Monday, November 29, 2010

4 months!

I've officially been gone for 4 months now. that's 1/6 of my mission. I still don't know if that went by slow or fast.
This last week has been somewhat of the hectic one. monday morning i was with elder kazikov. we shopped for 2 people for 2 days with one person's budget. Elder kazikov wanted to go meet up with the zone leaders for lunch (elder crookston and bolt) since he was being transferred to kazan... which is something like 8 hours away. so we went up to the zone leaders area, I finally was able to find a bible in russian, and then we went out to lunch. McDonalds! Oh i was so happy! I was a little disappointed that they werent serving breakfast by the time we got there, but then i realized they didn't make saugsage egg cheese mcgriddles and cinnamelts anyway. Which is also a dissapointment... i wanted to show elder kazikov what a real one was like, and not our homemade version.
After lunch we came back to the apartment and did laundry and all that, and then we got a call that elder williams would be joining us for the next day or so. 3 people eating food for 2 on 1 person's budget. The next day because there were 3 of us we decided to go on splits. they somehow thought it would be a good idea for them to go together and for me to go with a member. I stressed out about it all day long. I don't know much russian... he doesnt know much english. Finally the time came and they left me. the member and i went to go visit a less active member in the area, and it actually all went pretty well. I was VERY thankful for the Lord's help in helping me understand and be able to talk in a clear and understandable way. The Lord really does help us to do AMAZING things if we will just have faith and pray.
The next morning Elder kazikov and williams left, and elder swainston came. We had to treat it like a second p-day because there was NO food in the apartment and the apartment was kind of a mess. elder crookston left it messy, and then elder kazikov and williams added there part. Then we got a call that 2 other elders would be joining us for the evening. so we went on splits again. This time I was with elder brewer. Elder brewer knows like 4 languages and seems pretty smart (harvard student i believe) but... no matter how smart you are, you always come off as an idiot if you think you know EVERYTHING. I really didn't know what our plans were. I don't know a lot of russian. I don't know a lot about missionary work. I'm still young. But he expected me to know everything. "what are we doing next?" "what now?" "who is this person?"....... i just simply don't know. and i would appreciate it if you would ask in english because i'm feeling a little overwhelmed by you. after a few hours with him i really wanted to punch him in the face.... it was not a good night. but i made it through without any sort of abuse given. we finally met back up and i was able to work with elder swainston for a little bit finally, and they left. I was happy with their departure... until we realized they took our map and our ward list with them. dang. The next day was thanksgiving. I didnt realize that until we got a call from sister sartori inviting us to thanksgiving dinner at the office. Oh the perks of being IN samara and not one of the outlying cities in the mission. we had a wonderful thanksgiving dinner with president and sister sartori, the templetons (the office couple), the assistants, our zone leaders, and the avrora elders and sisters. 14 in all. after dinner we had a little testimony/ "i'm thankful for..." meeting. I really do have a lot to be thankful for. And i'm thankful for this opportunity to serve the Lord and to bless my family the best way possible.
after dinner we caught a ride back home with a the 2nd counselor in the mission presidency (the same member i went on splits with.. pres. kleemov) and the secretary (also in our area sasha tolkachov) sasha served a mission in washington state and so he knows english. and so we listened to christmas music all the way home. Made me miss being home a little bit, but once the music stopped i was able to focus again.
Oh. time out. I want to let grandma know that i got her dearelder letter..... 5 or six times. haha. Everyone at the thanksgiving dinner was jealous of my MANY letters.... little did they know it was all the same letter pretty much.
Let's see... I'll talk more about elder swainston next week as i am out of time. I'm really happy to be working with him. Its been a little bit of the blind leading the blind as he's been trying to get aquainted with the area, but hey, i'm used to being half blind.
I think we're finally getting it together though. Im learning a lot about being organized.
well, i'll try to get some letters off in the mail today or tomorrow. I've not gotten around to going to the post office in the last 2 weeks :/ sorry. I think I should have more time now with elder swainston tho.
Well, love you all! hope all is well and I hope everyone had a happy thanksgiving! i did. don't worry... I ate without YOU this year :P
Elder Ellis

Monday, November 22, 2010


I've been in Russia for a full cycle now! 6 weeks.... that’s hard to believe it’s been that long. And yet, it seems much longer. Time is a funny thing, SO..... End of the cycle... transfers. I am staying here in bezimonski. However, my trainer elder crookston is not. I'm a little excited about this. I like elder crookston, but I’m a little tired of feeling like a trainee. He also likes to carry the load of the work, which doesn’t allow for me to work out my missionary muscles and grow. let alone my weak language muscles. But he's going and I'm going to be required to do a lot more of the work since my new comp won’t know the area, BUT I DO! sorta. I'm excited for it. and what’s more, I'm getting elder Swainston!!!! That means nothing to pretty much everyone but me and him... but he was my companion in the mtc 3 days! I'm excited to work with him and i feel like the Lord has a reason He wants us together.
So this morning was a little crazy with transfers. right now I’m with elder kazikov until swainston gets here in a day or two (he's coming from a pretty far away city) I like elder kazikov a ton too... on our 2 exchanges we've had we eat banana pancakes and it makes me happy :) I’m a little sad he's going to another city.... no more banana pancakes at his apartment.
Other good news, Our really good investigator came to church and set a baptismal date! His goal is to get baptized in 4 weeks, but we're thinking that that date will move up he is preparing well. He needs to find a new apartment and stop smoking before he'll be ready, but he seems like he'll do it. Our other 2 investigators we cant seem to get to church... sigh... so we're working on them.
story from this week.... on Friday we had to go out of our area to teach a man at his work. we left at 4 and traveled to his work. it took us forever to get there because of traffic and weird bus routes, but we finally got there. But.... he wasn't there and no one knew anything about him. dang. so we started heading home. Waited at a bus stop for a good 30-40 minutes without seeing a single bus. Finally we decided we would just take a trolley car about 3/4 of the way and just walk the rest. so we got on the trolley car and went about 2 blocks before it stopped. the conductor came out of her booth and told us all to get off. Something was weird and all the trolley cars were stopped in one spot. there were about 30 trolley cars lined up, with all the conductors standing around talking and a few policemen... not sure what that was about but then we just had to give up and walk. so finally we get back (4 hours all together) and we get a call from some other elders with a member from another town that is working in our area and wanted to introduce us to his friends. They're all construction workers building a huge apartment building and living in it while the build it. so we walked up 13 flights with him and came to this small square concrete room with a table built out of scraps and everyone sitting on bags of concrete mix. felt like a treehouse club meeting. in the room were 2 americans, 2 russians, and 4 uzbekistans. religions were 3 mormons, 1 Jehovah's wittness, 1 russian orthodox, and 3 muslims. ages ranging from 20 to 60. strange little group. we had a good discussion with all of them and 3 of them seemed rather interested. they want us to come back and teach them, and they want to feed us plov. i'm a little scared... sanitary issues. I'm thinking we wont.
well, time is up i just realized. theres finally snow on the ground... its slippery. time to break out the thermals.
sorry this letter was a little scattered brained... i didnt take notes this week.
love you all!
love elder ellis.

Monday, November 15, 2010

One Month in Russia!

Holy moly. I've been living in russia for over a month now! I don't really feel like it went by quickly... but i'm not sure how that happened. I think when we changed our clocks we actually got a week off or something.... i'll have to look into that.
So this last week has been a pretty good one for the most part. the best part: Volva. Volva is a 22 yr old man we met on the streets one night. He said he wanted to meet, and HE ACTUALLY SHOWED up. we taught him a lesson at a members house about how he can feel God's love more in his life as he strives to follow Christ. It was a way good lesson and the spirit was quite strong. He said he wanted to meet again and HE commited US to the next day. so the next day came and HE called US in the morning to set up a time. but, when the time came he said that his girlfriend wouldn't let him leave without her... she thought we were a cult. so ofcourse we were happy to tell him to bring her along. so we went back to the same members house and his girlfriend was kinda scary. the members have a big ol' happy german shepherd that wanted to be pet by her... but she's deathly afraid of dogs. so that was kinda bad... a small child almost died... but anyway. so we sat down for a lesson and she interrogated us. We were both so afraid of her, i was about to crack and confess to murder! but somehow we got through her questions and were able to draw the spirit into the room and we were all able to learn. We invited them to come to the church building here in bezimonski for another lesson the next day and to learn more about what we do at church. they both agreed and seemed interested. well the next day came, and we waited, and waited, and finally volva showed up alone. we had a way good lesson about how Christ has restored his true church through the prophet Joseph Smith, and today we are guided by a prophet that recieves revalation from God and he said he wanted to get baptised when he recieves an answer on his prayers to find out if the Book of Mormon is true or not. we then walked him home (we're neighbors) and he told us that he was late because his girlfriend didnt want him to come and they got in a fight about it (she decided we were a cult again?) and she went to hit him and he ducked and then she pushed him into a mirror and it broke and in the confussion he ran out the door. She's scary. He has such a strong desire to follow Christ, despite all the stumbling blocks he has in his life that would prevent it. I'm learning a lot from him and his faith. The next time we met with a different member (yesterday) and talked about... well about everything. The member (the branch president here... who is pretty blunt) told him it was a sin to live with his girlfriend if they werent married and that he was in great need of repentance.... eeek... we were sure we lost him right there.. but he just looked at president jestkov and said... "i whole heartedly agree with that.... thank you" wow. Like i said... he has such a strong desire to follow christ... its amazing.
We're also seeing a lot of progress with 2 of other investigators. one has been listening to lessons with the missionaries since august, and the other is the daughter of a part member less active family. We have a baptismal date for the 4th with the first one, and we're setting a goal with the other one tonight when we got to help there family start holding family night each monday.
Fun things this week: each cycle we have a cultural night with president and and the zone. so on friday we went to a russian play about all these families that live in the russian dorms and share a huge kitchen. it was way cool to see a play in a different language, and it was a very well put together play. best i've seen (sorry all of the drama friends i have...) I learned quite a bit about some of the circumstances that MANY russians have to deal with living in these dorms. and i was surprised with how much i understood without understanding anything that was being said. I get acting now.... its intriguing.
the other neat thing we had was a sports night and exchanges with the zone leaders. i learned a lot from the zone leaders, and the sports night was cool because it was looking like it was going to be a huge failure... but we had some faith and it worked out! the branch here is already becoming so much stronger. I'm excited to see it grow more.
well, outta time
i love you all and hope all is well back in america / canada...
elder ellis

Monday, November 8, 2010

From Russia with love

What a week this last one has been. Time is finally picking up and no longer dragging on an on. which is bitter sweet. it would be just sweet if i actually knew this language. let's see... mom, i just got all of your letters that you sent before eisley's birth. tree pictures, kennady stories, texas trip etc. I'm unsure whether or not you are yet satisfyed with the information you have about russia... so here are some things.
Coat, i bout a good one for about 5000 rubles.. which is something like 160 bucks. it's superwarm, kinda heavy, has lots of pockets (two perfect sized pockets for Book of Mormon and Kneega Mormona... yes... i have to carry both around so i know what's going on) i unzipped the hood for a while, but i'm thinking i'll need to zip it back on soon.
food. this one i'm learning to deal with. My companion has habits with food, and i'm not sure that his habits are going to be my habits. I think he might be a little frustrated with me because i seem like a really picky eater. which maybe i am, but really i'm just a simple eater. i like my apples (good apples here... if you can find the unbruised ones) i like cereal. i'd be happy with t\just those two things really. but once you start trying to get creative is when i get a little frustrated. i'm much as i was in highschool again.... i'm just always hungry. unusual from the dustin of the last two years that never did any work and therefore was never much of an eater. for me, its quantity over variety. for him its variety. but i'm not starving... tho those 12 lbs i gained in the mtc... gone. and then some. i've lost like 6 kg since i've been here... which is ... i dunno.
it snowed for the second time this week, but its now melted again so everything is just mud again. mud mud mud. so much mud.
oh... i'm thinking i may not be sending much of anything home for christmas. everyone has planted seeds of doubt in my mind that anything ever makes it... so yeah. i'm going to give you a running list of things that i want or need that i cant get here that you can put in a package whenever you MIGHT send one. don't feel like you have to. first thing on the list Signo 207 gel pens. buy the pack of 8 colors. my ink is running low and my letters need COLOR. infact, send 2 packages. i love those pens. um.... oh and 3x5 pictures: STL temple, family, me and owen, kortney ben and kennady together, kendra nathan and eisley together, eisley, king kong, cardboard castle, hollywood way museum castle, house, house in the snow.
ok, running out of time quickly so i'll tell you a bit about this last week.
This last week started out pretty rough... and stayed pretty rough most of the week. We simply cannot get people to set up times to meet with us and then ACTUALLY COME. so frustrating. Don't they know that ALL we want to do is to help THEM. I think i understand God a little more now though. His whole work and glory is to bring about the eternal life of man. aka all he wants to do is to help US to be happy. Therefore, he gives us commandments and helps us to make covenants with Him. Following commandments and keeping covenants lead us to happiness. How frustrated He must be that we are constantly making it hard for him to help us.
But, we stayed diligent, and stayed hopeful. finally yesterday we were able to meet with volva. volva is about 22 and attended a baptist church a couple years ago in a different city. he believes in God, but said he hadn't felt his love much in his life. So we met with him and talked about how we can better feel God's love as we strive to become closer to Him. Much like a fire, we can feel the heat the closer we get. if you get too far off than we stop feeling the heat... but that in no way means that the fire is not burning. We have high hopes for volva, he's already overcome 2 of the major russian barriers. The tradition to be russian orthadox, and before he met with with us his aunt told us everything bad that " 'mormons' do and believe". this morning he actually called us to set up a time to meet. elder crookston and i just laughed in surprise.
funny story: last night as we were contacting we ran into a older man named... you guessed it: sasha (everyone is named sasha, or sergei it seems like" and upon shaking our hands he went on and on about how good my wife was going to be, and how my wife was going to be a MUCH better wife than elder crookstons. He wouldn't let it go either. he just went on and on and on about it. quite funny. elder croockston didnt like that man much... and just kept talking about how he can do more pushups than me. which i think is true, but not by much... and i don't sound like i'm giving birth when i do push-ups.... so whatever that is worth.
well times running out!
i hope all is well at home! i love you all!
elder ellis

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Rest of the Story

Ok, a quick update on this week and my doings and then i will write a little more story.
It snowed for the first time on the 30th. its getting pretty cold here, especially since i got my hair cut today. I am going to day to get a scarf, maybe some good gloves, and a good hat. On Friday and saturday i went on exchanges with the zone leaders and i went to another part of the city with Elder Kazikov. I'm finding i get along much better with native russian missionaries than the american ones... or maybe its just the utah ones? I dunno. But i do get along pretty well with elder crookston, I'm just not used to living with him yet. on saturday we had a fireside with the members of the branch where we talked about Christ as our shepherd. we're trying to get the members to go find the 'lost sheep' in the branch and help them to come back to church and take full advantage of the gospel. they're building a building here for this branch, but they have stopped work on it... maybe because they don't actually need it for how many active members there are. 20-30 out of 350. so in the fireside we had 300 sheep cut out and laid on the table. bless sister tolkachov's heart for cutting them all out for us. we told her only 100 would be good, but i guess being bored and pregnant she decided to go the extra mile for us. we now have a lot of sheep to take notes on and use as reminders, haha. The most frustrating thing this past week has been canceled lessons. for example, yesterday we had 6 lessons scheduled. but, as the day went on we found ourselves with only 1 of those actually occurring, and that was with an active member family. We have had 1 or 2 lessons this week tho, one with alyssa. she's 18 and knows she needs to get baptized by immersion, but isn't sure which church really has the authority. we showed her the restoration film and asked her to pray to know if Joseph Smith really was a prophet of God. We haven't been able to follow up yet because she has been out of town but we have a lesson with her tonight. the other is a less active part member family. the mother and the son are both baptized and confirmed members, the 9 year old daughter isn't baptized, and the father was baptized, but took up smoking again that same night and so was never able to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and be confirmed a member. we're helping to activate the mother and the son so that they can help the father and the daughter to be baptized AND confirmed.
president satori came to our branch yesterday and in my short interview (mine are ALWAYS short.. but i guess that's really not a bad thing) he told me that i better be preparing to be one of his leaders because he's going to use me as such not too long from now. kinda intimidating. he told me one thing that i need to really work on is becoming an expert in the language so that i can interpret for him.... scary signs. I'm building more faith that i can learn the language well, but I'm not exactly sure how to go about it yet.
well so much for the 'short' update.

i hope all is doing well and that my new niece is learning how to be a handful!
love you all!
Elder Ellis
continued story:
terminal c to get my bags. well, terminal c is 30 minutes away. so we tried to take the shuttle but they wouldn't let us ride because our tickets were for terminal d. so finally we caught a bus for terminal c and noticed the the other samara missionary's bags were still there. i hadnt seen them since that morning. so long story short, after 3 hours of trying to find my bags i was finally able to get a hold of them and rejoin with everyone else. so we waited for my samara buddies... but they never came. it came time for me to go through security so i did, grabbed some borsh at one the the 2 restaurants in the Moscow airport, said goodbye to the rest of my mtc friends and got on a russian airline alone and flew the hour to samara. i tried to speak to a few people on the plane, but i couldn't understand them and they couldn't understand me. finally i arrived at the airport, crammed myself onto a bus with 100 other people and made it to the terminal. I met president satori and told him about the missing missionaries and then went to the mission home where i was FINALLY able to shower and sleep after being in my suit for.... 2 days? i don't even know. the next morning the missionaries were able to get a flight in and were finally found. long story about how they got lost... and i don't have time to get into that. but i am in russia now! so, first day in russian... cold, wet, stressful... i better get used to it! But i am happy to finally be here doing this important work.