Thursday, December 30, 2010

Russian Christmas

Well hello family!

Merry Christmas! It was really good to talk to you on Saturday. Dad, I've been trying to take your advice to heart and "walk softly'... though i'm still not sure i know exactly what that means. I do wish I could have talked to my sisters on that call as well, and i really wish i could have talked to my nieces. But, 40 mins isn't a lot of time, and it becomes even shorter when you spend half of it trying to set up a conference call, so i quite understand. We will have to see what we can do in may though.

So, I've got a lot I want to talk about, (being i had my first rRssian missionary Christmas) but i probably cant get to all of it. But i'll tell everyone about my Christmas Eve and Day, because I'm sure that's what everyone wants to know about.

Christmas Eve we had a couple lessons set up, and we actually had 2 of them work out. One with the family with unbaptized 9 year old daughter, and another with a less active woman who doesn't like to attend church because of the "fanatics". They were both really good meetings and we talked about Christ and the importance of His life and Atonement. We read in Matthew 2 where it talks about the wise men and how they brought gifts to Christ when they came and related to how we can all bring a gift to Christ at Christmas time. Whether it be repentance, baptism, service for others, forgiving someone, or whatever else would help bring us closer to our Savior. We also gave them some fudge that we made. We also happened to have planned to go by a potential investigator named Rudolf that we had talked to about a month back. I was so excited to see Rudolf on Christmas eve. BUT... when we went to the address we couldn't find it. There were NOT 106 apartments in that building. But then again a guess Rudolf probably WOULD have a magical invisible house in Russia. He was probably to busy preparing for his long flight to talk to us anyway. After we returned home for the night we had our Christmas eve "feast" of blueberry pie with ice cream topped with russian chocolate syrup, some russian chocolate cereal, some of our homemade russian fudge. It was delicious. The only thing it lacked was oreos. I'm not usually a fan of chocolate with my ice cream, but 1. russian chocolate is soooo good. 2. my tastes have changed. I know kinda like things that i never did before like tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, and coconut. So after our feast and writing in our journals some we set out some milk and fudge for santa, left the tree lights on (we have about a 1 1/2' tree in our window sill) and went to bed and had dreams of contacting in the snow. In the morning we got up and saw that santa had come! or at least the fudge and milk had been eaten in the night. We then reopened our packages (I got a pity package from the office as my packages haven't come in yet) and got ready to go to the christmas concert at one of the church buildings. The Christmas concert was probably the strangest thing I've ever seen in my life. if you thought that "the nightmare before Christmas" but a strange spin on the holiday, try going to a russian Christmas party. that's all i have to say about that. at the party i got a ton of letters given to me by the office senior couple and so then we returned home and read letters, and called home. So there was my Christmas.

Now about the man we named "The Giver" from the book called "The Giver". we call him so because he has light blue eyes and a long white beard. he'd also make a good russian santa claus or father time. But earlier in the week we made a trek out to his house. He lives a little bit out of the city in the private home sector. we had to walk there and it took us a good 2 hours or so of trekking through 2 1/2 feet or so of snow. when we finally got there... he wasnt home. so we left a note saying we came by and inviting him to come to church. well yesterday he showed up! I was really excited when he walked in half way through sacrament meeting. After sacrament meeting we went with him to sunday school and priesthood meeting where i was elected to sit by him. I was a little hesitant because i still dont really know russian, but i did so anyway. well... that made for the most interesting church meeting of my life. The man was either drunk, old and sick, crazy, or just very hot. But he kept on swaying back and forth the whole time and i was sure he was going to face plant it on the ground about 40 times. but he always recovered right before i went to grab him. except for when he didnt. I did catch him in time to save his head from hitting anything though. He kept saying he was fine every time i asked and when i tried to ask him if he wanted to take of his coat he just looked at me. So between him being on my blind side, worrying about him dying right next to me, being asked to read and answer questions in russian, and trying to understand what was even going on in the lesson.... that was the most stressful 2 hours of my mission. it wore me out. after church when we got home i fell asleep trying to study russian as elder swainston cooked.

Well in closing, I would like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and then dispel a few myths i've been seeing through letters. its not cold here.... 3 degrees celcius today. my coat keeps me HOT most the time. And i don't know russian.well. love you

love elder ellis

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Dad, Grandma, and Jesus...

Well what a crazy week this last one was.
I'll start of by saying Happy birthday to Dad and Grandma tomorrow. I've been anxiously awaiting your birthday... because well it’s when the days start getting longer. Dawn ends around 10, Dusk starts around 2:30 and by 3:00 it’s completely dark. so, that's about 4 1/2 hours of clouds! haha. The sun never sets on the Roman Empire... well in winter, the sun never rises in Russia. The temperature today is -11 degrees Celsius. I forgot what that is in F because i had my alarm clock with thermometer on our window sill.... and it must have fallen. I was a little upset about that. Aunt Donna is probably thinking she failed at teaching me any chemistry.... but that's not true! Ice starts to melt at 0 degrees celcius (32 degrees F)! It’s snowing today, and the ground is still solid ice. I made a goal last week to not fall a single time.... and i did it! but since that week has ended i have fallen 2 more times, bringing the sack total up to 9 for the season. I need a better, stronger tackle on my blindside. I hate to laugh at my own jokes.... but that's funny in so many ways.
Tuesday and Wednesday we had Mission Conference. all 68? missionaries together. I learned a lot from the conference about how i can become a better missionary. Speaking of which, I would like to apologize for some of my negative remarks in the letters i've been sending. It's hard getting used to so many people so quickly while trying to figure out what the heck i'm supposed to be doing as a missionary, and then translating that into Russian. It was good to see all the Elders in a less stressful setting and realize that they are actually really good missionaries and people. I quite like Elder Crookston when I have a little bit of time away from him. And I certainly don't feel like punching Elder Brewer in the face when my head isn't about to explode from all the russian being packed in it. Mission conference was good. I realized a lot of things i need to improve on and i got the motivation to do it as well. We had planned on 6 elders staying in our apartment for 2 nights and working with us in our area. So we bought a lot of spaghetti stuff, cereal and put a lot of work in planning stuff for them to do. Well, they were there for only one night and we were able to work with them for just about an hour. So, we're going to be eating lots of spaghetti and cereal this next week, and we won't ever have to think about what to do when a meeting falls through. Within that hour 2 of the elders were able to find a former investigators on the route i gave them, and that investigator now is preparing to be baptised on the 8th of January. Our first part of the 200 baptisms we hope to achieve in this next year. or should i say, the 200 people we hope to bring closer to Christ through baptism. this year i think the mission had around 130. so 200 is a stretch... but we are a stretchy people.
Friday I went to Lithuania. That was interesting. got up at 4 am, headed to the airport, flew to Moscow, flew to Vilnius Lithuania, went through passport control, walked through the airport and came back to passport control, boarded the same plane and came back to Moscow, had a pretty long layover, and then flew back into samara. got to bed at 2am. Oh visa trips. looooong days. I enjoyed it though. Luckily president wanted us to get a full 8 hours of sleep afterwards... so we slept in til 10. That was weird. it's been 5 months since i've slept in past 6:30..... oh man... its even STRANGER saying that! but, i've now been to THREE countries in my life. Lithuania, Russia, and good ol' usa. The best part of the trip was getting above the clouds and seeing the SUN! it exists!!!!!!!!
well, i better wrap this up with a few answers to questions. the plan is i'll be calling home around 6-7 pm on christmas day. so 9 to 10 missouri time, 8-9 idaho/ UTAH????? time. My family isn't a utah family. weird. That wasnt negative by the way..... :/
i've not gotten any packages yet, but it sounds like from when they were sent ill get them sometime mid to late january. no worries.. i'm not sad i wont have them by christmas. I got a pity package from the office with a few goodies in them. So really i scored. and i'll be opening presents for my companion's birthday as well, so i wont feel left out. haha.
well i love you all! thank you for all the e-mails and letters! I got a ton of dear elders this week! (i think e-mails probably better... i actually get them before a month has gone by)
Elder Ellis


Monday, December 13, 2010

Walkin (and sliding, and falling) in a Winter Wonderland!

Well another week has gone by.
Not a whole lot has gone down this week, but it has seemed to be a successful week. We have 3 new investigators and 1 that we're hoping to get a baptismal date with soon. so... 4 in all. I was kinda surprised yesterday when we were adding up our weekly totals to report. Because honestly, i havent felt all that productive this last week. But, I look at what we have accomplished this last week, and its a pretty good amount.
We've been gearing up for Christmas and all the strange things that go on during that time. Elder Swainston and i found some decorations that "sisters from christmas past" have left behind, and so we decorated a little. We have a 20" tree with lights and 6 bell ornaments, some ribbon, and a star on top that i made out of yellow post-it notes. we have garland around the window sill in which the tree sits, with some red and gold globe ornaments. a nativity set cut out thing we found in one of the Liahona's (church magazine) and i have cut out about 7 or 8 paper snowflakes and taped them to the window. all in all its a pretty sweet... yet humble... set up.
I've heard i've got a package or two coming my way, so i'll be sure to give a shout out when i get them and what all made it. I also sent an e-mail President sent to me about calling home. i havent really read it yet... but you can!
So this next week should be quite the busy one. tomorrow and wednesday we have mission conference. all 68 missionaries are coming to samara for 2 days. 7 of which are staying in our apartment. cereal and spaghetti is on the menu. I've still got a few things left to hide in the apartment... if you dont want it used... hide it. And aparently things end up missing when elders come... i'm not a big fan of the whole "what's yours is mine" idea that goes along with being a missionary. I seem to think...there's mine... and there's yours... and then there is ours. I guess I need to be more Christ-like and charitable. but its both a blessing and a curse to have the extra missionaries in our area. more to feed, more to make messes, less quite, less peace, more stress.... but a good boost of work done in our area. but that has taken a good deal of planning.
Thursday might be a normal day. we have planning...from 1:00-4:00 so its not really a normal day... but as close as it gets this next week. Friday... visa trips. so i'll be getting up at 4am... getting on a bus, then a plane, sitting in moscow airport, getting on another plane, running through customs in.... another country(forgot which one), turning around and going back to the same plane, sitting in moscow airport, getting on a plane, getting on a bus... and getting home around 2am. not exactly the 'vacation' like atmosphere our teachers in the mtc told us about. Things have changed... the church has figured out how to make these trips a lot more effecient.
saturday we have sports night... maybe. our zone is really bad on making plans for sports nights.... so they never really happen. which is a shame, i think they could be really good finding / reactivation opportunities.
its not too cold here lately. high teens low 20's in F. ice on the ground... that was fun at first. got old kinda fast. I'm working on perfecting the "slide-walk" at-first because it was fun... but now because its a lot easier. The fall count in now up to 7. I fell on the stairs outside of our apartment one day and my back was sore the next day. BUT... i've made it a goal to nall fall this week. so far so good. *knocking on wood*
I'm getting a little sick... just a little bit of a cold. green snot. but that's not really sick now is it. definitely nothing to complain about.
Well... i gotta get going. time is running up, and the guy behind us is trying to tell us that we think that God was an american. so, hopefully we can give him some of the facts about our religion instead of the crap you find on the internet.
love you all! hope all is well!
love, Elder Ellis.

P.S. I have a microwave... i get on the internet in a internet club thats in the basement of some building and everyone around us is playing world or warcraft... its kinda shifty, but gets the job done. Theres no usb drive so i can send pictures, but i'm working on finding a way to get some out. oh, and if you have a question CAPITALIZE IT so i can skim through and answer it. otherwise the chances of it getting answered are low. hope to hear from all of you. and anyone can e-mail me. but i must write home.

pps. request my email from my mom.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Well this last week has been a little crazy as far as the weather goes. On tuesday it snowed all morning, probably a good 6 inches or so. then right as we made our way outside to start contacting and what not.. it turned to rain? pretty heavy rain too. So that was pretty cold because we hadn't prepared for the rain (because it was too cold) and we were far from home when it started. so we got wet. but then, the rain turned to freezing rain. meaning that we were freezing. Luckily i broke out the boots that day, so atleast my feet were dry. at dinner we came in and got dry and ready to go back out for the night. and then the temperature dropped. so the ground turned from 6 inches of snow, to 4 inches of slush, then all of that slush froze solid into weird shapes. It's kinda hard to walk on... i've fallen twice. the next day it got down to -20 degrees celcius.. which is something like... i forgot. you can convert it. i believe -15 C is -5 F though. but yeah... it was pretty cold. nose hairs freeze instantly. it stayed that cold for a day or two and then the rest of the week got warmer and was right around -10 C. On sunday it sleeted and filled in all the weird ruts the frozen sluch created, so its now a lot easier to walk without dying.
So i said last week that i'd tell more about elder swainston. and well, nothing else interesting really happened this week, so i will do that now. I'm very much enjoying serving with elder swainston again. He's from utah (Of course) and was a football player in highschool. He's somewhat simular to owen. which is why i like him. He's very organized and our apartment is kept VERY clean. which is awesome. I'm realizing how slobby elder crookston and i were. In fact today i'm on exchanges with elder crookston in his new area.... and it's a pig sty. I cant wait to get back to my nice clean apartment on the south side of town. Also, elder swainston is quite the good cook. if we had some good sausauge, his speghetti would rival yours mom. well, not really rival, its just very simular. though, i think i may have forgotten the taste... its been too long! so yes, i am now well fed and quite happy. The only complaint i have about elder swainston is that he cooks and then tries to do all the dishes. If he's doin the cooking, i should atleast do the dishes. but he's too quick. I try really hard to try to serve him just to try to keep up, but its impossible. But i think that's why i enjoy working with him so much. I WANT to serve him, because he does so much for me. other elders... i didnt want to serve... because they never did anything for me, but MORE they never did much for themselves.
Also he's kind of a quieter fella. which means i actually have time to try to talk in lessons and to get used to speaking russian. as a result my russian learning has been picking up. I'd say i've gone up a rung or two on this latter. But, it's a pretty tall ladder. I've got A LOT to learn. President continues to tell me i need to be a master of the language so that i can be one of his leaders in the next month or so. dang. i'm scared. because in july 20-30 elders go home.... and we're apparently gettting 5. There is a lot of.... growing opportunities for me ahead. oh boy.
Investigators. our way good investigator that has a baptismal date in a 2 weeks... isnt really progressing. his girlfriend called and said that he was no longer interested and didnt like coming to our church when he came. but, we've heard that from her before, and it was a lie then... i we think its a lie now. i finally got ahold of him and he said he was still interested, but its just hard because he works all the time, and he girlfriend isnt for it. so he's kinda on the back burner for now.
our other investigator with a baptismal date.. well she was supposed to get baptized last saturday. so i dont think that will happen. She hasn't answered any of our calls, but she does still talk to one of the members. from what i can tell, she's interested and believes, its just not a priority right now.
And then theres our 9 yr old investigator. her family is 'less active' but they've been 3 out of the last 5 sundays. well the mother and the girl. we've had really good lessons with their whole family and they know the doctrine well... they just dont apply it. faith without action. at our last meeting with them we asked them to have a goal for baptism for the girl, and the gril got really excited. she really wants to get baptised! but her mother is affraid that they arent ready as a family for her to be baptized. She says she that it isnt good for her to get baptized right now if they arent going to be active. We're trying to help them understand that setting goals isnt for people that are ready to achieve them. but rather, goals help us to prepare to be ready. if we were ready right now, we wouldnt need a goal. we'd simply do it.
I'm learning a lot about stretching myself to help me grow. I'm not ready to speak russian to people with so much at stake for them... but i'm here, i'm speaking... and that is the ONLY way i'll ever be ready. when i started cross country i surely wasnt ready to run 3 miles. but the only way i became good at it was running 3 miles. makes sesnse in my head.
well, thats all the time i have for this week. I love you all and hope all is well!
Elder Ellis