taking a Book of Mormon. He was so funny. He would ask questions like, "so, if I get an answer, then what?" or, while holding a Book of Mormon in his hands, "what differentiates you from the Jehovah's Witnesses?" It was a very interesting conversation, and maybe we'll drop by him again.
The last fun story actually happened after P-day last week. Sister Hawley and I bought some chocolate from the local chocolate store to try, and it was really good chocolate. We were watching a movie, winding up P-day, and the last chocolate we had was full of pine nuts. They made my throat a little scratchy, and I asked Sister Hawley how she felt, and she said fine. I was drinking some water, and then my tongue started tingling. We bought thought that we found out that I have an allergy to nuts. Who knew? We left to go to family night at the church, but on the way my stomach didn't feel great. We got off the bus, started walking, and I said, "I think I'm going to throw up." And then I did right there. Thankfully, we used the fresh-fallen snow to cover it up. I felt a lot better after that, and thought that my allergy was stronger than I thought at first. We got started with family night (the Andersons were teaching), and then I got up to go to the bathroom because I wasn't feeling good again. I started coughing and having a hard time breathing, and my head was swimming, and my lips puffed up, so I called for Sister Hawley. Thanks to her, the Andersons, the elders, and the wonderful members, I got some medicine, some Sprite, some crackers, and a great case of hives. By the time the hives showed up, I wasn't coughing as much. I was red from my neck down. It was pretty hilarious. Now I'm just not allowed to eat nuts until I go home and visit an allergist. Hee hee.
Artyom is doing so well. The members are definitely stronger than they were when I arrived. I'm excited to see what will happen next here! This is where I'm staying until the end of my mission. :)
This week, we're down to just Sister Hawley and me. One would think that would mean that things have calmed down, but there's no way that could happen on a mission.
Sister Wilson left us on Thursday for Korea and then from Korea to Angarsk. Sister Woodland stayed with us until Friday while her companion, Sister Merrill, went to Korea too, so it wasn't until Friday night that we were officially alone. I think I've been in unofficial tri-panionships for about a month straight. Our apartment is now a lot quieter. Sister Hawley and I are a lot alike, and we're both very quiet, but we still get along fabulously.
Of course, the day that we're back down to our twosome, my boot zippers break (as has my coat zipper), I get sick, my body's majorly sore, AND then I slip and fall and bang my knee while getting onto a bus. This is why my title is patience in ALL things. Thankfully, fasting seemed to clean out my body, and I'm feeling a lot better.
By the way, fasting works. I fasted that we could have a baptism this month. We had no baptismal dates, no investigators, no new investigators for the past month, no investigators coming to church, just lots and lots of finding activities. We found a man while tracting who, when we said we have a message of great joy, came out into the stairwell and told us to tell him about it. We met with him again yesterday (which in and of itself is a miracle - a second meeting), and he's started reading the Book of Mormon. We visited a former investigator, and she agreed to start meeting with us again. Then a potential investigator that we called said she'll come to institute next week. We've been working so hard, but our potentials for baptism still seemed... low.
Then there was church. Our active members were all there early. Throughout the meeting, the door kept opening, and I was surprised at how many people were there. We ended up having 23 at church, and usually we have 16. A less-active who hasn't been to church ever since I've been here came, and I've only met her in person about three times. She came with a neighbor non-member friend who said that she's also been to our church in Vlad. before. That was a huge surprise considering this member's phone has been not working for the past few weeks. We then invited her to family night and our Valentine's day party, and she said she'll come.
Then a less-active couple came without invite with the woman's sister. The sister, whom we met once when we dropped by to give the less-actives a gift, said that she wants to be baptized. We set up a date for February 27th and are going to visit them on Wednesday. The sister has never been baptized, and we don't know what prompted her wanting to come to church and be baptized. It will be interesting to work with her and the family more. When I heard that, I knew that God can answer prayers and fasting.
Another less-active named whom I've never met called us. She travels/lives between Vlad. and Artyom. She randomly called us to say that she gave a man on a bus our number. He called us while we were talking with her. He's an invalid, and he didn't work out, but the member said we can call her back sometime. That was a pleasant surprise. As we were on our way to talk with the referral (who's an invalid), we met a man who's also an invalid and knows the referral. He said that the referral only needs financial help and that he would pass along money. Haha, no. (publisher's note: I don't know what this means? I think it must be her Russian to English translation?)
The last thing happened was that while tracting last night, the first door that we tracted had an Armenian family who let us in. They were trying to prove to us that Mormonism was wrong, but we had a very calm conversation. I don't have time to write everything we talked about, but I'm so grateful that the Holy Ghost teaches us truth and that we don't have just one book of scripture to rely on.
We've finally had some people turn into investigators, we've had some lessons with members, and this week was jam-packed with tender mercies. We're so busy and happy. Artyom needs this new excitement and energy.
This week I have a bunch of random thoughts to share.
On Tuesday we had zone conference, and we were able to watch a worldwide mission broadcast that was great. We learned a lot about helping people make commitments and about bringing the message unto people's hearts. We're called to preach repentance.
Our fifteen-year-old member came back from a two-week camp in Vlad., and she said she had a spiritual time and even was able to share her testimony with several people. Good for her!
Yesterday the missionaries surprised me with cake after church for my birthday. The sisters had been plotting with the elders secretly behind my back, and the elders bought the cake. It was so nice of them, and the cake was good too. I was caught off guard and didn't have my camera, but somebody took a picture.
The Andersons, the senior couple, announced that they're leaving in about two weeks. The members already started crying. We're going to miss them and their influence. They've been here for a year and a half. On Saturday they hosted a dinner with an investigator who teaches English and five of her students.
Yesterday as we were tracting (which we've found is our most effective and warmest finding method right now), we had some great conversations with people about the restoration, but several people said that we don't need living prophets, that we all just talk with God through the Holy Ghost. We're trying so hard to find families.
One of the less-active members keeps giving us clothes to pass along to other people, and this week we took a coat to her mother-in-law. She was so deaf that we were writing everything down on paper for her. We were surprised to see that she had a Book of Mormon on her counter. Maybe she's being prepared for missionaries in the Spirit World. She had chickens wandering around outside, and it was funny to watch the chickens shiver from the cold. They didn't stay outside for long.
During church we had a discussion of goals for the new year, and one member talked about how families are like trees. Our ancestors are the roots, we're the trunk, and our children are the branches. We want our trees to bring forth good fruit, so we need to nourish our trees with the right things. Her main point was about speaking kindly to each other. She said that bad words, criticism, gossip, and arguing are like aphids on the leaves, and they slowly eat away at the family. However, we have the scriptures, which is like bug killer. They inspire us to speak kinder. She thanked the elders for working with her husband. Even though he isn't baptized yet and isn't progressing much, she has noticed a difference in their lives and noticed that it's easier to talk with him. It was a really great meeting, and it's easy to see that she gets the gospel.
The church is true! Thanks so much for all the support, love, and birthday wishes!
The above pictures and this note are from Sister Perkinson:
Dear Brother and Sister Springer
Our Vladivostok Missionaries gathered together in the Vladivostok Branch Building for the South Zone Conference. We had 27 missionaries in attendance. We welcomed our new Vladivostok Mission Office couple, Elder and Sister Crookston who began our meeting with their testimonies of their devotion to this Gospel of Jesus Christ and their desires to serve Him here with all of us! They are wonderful people and we are grateful for their service!
We are truly blessed to be here serving The Lord in this part of His vineyard! We are grateful for the many years of gospel training taught in your own home! Thank you for carrying on the work of the Lord there also as you share the Gospel among your family and friends!
President and Sister Perkinson
My companion made it! Three weeks and about six sisters later, Sister Hawley made it to Artyom, and with Sister Wilson (the one who was here in November, not the one from Ulan-Ude). Sister Wilson will be here until her visa trip in February. Sister Hawley is so great. She reminds me a lot of one of my high school friends. She has beautiful Russian and is great at doing missionary work. She's already a huge example to me, and we're going to have so much fun together. She's from Tooele, and she's the 2nd oldest of 4. She went to LDS business college before her mission. She also quotes movies. :) Sister Wilson has a good memory for those whom she already met when she was here in November. It's nice to have her help and to have her already have some knowledge of the city. Sister Wilson and Sister Hawley are both amazing at talking with people on the street. They are huge examples to me.
There was a less-active who came to church. We dropped by with a New Year's gift during the week and were able to see her. She's working like crazy, so when she showed up, it was a really pleasant surprise. We also invited a woman to come to church who's been an investigator in the past and loves the church, but we're not currently teaching her. I've never had the opportunity to have a lesson with her.
We had lots of good planning yesterday at branch council and at a meeting after church where we talked about an upcoming February party. The members that we've been able to work with are doing really, really well. It's easy to see, however, that they're exhausted. They work so hard! We really need some new blood, some new fire. We're still finding like crazy, but it's difficult to turn contacts into investigators.
I'm really happy with the work here. Even though it's hard, we're still pushing forward. I really can't express how wonderful Sister Hawley is. I love her so much and hope I can learn a lot from her. Even though I myself feel incapable of doing this work at times, miracles rain down from heaven.
The three of us in front of the branch building. I promise that we don't always look as awkward we do in these pictures.
If I could sum up this week, it would be finding. Finding, street contacting, and tracting. We hit some smaller areas that are outside of Artyom proper and contacted in each of them for a day and saw miracles. There, the people aren't as familiar with the missionaries. We tracted a full stairwell (about 20 doors) in Artyom and were rejected the whole way down. One woman threatened to call the militia on us, asked who let us in, and then told us to stop knocking on doors. We said a quick goodbye before knocking on the next door. There were also people who walked right by us without saying a single word or even making eye contact. There are still nice people here, especially the drunk ones. They think we're very beautiful, and they always share with us that they're looking for a wife and wanting to start a family.
We had different results in the smaller areas. We went to some areas called Zavadskoi, Knyevichi, and Oogolnaya. (Those look ridiculous in English.) In Zavadskoi, we met a boy who stood in the stairwell and read the title page and introduction of the Book of Mormon out loud right there. We invited him to pray about it and be baptized, and he said he would if he gets an answer. In Knyevichi, we found a less-active who told us to never come by and never call, and she doesn't need any kind of gifts. We left her card, candy, and magnet on the porch. Then in Oogolnaya, we found another less-active who was a lot nicer. She said that she just flew in from wherever she was the previous day, and she asked when English practice is. We had no idea that she was still living there, so it was awesome to find her. We tracted the top floor of her building (about 40 doors) and lots of interesting conversations. Overall, we have met lots of different people this week, each special and unique.
In other news, it's snowing! Winter is here. It's been so cold the past few days. Sister Oler is gearin' up to head back into Siberia where it's still much colder than here. Some sort of storm has been traveling across Russia, and it hit Artyom today. It's been snowing hard all day. Now I feel more like I'm serving in Russia. I think the coldest parts of my body are my face and my toes. We're layering up like crazy. It's funny how much time it takes to get dressed.
In case you're wondering, Sister Oler is still here. Sister Stephenson went on her visa trip and then up to Khabarovsk (and she almost took our phone with her). Sister Hawley will get here this weekend, and we'll also have Sister Wilson (not my Wilson, but the one who's from Kazakhstan who stayed with us in November) will be with us for two weeks while she waits for her visa trip.
I could write about Sister Woodland's cool visa trip where they met a Korean woman who married a Chinese man and currently lives in Switzerland who felt inspired to bring some craft projects to the temple in case she ran into some missionaries, or I could talk about the member who threw herself a birthday party and invited the missionaries and some work friends, or I could write about a boatload of other things that would just take too long, so I'll leave it at that and wish you all a marvelous week!
I think this week I have to write about my family first becaues there are so many wonderful things happening at home. The most exciting one is that my sister began her own mission! I am so excited for her. It's going to be such an incredible blessing.
What did I do this past week? We had our own craziness. I found out that Sister Hawley, my new companion, won't be getting here for another two weeks. We've had sisters in and out of our apartment for visa trips, so I've been with them. Sister Woodland left for Nakhodka on Thursday, and Sister Oler (who just finished serving in Nakhodka and will be going back to her first city, Angarsk) and Sister Stephenson (who was just barely serving in Angarsk and will be in Khabarovsk) are with me right now. Sisters Wilson, Cox, and Hall (who all came in together) stopped by for a day. They are all such powerful missionaries. Their nickname is the "Dream Team."
While all that was going on, we were getting ready for the branch Christmas party. I can't tell you how much of a miracle this party was. Sister Woodland and I started planning it back in December. We had different assignments for different people to help with. Our Relief Society President helped us with the decorations. We've been inviting people for weeks. We had to ask three different people to be Santa Claus. Everything was going so well, and then on Friday, the day before the party, the member who was supposed to help us make the dinner cancelled on us because she was in Vlad. Somehow, God knew to send me five extra pairs of hands to do shopping and cooking to make dinner for the party. We never would have been ready without the help of all the sisters that stayed with us. The sisters also brought a flashdrive full of Christmas music that added to the party atmosphere. I can't quite describe how incredible the party was. Even though there would be moments when I would wonder how in the world everything was going to come together, I was filled with peace and calm about everything. Nothing seemed too hard to handle. I believe the Holy Ghost was with us all and that God blessed with tender mercies that helped everything work out just right because there is no way Sister Springer could have put that party on. By small and simple means, great things really do come to pass.
We ate dinner, which everybody loved. Sister Oler knew how to make the Russian traditional New Year's dish called olivye (оловье I think is how it's spelled in Russian). It's just a lot of diced stuff like sausage, peas, carrot, and potato with mayonnaise. We also had funeral potatos, rolls, and juice. Then we had a spiritual thought and watched the Christmas video on lds.org and read from Luke 2. Then we played musical chairs, and then we called "Ded Moroz" (Father Frost) and "Snegoorochka" (she's like a snow maiden, and she's Ded Moroz's granddaughter). They added so much life to the party. We sang a Russian carol (and then Jingle Bells), and Ded Moroz handed out presents. We finshed with desserts and decorating cookies. It was so much fun, and the members loved it.
Then we had a crazy sacrament meeting where our current branch president (from our senior couple) was released, and one of the elders who was just barely transferred into Artyom was made branch president. Artyom is so small, and we have no priesthood leadership. This is going to be an amazing opportunity to see how a branch runs because we're all working together to help Artyom. The members here are so great. We need to see some strengthening and growth now. I'm so excited to keep serving here! This work is led by the Lord.
Last night as we were street contacting, we met this man who was smoking and walking to go meet his wife. He didnt' seem interested, but somehow we just kept talking. We had an incredible opportunity to testify to him about the Book of Mormon. Testimonies don't need to be complicated and convincing. Last night, we kept it simple, and this man ended up taking a Book of Mormon, and he said he would share it with his wife. The gospel's true!
Happy New Year! Today we met with the missionaries in Artyom Branch and felt of their goodness and their desire to serve The Lord in more ways than they initially had ever expected! Change is always a part of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and it certainly is a part of Vladivostok Missionary work too! (From Sister Perkinson)
Is it just me, or is there no time to do everything that needs to be done? So much for having a new year. There's even less time than there was in the old one! Happy New Year! For our New Year's, we did lots of walking around and talking with people. As far as we have been able to tell, it's not allowed to say "Happy New Year" until it's actually January 1st or even New Year's Eve, so we would go around saying "С наступающим!" (S nastoopayusheem = With approaching or coming [New Year]). Now we're also saying С праздником! (S prazdneekom = With holidays, or happy holidays) because Christmas is this week. New Year's is a family holiday, so the whole city shut down. In fact, we were waiting for our bus to go home on New Year's Eve, but the only bus that came was one that took us halfway to our house, and the driver said that he was the last bus. We ended up walking the rest of the way home. There are a lot of big Christmas trees all over the city that parents bring their kids to, and the kids love to run around the trees. Other people do a lot of drinking to celebrate. Lots of beer and vodka.
We also received transfers, and Sister Woodland's moving on to Nakhodka after seven months in Artyom. She's going to be where I was a year ago! We had such a wonderful time together. My new companion will be Sister Hawley. She started her mission one month before I did, and we go home at the same time. She's served in Ulan-Ude, Angarsk, and Irkutsk. This will be her first city that's not in Siberia. We're going to be so busy and have lots of fun together.
We're busy getting ready for a Christmas party on Saturday. We're trying to get all the members in to help. One of the members had a tragedy in her family. I'm pretty sure I've written about her before. She's fifteen, and she and her twelve- or thirteen-year-old brother are the only members in their family. She lives with her grandma who is often drunk and is against the church. She sneaks out of the house to go to church. Her mom died in September, and she started doing family history work in order to take her mom's name to the temple. Well, on Saturday her dad died. We are all so sad for her. She says she's okay, but who knows what's going to happen next for them. She said that when her mom died, she looked for any reason to leave the church, and she couldn't find one. We are trying to do all we can to help her and her brother.
By request, here's our average daily routine, also every day feels anything but average.
6:30 (on the dot): wake up, pray, exercise for 30 minutes (usually in our apartment, stretching, sit ups, push-ups, sometimes we go out and run)
7-8: shower, get ready, eat breakfast
8-9: personal study
9-10: companion study
10-11: language study
11-12: lunch, call people, get ready to leave the apartment
12: leave and get to work! This could be heading to lessons with investigators or members, or it could mean finding addresses or less-active members or former investigators, or we might be on the street all day just talking with people. We do that with an hour break for dinner. We're walking all over, and we take quite a few buses. It's about a twenty minute bus ride to get from our apartment to the church plus a five minute walk.
9: go home, plan for 30 minutes for the next day
9:30-10:30: write in the area book and update our records, get ready for bed, talk with the district leader, write in journal (that one happens less often than I would like because I run out of time), pray
10:30: you *pointing*... go *fingers walking*... too *make a two with fingers*... sleep *pretend like you're sleeping and snore a little, then wait until Boo chuckles and falls asleep*!
Some days we walk around for four hours straight, and others we're running all over the city from lesson to lesson to lesson to lesson. There really is no "average" day. Every day is unique and different, and I love it.
I don't quite know how to write about what happened this week. I've been thinking about agency, faith, obedience, hard work, no fear and trust in the Lord, goals, love, and being led by the Holy Ghost. Today during personal study, I wrote all these down. For me, these all tie together, and I want to work on all of these qualities so that I can be a better missionary during the time I have left, which is a very, very, very long time.
We also had a plumber come and fix our toilet. Plumbering is not something I am well-versed in, and then we had to desribe the problem in the Russian language. And I now quote, "all thesethings shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (D+C 122:7)
We visited a less-active couple, and we were a little nervous because the husband can be a little crazy, but it was such a peaceful lesson. We talked about the Restoration, and they both shared how they received testimonies of the Book of Mormon. He said that he prayed about the truth of the Book of Mormon, and then the first word that he read in the Book of Mormon was "da" (yes). They're not ready to come back yet, but their testimonies are still burning somewhere deep inside.
We met with a member last night who fed us borsch. It was very oily and not pink like it usually is. I think she forgot the beets (or simply chose not to put beets in). Then we had pink milk, just with warm water. Nothing like real Russian cuisine.
I hope you all had a very merry Christmas. I definitely did. It's weird to think that I have spent all of 2015 on a mission. This has been such a wonderful time, and 2016 will be great too. With Christmas and with New Year!
Questions o’ the week
- What did you do on Christmas day?
On Christmas we woke up, exercised, opened presents (yay!), got ready, then skyped. Then we studied, worked on the street a little, went to dinner with the elders (sushi, but I ordered udon soup and pizza and noodles), then had weekly planning.
- Someone asked me today if there is a temperature level that you are told not go outside, like if it is 15 below zero, you are told to stay in—anything like that?
As far as I know, there is no such temperature level. We go out rain or shine, snow or more snow. We just looked at the weather forecast, saw -1 degree Fahrenheit the high, and said, "that's going to be warm!" Yep. That is true. Then we looked at the Ulan-Ude weather... now THAT'S cold.
Sorry I couldn't figure out how to flip this...
There seems to be no sign of intelligent life anywhere... That is what happened when we tried to email yesterday. (That is a quote from Toy Story. Ashlin has had a hard time finding working internet on Mondays, so she ended up writing on Tuesday.)
Everything's great here in Artyom! Weather's unusually warm, but I'm not complaining! My personal studies are great. I've been learning a lot about the power of words and about how God only teaches us or answers our prayers when we are humble and ready to receive it. He only does that because He loves us. I always wish I had more time for personal study. I hope I can find the time to pack in more studies when I'm home, although everybody says that time is smaller at home than they think it will be. I gave a talk on Sunday about Jesus Christ and parables. Our attendance was low because the members had a party the night before. At least they got to have some fun.
We haven't heard from Miracle Man. He hasn't answered our calls or our texts. :( He's probably just reading the Book of Mormon like crazy and has no time to meet or answer calls.
We were so blessed to see a miracle on Sunday as we were talking about how we could help a member who will soon be homeless. As we were talking with two of the members, a woman walked in and said that the member had worked for her as a gardener and she was paying him right then and there, and she said that she has a place where he can live for free if the members will help take care of him. God is so kind to bless us like that! The members have been a huge help in getting everything all settled so that the member can move there.
We had a fun English practice and learned different Christmas decoration words like wreath and stocking. Stockings are not something Russians do. We had to explain the story behind stockings. Also, when you've been in Russia for a while, the alphabet starts getting mixed up as Elder Nielson found out when he sang "Q R X" and we all busted up.
While we were at a member's house Friday night, she came walking up with her husband, daughter, and a new Christmas tree. We got to help them set it up and decorate it. That was a little tender mercy to be able to decorate a tree for the holidays with that great family. Russian trees are... something else. They have this stuff called "little rain" that supposedly makes all the difference. It's long streamer-like ribbon/confetti that just runs down the tree. I can't really describe, but maybe I'll buy some and bring it home. There's also no Mrs. Claus. Instead they have the Snow Maiden Snegoorochka (Снегурочка). She's Grandpa Frost's granddaughter.
Have a very merry holly jolly Christmas!!! С рождеством!
When asked what she would be doing for Christmas:
Christmas will be Skype home, and then missionary work as usual of course! "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is spreading the Gospel loud and clear." -Buddy the Elf Isn't that how that quote goes? ;)
We found Miracle Man! We found him on the street several nights ago, and he is so sincere. It was dark, and we considered just taking a bus home and walking around in that area, but instead we decided to walk home. As we were walking, we simply said "hi" to this man, and he stopped and talked with us. We invited him to call us and meet with us. As we were walking away, I thought that we should have given him a Book of Mormon, so we turned around and ran back yelling his name. He called us, we met, and he is amazing! We asked him what his expectations are, and he said that he wants to learn more about God and Jesus and change his life. He has family, but according to him, they're "sinners," and he doesn't want to be like them. He accepted a baptismal date on the first lesson and has been studying the Book of Mormon. In fact, he explained very well the chapter we gave him (2 Nephi 31) about entering on the narrow path. He even asked us for another chapter to study at the end of a lesson. He was going to come to church, but waited outside the building Sunday morning until the elders showed up to tell them that he had to help his family that day. Unfortunate, but we are so awed by this amazing man. He has been fully prepared to receive the Gospel. We can't get over how golden and amazing he is.
We also got a taxi ride from a man who has met lots of missionaries during his time as a taxi driver, and he worked in mines with coal as an engineer of some sort. He was pretty good English, so he was able to pull out the "spring" from "springer." The next time we needed a taxi, he told me he'd done some thinking about the "er" part, and he concluded that a "spring-er" would translate into Russian as "freckle" (веснушка - vesnooshka). His logic sort of made sense, so now I'm Sister Freckle! Sister Woodland still goes by Sister Forest because it's easier for the Russian's to say the Russian word for "forest" than it is to say "woodland."
We also were able to work with our stellar 15-year-old family history girl. She's found more information on her mom's death and on her grandma's relatives. In fact, we found out that there's a street in Moscow named after her great-great-grandpa's brother. She's super.
Those were some of the highlights for this week. Everything's bright and sunny today in good 'ol Artyom. (Really, the weather has been unusually warm. The Russians all comment about it.)
We had such an amazing week.
Monday was a little crazy because we had to leave early to get to Vlad. Sister Perkinson hosted all the sister missionaries, and we had a Relief Society Meeting where we talked about charity and being a part of one big organization. It was really sweet and fun to be with all the sisters from our whole mission. We stayed in a hotel (called Equator) that had a great view of the ocean. From what I could see, some of the water in the bay and port was frozen.
Tuesday we had a fun morning running around and buying lunch and trying to figure out who was supposed to be where. We had a mission leadership conference with Elder Klebingat that was wonderful. I was there even though I'm not a Sister Training Leader because President Perkinson invited the alumni Sister Training Leaders to sit in.
Wednesday we had the main conference with ALL THE MISSIONARIES FROM THE ENTIRE MISSION! It seemed like quite a feat to get everybody flown in from their cities. Missionaries were staying in hotels, hostels, and with other missionaries. We had about fifty-two missionaries running around Vladivostok. Elder Klebingat, President Perkinson, and Sister Perkinson taught us so much about scripture study, aligning your desires in with the Lord's, and choosing to be obedient. I can't tell you everything that happened because there's too much I could say. In short, it was an extremely uplifting meeting.
Oddly enough, that Wednesday it rained, and the rain melted all the snow. The Russians said that rain is very uncommon for this time of year. However, the next day the snow was back, so no worries. I did walk through my pair of boots two days ago, so that means more shopping. As time goes on in the mission, everything starts falling apart and breaking down: boots, coats, bags, tights, skirts, suitcases, body, and I may be going a little crazy. :) It's all for the Lord, though!
One of our less-actives came to church yesterday, and the members are getting going planning the branch Christmas party. We saw lots of miracles thanks to our efforts to work harder and do better. We're excited to keep working and see even more miracles in this part of the Lord's vineyard. Hope you all have a safe and miraculous week too!
Message to Parents from The Perkinsons:
Our Vladivostok Russia Mission was able to gather as an Entire Mission for a Mission Conference this week! We believe that this is the first time ever--or at least the first time in a really long time that this has ever been accomplished because of the distance that missionaries from the West need to travel. But with coordination of Visa Trips and coordination of hotels and hostels we were able to retain several missionaries from their Visa trips and put them to work here in Vladivostok prior to this Mission Conference.
Our Sisters met at our home for a Relief Society gathering and had a lovely night together.
Elder Klebingat came from Moscow and although he had not slept for many hours, he was able to teach our Mission Leadership Council on Tuesday.
Then on Wednesday the entire Mission was uplifted and edified from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm. Lessons learned should never be forgotten!
We as a mission recite Our Mission Statement which declares that we talk with everyone! We will increase our efforts in this area and we ask for your support also! Please pray for us and share with us your "talking with everyone" at home stories!
We feel grateful for the opportunity to have a General Authority be here. We are blessed to have the Gospel, to study and ponder the scriptures and be guided by Our Prophet in this, the Latter Days! We are grateful for your daughter.
President and Sister Perkinson
Vladivostok Russia Mission
Another week gone by, but this was Thanksgiving week! The Russians don't celebrate Thanksgiving, but that didn't stop us. We got together with the elders in our district and made our own Thanksgiving dinner. They found some turkey and made rolls, and Sister Woodland made homemade stuffing. There were also pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and pumpkin bread. It was delicious!
We're having a big mission-wide conference this week with President Klebingat of the seventy. I was here in January when he did another conference. Over the past three weeks, missionaries have been slowly trickling into Artyom and Vlad. The office has been coordinating so that the people who have been going on visa trips just stay with us or in Vlad. for a few weeks instead of flying back and forth between their cities. Today the final wave is arriving. Yesterday, the sisters from Sakhalin flew in and stayed with us overnight. They were supposed to fly in today, but there was so much snow that they decided to catch an earlier flight. It's a lot of fun being with all the sisters, and it will be even more fun to see everyone together at the conference.
Our fifteen-year-old member whose mom died met with us twice this week, and we got started on her family history work. It was great! She started her account, put in her own information, and then added her immediate family members. She went to the cemetary to get more information for her mom. It was so cool to see her start to put together her own family tree, and one day she'll be able to do her mom's temple work.
We also have been meeting with two of our investigators a lot, a couple who has drinking and smoking problems. The woman might be pregnant, and they're not married. There's some work to do with them, but the woman keeps expressing strong desires to come to church. Their neighbor was there while we were talking. She said she's Muslim, but it doesn't seem like she practices. We were careful while we were talking because we're not allowed to teach Muslims without permission because it could be dangerous for the Muslims, but she was more into what we were talking about than the investigators. She kept backing us up and saying things like "You'll go to church next Sunday? You're going to read?" Even if we can't officially teach her, I hope she gets something beneficial out of sitting there and listening.
It snowed again last night. From what I've heard, Artyom doesn't get a lot of snow, just cold. I've also heard that the air is too cold for snow. I don't know how that could be, but it might be. We've learned how to bundle up well. 3 pairs of leggings and tights, socks, sweaters, two scarves, a hat, a coat.... I've seen several snow-shovelers at work today, and I actually slipped and half-fell down while crossing the street.
Have a wonderful week!
I don't even know what to write about this week. So much fun, as usual. I got to see both Sister Brayton and Sister Wilson. I love the two of them to death, and it sounds like miracles are happening in Ulan-Ude. Flip's meeting with them again, Flower's getting ready for baptism, and a man who found a Book of Mormon in a stairwell started reading it and called our number and now has a baptismal date. Go Ulan-Ude!
We were blessed to have twenty-two people at church yesterday. Lots of priesthood holders were there, and it was great to see several white shirts sitting in the front row by the sacrament table. Several of our less-active members have also asked if we can start meeting with them more often. One fifteen-year-old girl's mom died several months ago, and tonight we're going to help her get started on family history so that her mom's temple work can be done. Artyom is so full of miracles! I've been working on growing some faith, and faith helps mighty things come to pass (with a little help from above).
Transfers came, and Sister Woodland and I get to serve together for another transfer! Somebody asked us last night if we're gypsies. That was a first.
I really don't know what else to write with the time that I've got. Even though Russia doesn't celebrate Thanksiving, we're going to, and I hope you all also have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Let's get down to business.
We had a fun English practice. The only person there was one of our members. He's about fourteen, and we played a counting game to practice numbers. We would go around in a circle, and each person would say a number. If the number you were supposed to say had a seven in it or was a multiple of seven, you were supposed to clap instead of saying the number, and then the direction we counted was reversed. If you messed up, you were out. It was really fun, and there was one round when it was the member against the newest elder who just arrived from the MTC a few weeks ago. The member would count in English and the elder in Russian. So much fun.
There were several people who promised to come to church on Sunday and then didn't because they fell sick. 'Tis the season for colds and flus. Not many other amazing leaps of progress this week, but then again, everything is done line upon line, precept upon precept.
There was a touching moment this week for me. I prayed for an opportunity to be the Lord's mouth. I wanted to testify to someone about the Gospel and say what they needed to hear. As one of the sisters and I were taking a taxi to visit a less-active, we were talking with our taxi driver (I'm calling him Taxi Man). Taxi Man was willing to talk about beliefs, and I enjoyed our conversation. Turns out, he's going to be having some big problems and trials to work through, and I was able to talk about how the faith and the gospel bless our lives and give us comfort and help. I told him to call us the next day (which was Sunday). Afterward, I felt so good inside. I'd forgotten about my prayer, but later that night, I remembered, and I knew God answered my prayer in a very strange and unexpected way. He did call us the next day, and although he wasn't in town that day, he said he's going to call when he's free so that we can talk more. I'm so excited to meet with him again.
We also have two sisters staying with us. There's going to be a big mission conference in a few weeks, so as people have been doing transfers and visa trips, they've just been staying with us instead of going back to their cities. Right now we have Sister Payne and Sister Wilson (not my fireball Wilson, a different one who was born in Kazakhstan). Sis. Wilson's serving in Khabarovsk, and Sis. Payne just got transferred from Ussuriysk and will be in Khabarovsk. We've all been having so much fun together and trying to get as much work done as we can. We laugh a lot. In fact, the Sis. Woodland and Sis. Wilson got home before we did last night and scared us, and I yelled so loudly that I sort of lost my voice. I wasn't yelling because I was scared, I just really had to use the bathroom and had been holding it for most of the night. It's one big missionary adventure here!
Have a wonderful, November-y, productive week.
"I looked out the window, and what did I see? Snow, snow, snowing on the bare Russian trees!" Snow has hit the city. It's so pretty and exciting! I'm looking forward to winter. I love bundling up in my Russian coat with scarves, gloves, and a hat. (The hat is more out of necessity. I don't really like messing with hat hair or getting my hat to fit nicely over my glasses and hair without looking silly.)
We have been so blessed this week. Suddenly we have two baptismal dates with a third hopefully coming this week. Heavenly Father has been watching over us. The first baptismal date was definitely guided by the Spirit. Sister Woodland was calling a woman to set up an appointment, and halfway through the phone call realized that the phone numbers were mixed up and she was talking to a different woman by the same name. We ended up seeing that unplanned woman that day and setting a baptismal date for December 5th. Everything's got a plan, and Heavenly Father always makes sure his plans work out. The other baptismal date is with a babooshka. Her date is for December 12th. With her, we're going to go slowly and make sure that she really understands. Even though she's old, she listens well.
One of our members has had a tough week with her drunk family members, but we've been taking turns with the elders visiting her family and doing small service. A woman who recently started living with this family has started investigating, and she came to church yesterday! This woman is considering a date for baptism, and she's making great progress. Yesterday when we were talking about baptism she said, "I have one sin." We waited, and then she said, "Cigarettes." Don't worry, we can help with that!
There's another investigator who is super nice, and she keeps inviting us to go to her dacha for a day. We keep telling her that we can't, but she is persistent. Now that we're closer to winter, she might be able to come to church and start progressing. From what Sister Woodland's told me, she's interested in church and baptism, but has just been busy with other things and said she'll free up when it's winter.
We also had a miracle Sunday where we found a whole lot of people. There were three less-actives who said we could meet with them later this week. Then a man stopped us and asked for the time, and then he recognized us as the girls from America. He met Sister Woodland several weeks ago at a bus stop. As we were talking, he said he's not baptized, and we set up a return appointment. He said he believes in God and will for sure be at that appointment. That was another random miracle. He has a wife and three kids, so we hope we meet his whole family soon.
We also went to Vlad. on Wednesday to have a min-conference with the traveling patriarch. He didn't speak to us long, but his words about going the second mile, setting goals, and just getting started were so clear, and it was such a wonderful experience.
Have a happy week!
This is an email from the Mission President's Wife, Sister Perkinson:
Dear Sister Springer (Karen Springer),
Last evening the South Zone was able to gather together to listen to the traveling Patriarch for our Vladivostok Mission. Elder Neuenschwander agreed to come and serve this mission and give over 80 Patriarchal blessings and as an extra bonus, he agreed to one night in each Zone to speak with our missionaries! It was a lovely evening.
Our missionaries were able to have a feast together of Pizza, salads and wraps prior to this special fireside.
The spirit was strong as we were taught principles of a life time! Stories along with doctrine taught were applicable for not only this mission but also for after mission and far beyond.
The Savior's Apostles were taught many characteristics that they were invited to acquire when the Savior taught "the Sermon on the Mount". And then a few verses after that it talks about "going the second mile". Elder Neuenschwander helped us all to realize that the leaders give us the first mile of things that we should do, but it is up to each of us to decide how we can "go the second mile"! These wonderful South Zone missionaries were so attentive and responsive to the spirit and the message given them this night!
Keep us in your prayers that we will continue on this "Second Mile" concept through out their mission! The Lord will bless us as we humbly ask for his guidance and assistance.
We love your daughter and so grateful for her service in our quaint Artyom Branch! Her musical talents are always needed! Thank you for your love and your prayers in behalf of our Mission!
President and Sister Perkinson
Vladivostok Russia Mission
Sister (Cectpa) Ashlin Springer is serving a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Russia, Vladivostok Mission. She will be serving from October 2014-April 2016. This blog contains weekly letters, pictures and contact information.