What a wonderful weekend we had. Why, you might ask? Well, let's just say an apostle of the Lord came to Siberia for the first time! It was such a huge blessing to listen to Elder Nelson speak to us yesterday.
We left on Friday night for the conference in Irkutsk, and it was about an 8-hour train ride. Sister Cavaness said that we rode on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The cabins and overall atmosphere reminded me of the movie Anastasia. It was fun, and we also rode the train home. On Saturday, we had zone conference with Irkutsk, Angarsk, and Ulan-Ude, and it was the last zone conference with President and Sister Brinton before they go home. They are such wonderful people, and we'll be sad to see them go.
Then, Sunday!!! We went to the Courtyard Marriott hotel where the conference was, and 207 people were there for the conference from the 3 cities. We had record attendance in the mission (446), and the conference was broadcast by satellite to the other cities in the mission. It was a wonderful feeling to listen to the speakers (President and Sister Brinton; President and Sister Porter, the president of the Europe East Area; and Elder and Sister Nelson). That was sacrament meeting, and then there was a special two hour meeting later for just the missionaries, and all the same people spoke to us. Elder Nelson even had a Q&A where we could ask him anything we wanted. We also got to shake his hand. I can't even describe how incredible and amazing it was. It was such a huge blessing to be here, and I learned so much that I can apply to the work and to my life. I took lots of awesome notes and wish I could just tell you word-for-word everything that happened! One thing that was part of the Q&A. The question was about how to help atheists believe in God. The answer: have them look at the world around them. Aren't our bodies amazing? Isn't the world amazing? How could any of this be just by chance? Look, sit, and think about it. Our bodies truly are incredible.
Some other things that happened before the conference:
We met with the Name Tag Family again last Thursday (before the conference), and we still are having good feelings about baptism soon. Sister Brinton even said at the conference that they are close. One of their old missionaries is visiting, and he wants to help us get them baptized while he's here. The mom and some of the kids went to the conference, and we're excited to follow-up with them about what they felt.
There are some recent converts and a less-active who are all related, and the elders met with the husband of the less-active a few days ago, and I think they went to the hospital, but the husband was almost always drunk. Now, however, they (the hospital) told him that he can't drink anymore, so he hasn't been drinking, and he came to Irkutsk with his wife! Miracle! We are hoping to meet with him this week and make him a new investigator.
While we were in Irkutsk, we went to a baptism on Saturday for a woman who has only one leg. She walks using crutches. It was wonderful to see her be baptized, and it just added to the wonderful spirit of the weekend. (It was in a sauna inside of a hotel. Russian saunas are kind of backward. The room was hot, but the water was cold.)
The two investigators of the elders came to the conference. They are so fun and wonderful. They met the elders on Victory Day, May 9th, and this Saturday will be the girl's baptism. The boy isn't quite as ready, but they were both at the conference, and we can see the difference the Gospel is making for them.
We met this sweet man whose aunt is a member, and he has a baptismal date for June 6th! I'll call him Whisper (he's really quiet, but he can feel the whisperings of the Spirit). We met with him twice and had super quick lessons, but I know he felt the Spirit. He prayed for the first time (I think in his life) with us, and he said he felt something in his heart. He's wonderful. He also brought a friend to the second lesson, and when we asked her to pray, he pulled out his pamphlet to help show her how to pray. He's great, and we can't wait to meet with him again.
That was the week! There are miracles all around, and by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.
P.S. (not for blog) Words from Elder Nelson for you (my family): "Tell them [family] that we love them. Tell them thanks for sending their very best." I love you too! I have an awesome family! :) Also, I got a new hotel pen from the conference. :) Love those hotel pens.
(She always says "not for blog" but I thought it was cool to include, especially the part about the pen--haha.)