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!