I've hit my one-month mark in Russia! Whoo! (Which means I've been on my mission for a total of 3 months, which means I'm 1/6 of the way through my mission.) I can't believe it's already been a month, I still don't know so much. I can see a teeny, weeny improvement on my Russian, but I still like to stick to my companion like glue when it comes to understanding. The people here talk so fast, and sometimes they mumble, so that's fun. In fact, yesterday during church, the two people who had been asked to give talks had finished, and there was still about twenty minutes of sacrament meeting left. The counselor in the branch presidency who was conducting stood up and starting talking again, and you should know that I just sit in sacrament and try to figure out what the gist is of the talk. Usually a few minutes in I can figure out that they're talking about repentance or about faith, but I don't get the details. So the counselor was talking, and all of sudden I heard "Сестра Спрингер" (Sister Springer). Everyone turned to look at me and I was really confused until Сестра Веселова (Sister Veselova, one of the senior missionaries) said "just share your testimony," and that's when I realized I was supposed to go up to the podium. Surprise! Welcome to missionary life, when everyone thinks you're so in tune with the Spirit that you can give a talk/bear your testimony on the spot. Well, I did it, in far-from-perfect Russian, and my heart slowed down eventually, but I'm glad one of the first things I learned in the MTC was how to bear my testimony. If anything else, at least now I know that I can pray at any time for help, because I was praying so hard during those five minutes.
Another fun story. Yesterday, Sister Watts and I were going to visit a less-active member who doesn't go to church because she's sick. We started walking to the bus stop after church when we realized we forgot to grab a Liahona that we were going to give the less-active, so we walked all the way back to the church and then back to the bus stop. On the bus, I started talking with a woman about the Gospel, and she talked so fast and all I understood was that she goes to "our church" (the Russian Orthodox church) and how that's what the Russians believe and she doesn't need a different faith, and she also said she knows someone who lives in Cleveland, Ohio. Thankfully, Sister Watts came up and helped me figure out what was going on, and the woman (I'll call her Harriet) invited us to go to her home and have tea. What? That never happens on the street (or the bus)! Most people just walk right past us or say "Da svidania," or sometimes just "nyet" (no). So we went to her apartment (which we would never do in America, go to a perfect stranger's house, but it's just what you want to do as a missionary), and she showed us pictures of her family and when she was younger (and she had such beautiful, thick hair... hence Harriett...). She drank tea and we drank hot water, and we had candy and she talked to us a lot, and she said we could come back on Wednesday. It was so cool to see someone be so warm and open to us when so many people here are so cold (haha, Russian humor).
We also had an awesome lesson with another investigator. I don't remember what I wrote, but at the end of December we had that investigator who was supposed to get baptized for the 100 baptism, and then she didn't? Well, that investigator was with her daughter-in-law when we ran into them on the street way back then, and we met with the daughter-in-law on Saturday (I'll call her Hopeful). She and her eight-year-old son came to the church, and we talked with them about the Restoration. The Spirit was really strong in the lesson, and we felt lots of peace. She and her son both said they would pray to know if this message is true and that they would read the Book of Mormon, and they said they would be baptized on February 7! They are so awesome, and we met with Hopeful last night, and she said they read the Book of Mormon together, and the son had lots of questions, and she also said she received an answer to her prayers. She thinks this church is a lot better than her current one (Russian Orthodox), and she says she feels peace. I'm really excited for them to be baptized next month.
We didn't really have an opportunity to meet with our other investigators who have baptismal dates for January 31st because the wife is in the hospital with kidney stones. It's so funny when we ask people how they are because if they're not feeling well, they'll tell you. Us: "Hi so-and-so! How are you?" Them: "Terrible." So fun. Really, the people here just make me laugh sometimes.
I could go on and on, but we had a great week (like finding 5 new investigators, and our goal was 3), and we really hope to keep the momentum going this next week. Thanks for all the emails and support from home! Hope you all have a good week, and don't get sick like lots of people here are!