Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas!

I was planning on sending you a few pictures of my last Christmas in Russia, but i forgot my card reader on the washing machine. bleen.
but here are the captions
1. Our fireplace and Christmas Tree! I'm sure this could make it on the red and green show. We like to sit around the fireplace whenever we're home. Its so cool looking that it even makes us think that we getting warmth from it!
2. Christmas Party at the branch building. There's not enough primary kids to play all the parts... and since we're the foreigners, we gotta be the wise men!
Those captions would be more entertaining with the pictures... but we'll just let that build some anticipation for next weeks letters.

So, it was good talking to you all this morning! I'm not really sure what else to say today... even though i really didn't talk that much.

We haven't been having very much success lately. The two biggest things we try for are to find new investigators and having lessons with a member present. we're "expected" to find one new investigator a day, and about one member present lesson a day. We haven't found any in two weeks, and we haven't had a lesson with a member in 4. So thats a little rough. But i hope it'll turn around soon. Everyone should be less busy after new years. You would expect everyone to be more receptive around the holiday season... but when the focus is on getting drunk and presents on new years, and not the birth of Christ, it just makes everyone busy. Next comes the cold.

The good thing about Christmas being past is getting to eat all the stuff that was in my stocking. We always have good things to eat (candy bars etc.) but this last week anytime we got something we would just put it in out stockings. by the time Christmas morning rolled around we had forgotten what all was in there and so it was actually a surprise!

We finally got the November Liahona and i've quite glad to finally get to read the conference talks. it takes a while... especially since i fall asleep everytime i start reading anything... but i'm greatful to finally have that.

I did open my presents from my GRAND mother and sister. Thank you!!!

well, i do love you all. I'll be glad to be spending next Christmas with my family!

love,
Elder Ellis

Monday, December 19, 2011

Almost Christmas!

Hey family!Before i forget... I’ll be calling next Monday morning at 8 am. I believe that is 9 pm Sunday afternoon in Utah time. I hope that i get to talk to all of you for this :)
This week was pretty... eventful. We got on a bus Wednesday to head to samara, came back on Saturday after zone conference with a new companion, some supplies, a package from Kendra, one from GRAND mother, and finally some letters! I haven't gotten letters in over 6 weeks. Probably be another 6 weeks until i get any more. Being in Kazan does have its price. I've not read any yet, and i haven't opened the packages yet (Christmas is on sun day... so i figure I’ll just wait) we do need some boxes under our tree i made this morning. (The green duct tape really came in handy...)
Elder Johnson is my new companion. He's from Provo Utah. He’s tall and skinny, and drove a black moped. I think we're actually going to get along pretty well based off of the last 3 days I’ve known him. He likes cats. I haven't showed my collection of posters yet... but I’m sure once i do we'll be putting them up on the wall (none of my companions have allowed this so far!) He's been in Russia since May and of course speaks better Russian than i do. Elder Varkenten in our district is the only elder i know that doesn't speak better than i do. Which is rather sad since over 3/4 of our mission is less than a year out.
We've not been having much success lately overall. I’ve gone 3 weeks without having a single lesson with a member present. i think that’s a record. We have Rushania and Artur that are progressing towards baptism quite well. But they can only meet on Sunday. Other than that all the investigators we do have are sick, busy, or just fell off the face of the planet. So our weeks haven't been very successful as far as the indicators are concerned. It would also just help to have a full week in Kazan without any distractions. I’ve been gone every other week (to Toliatti or samara) for the last 6 weeks. And well, my companion has a visa trip coming up in a week or 2.
Well... i really don’t have much else to say.... i do love you all and will be happy to talk to you next week! I hope everyone has a great Christmas!
Love,Elder Ellis

Monday, December 12, 2011

kresteetsya...

Well, not a bad week. Spent a good portion of it on a bus between Toliatti and Kazan again. The best part was getting stuck for two hours. They don't clear the roads very well and lots of wrecks happen out in the middle of nowhere with help a couple hours away.
Funny lesson we had yesterday. We were meeting with our investigators who know 'the millers' from Utah and trying to set up a baptismal date. They prefer to speak to us in English. They speak quite well, but once in a while the true meaning doesn't quite make it through. We were teaching them the message of the restoration, (paraphrase) talking about how when Christ lived on the earth he called 12 apostles and gave them priesthood authority for baptism and to lead the church. Christ also gave us the perfect example of what we should do to return to live with God. Christ himself, as an example to us, was baptized. After Christ ascended to heaven, people began to reject the apostles and even killed many of them, creating another period of apostasy and the loss of priesthood authority. But 200 years ago, Priesthood authority was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. Along with it, the Church of Jesus Christ was restored in these, the latter days. Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by priesthood authority?this really confused them. They couldn't figure out why we were Mormons if Christ himself was BAPTIST... and why were we inviting them to become BAPTIST? i finally caught on and translated 'to be baptized' to 'kresteetsya' ( and "Baptist" to "Bapteest") They are praying about it and will hopefully be baptizED on Christmas eve.So that was the good from the week.oh, I'm staying in Kazan another cycle!Bad part:Elder Bearden is being transferred! I'll be with Elder Johnson next cycle.... he's from Utah. He’s been here since May. That’s all i know about him. I’m a little nervous. And sad that Elder Bearden is leaving... we're practically blood brothers! We tried to call up the line to get permission to actually do the deed.. But the assistants told us that it was forbidden to become blood brothers. I never read that in the white handbook......
well...
my fall count is 1.
love,
Elder Ellis

Monday, December 5, 2011

Reindeer Games...

хелло фамилий!со и фигуред от вхат тхат буттон дос.. хмм... интересинг... унфортанателы и доньт кнов хов то гет ит бачк то енглиш леттерс... со иьлл юст старт а нев они...лове,Элдер Эллис

Kendra was kind enough to translate,
It says.... Hello family.So I figured out what that button does.... Interesting... Unfortunately I don't know how to get it back to English letters... So I’ll just start a new one. Love, elder Ellis.

That was English wording but spelled with Russian letters. And it’s not exact. If you sound it out you sound like a Russian who is working on their English. Like I'm pretty sure the word "just" comes out as "yoohst". With the oo part lower pitched rather than English higher pitched. Figured this would amuse you... Kendra

Back to Dustin...

Hello Family!I won't click that button anymore.It's been a pretty good week... not a whole lot to talk about.... not a whole lot of time.It was a pretty lame week as far as 'key indicators' go. We didn't have any lessons with members present, and we don't have any baptismal dates set up at the time. Our Turkish investigator that was supposed to get baptized this week dropped us. But.. We did have some other successes. We met with our Jewish investigator this week. It was a really great lesson. His questions and concerns were pretty legit, and we were able to answer on them quite well.
Being a Jew, he was a little concerned about the people of the book of Mormon not having the ancient writings (as in the records that the Old Testament... torrah... Koran... are based off of) Good thing God had Lehi forget the plates in Jerusalem so that 1 Nephi 3 emphasizes the importance of those and that they in fact DID have those records with them.
He believes that Christ suffered for sins, but he would rather suffer for his own sins, and not to put the price of his sins on Christ. We were able to explain that well, in fact he would have that opportunity to a degree, but he wouldn't be able to live in the Celestial Kingdom going that route. It was a good lesson. Hope to meet with him again soon.
Our investigator family came to church! Mother and son... friends of "the millers" in Utah. They seem a lot more normal when they are speaking in Russian and not their superior English language. It’s just weird when Russians bust out big English words and correct grammar that’s not commonly used... and all is a British accent. We’re hoping they can be baptized this month.
I bought Russian monopoly today. New Year’s Eve activity when we're stuck in the apartment.This week I’ll be in Toliatti while my companion goes on a visa trip.6 hour bumpy bus rides!
Well... I’m pretty much out of time.
I love you!
Love,Elder Ellis

Monday, November 28, 2011

Stuff...

my last thanksgiving in russia.... but probably not the last one where my family eats without me....We had a pretty good thanksgiving week. Thursday night we had a branch activity that we've thought would be a really good activity for nonmembers and less actives. We tried to get everyone excited for it, and were somewhat successful in it, but when we said plan for 40 they all rolled their eyes and told us no more that 30 would show up. Thursday rolled around... and well... not everyone got chicken. over 40 people came. It was a really good activity and there were 4 or 5 less actives that came and 4 nonmembers there. The biggest disappointment of the night was that i got 3rd in musical chairs.i made mash potatoes for the first time... i didn't even know i knew how to make them.... but they turned out pretty good.no pumpkin pie, black bottom pies, or stuffing. well... the new elder made some "stuff" but it was definitely lacking the "ing".Also, we had a baptism! He's really got his head around what it means to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He even uses the full name like we're supposed to instead of just saying mormon. We're working to get his wife more interested. She came to the Thanksgiving dinner and the baptismal service! but she didn't come to church yesterday. We're working to get her to let us come show them how to do family home evening. She said we can come over when He cleans the house.which reminds me that i forgot the phone at home... opa popa. (we're supposed to call our district leaders and tell them our apartment is clean before we go out on p-day... i'm district leader and kazan south might still be sitting in their apartment... whoops.) i think thats a funny rule. "Mom! my room is clean! can i go out to play?!" The mission helps you to grow up a lot... but in some ways it just makes you more of a kid.Our other baptism we had planned probably isnt going to happen this week. He went back to thinking he's muslim. He accepts Christ, and even thinks that Christ is not just a prophet, but our Savior... but.... he's muslim. Still working with him. He's praying to know if the Book of Mormon is true again.well..... Today is my 16 month mark.love you!love, Elder Ellis
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Monday, November 21, 2011

A White Winter...

We have a lot of snow now. It's pretty much snowed all week. Snow means warmer weather to, so that’s been nice.
We actually spent most the week in Toliatti at the zone leaders apartment.... I’m glad to be back in Kazan. Toliatti.... is not as nice as Kazan. And I’ve really grown used to my Florida companion.... when one of us gets transferred life might get rough again.
We were able to go to the temple on this last visa trip. Another great trip. There were more English speakers than Russian so they had it in English with Russian translations. I actually was hoping to listen half in Russian. Going to the temple helped me to realize that we need to focus more on not just getting our investigators baptized, but making sure they progress towards the temple afterwards. It’s a little harder to do here in Russia since there's no temple here yet. But it would help solve the problem of new converts (and other members) going inactive. We just get the flak for new converts going inactive. Branch leadership does a lot to try to convince us not to baptize people because they don't think they're ready and will just go inactive. I think they should just help us on more lessons and make sure relief society and priesthood meetings aren't just people arguing about doctrine.
Anyway... the church will grow and become stronger in Russia.We're having 2 baptisms coming up. One this week and one the next. We’ve got a lot of investigators that could be ready in December, so we're looking hopeful.my companion is a really good impersonator of people. He's really helping me to enjoy the colorfulness of some of our leaders and members here in Kazan.
Happy thanksgiving to all! We're having a big thanksgiving dinner for the ward that we somehow ended up in charge of. Should be good.
Most important, i won't be forgotten!
Love, elder Ellis
(pictures of Temple in previous post)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cockroach miracles in the Snow...

It’s been a pretty good week here in KazanActually, a pretty great week!
It started out with a little bit of snow. We’ve got about 3 inches now and should stay until.... April. Snow is good because something about having snow just makes the air seem warmer... even though it’s not. We've had a lot of cool missionary miracles on this week as well. Way good contacts on the street. One lady we talked to the other day was interested to talk to us because we spoke English. About half way through the conversation she mentioned that she had been to Bryce canyon when visiting friends in the US.--"Bryce canyon... that's in Utah! We might be from the same church as your friends!"-- Well... are you the Mormons? --YES! would you like to know more about what your friends believe?-- why yes i would like that, they gave me a book of Mormon in English and when i was with them i just felt different around them- it was a great contact, and we'll be meeting with her and her son on Saturday.
Yesterday we had a man show up at church that the other elders had been teaching a while back. He stopped answering his phone when they told him that he should legalize his marriage. Yesterday he told us that he just got his marriage officialized and he asked when he can get baptized. How about next week?! I ended up teaching Gospel Principles and it was a really spirit-filled lesson. I asked him to share the Joseph smith Story, and he just busted out one of the best Russian testimonies I’ve ever heard.
He'll get baptized on the 26th. We've got 1 or 2 that might join him and at least one the next week. We're having a lot of success.
Also i just heard today I’ve got visa trip on Wednesday, and we'll be going to the kiev temple again! Excited about that.
The Sartoris were also up here this week. We didn't really talk to them much... they were busy and we were busy. but they did do an apartment check... sister Sartori was a little shocked to see the fake cockroach i left in the shower for my companion to find.... opa popa! (this is like saying oopsie whoopsie... but it actually means "oops butt"... I’m trying to get the new elders to start saying this... i think it’s funny) Thanks to my GRAND mother:)
This Florida companion is probably my favorite companion thus far... i think it’s because he's from Florida... and not other places....And well, we're in the best area of the best city in world.
life is good.. hope yours is too!
love,Elder Ellis

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dragons,Dinosaurs, Degrees...Dustin



It dropped over 20 degrees in a matter of 2 days. My companion is not quite enjoying Russian winter... i informed him this is just Russian fall. But... I'm not enjoying it much either. ITS COLD. the temperature is -10 degrees Celsius. which really isn't bad... but this city is WINDY. Ice is already were there once were mud puddles... elder Bearden was excited to walk on ice the first time... but after his fall count hit 1 he was a little less excited. I laughed... only because I've been there. I'm hoping to keep my fall count less than 5 this year. I don't think my companion has much of a chance since his is already ticking the first week of November.
We finally went to the Kremlin last week! i got some decent pictures. we went around 5 and it was already dark... my camera doesn't take very good night pictures. or pictures inside. but on a sunny day its a good camera!
The new elders came in this week. Its probably not going to be as fun as a cycle as last. The new elder is the definition of a green elder... I like my trainee.
The Satori's will be here this next weekend, and informed us they will be doing an apartment check. our apartment is.... not so clean. We keep it pretty tidy, just the years of grease built up on the floor around the stove, and other things of the nature, make it not so clean. We cleaned for 3 and half hours today.... and well... its still gross. Got more work to do! we've also got to work on sealing the windows a little better... our apartment is cold! i have 2 blankets, and i slept in my flannel footie pajamas last night... and well i think I'll keep my thermals on with the footie pajamas.
I got 3 packages this week! thank you! I've been thinking about growing out my beard on the mission... but now i don't have too!
I was at first confused at why MY GRAND mother thought there wasn't any toilet paper in Russia? But then i caught on and thought it made the perfect package. Thank you! I haven't really looked through the other one i got from GRAND Mother yet, (just got it last night) but it looked like useful stuff.
well...
Love you all!
Love, Elder Ellis

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

This year I’ll be thankful to be in Kazan!
Oh, and Happy Halloween. I'm dressing up as Elder Bearden this year. Only... i didn't let him wear my matching orange tie and watch today.
Oh, and Happy Birthday Kortney.
And Kennady and Eisley... bad uncle. In my defense I’ve been in a Russia all of Eisley's life, and a good portion of Kennady's.
My companion and i escaped the transfer calls. I'm pretty happy about this.
The rest of my district wasn't so lucky.. their area is being white washed and they are both sitting on a bus as i type.
Count your blessings! Elder Bahr will be taking their spot and will be training. Elder Bahr came out one cycle after me and he's been an office elder for the last couple cycles.
Also, the last of the older Elders head out tomorrow... so I’m now the 3rd oldest missionary in our mission? maybe up to 6th. if so the others go home next cycle. I've made it this far without being a leader! Just 8-9 more months of avoiding making myself look good.
We had a wonderful baptismal service on Saturday for our investigator. She asked me to do the baptism, so i had to bust out my white pants. I don't like actually baptizing. I wish they would pick members.
last week my companion and i had a good p-day wandering around the center and buying some souvenirs. I bought some pretty cool Kazan souvenirs. I felt dumb, like i was shopping in the "Branson" sweatshirt section of the Wal-Mart on the strip. i got some kinda cool stuff. and then some stupid stuff that i just couldn't resist. i.e. a little pillow that is in the shape of a yellow cat that says "from Kazan with love" on its stomach. My companion told me that was a dumb buy... but i think that was actually one of my favorites....
we saw a little bit of snow on Saturday. It didn't stick at all. My companion was pretty excited to see "the first snow of the season". I told him it didn't count. I'm sure he's e-mailing his family right now about the "first snow of the season".
Well... that's most of what i have to say today.
I love you and wish you a happy start to the Holiday season.... which starts tomorrow in Branson... and just never ends in Russia.
I want pictures of your costumes.
love, Elder Ellis.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Two Posts from Dustin...

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Hello hello!
I heard it’s supposed to get below freezing this week. that means the week of rain we've had will be turned into a week of snow!
I’m glad to hear they finally checked the mail box near to where our apartment is. I think i'll just take letters to the post office from now on.
This last week has just been full of a lot of sitting. Conference, bus rides, planning, etc. my butt is a little sore. Good news is that I’ve been standing up to read the scriptures due to my inability to read more than 6 verses without falling asleep. I do feel well rested today though.
Things I’m looking forward to in Kazan this week:
1Baptism!! One of our investigators is getting baptized! My last baptism was the last week (day) of July, so I’m a little overdue one our 1 baptism a month goal. The best part is we haven't had to rush the preparation much at all.
2 Finally going to the Kremlin! i think... we've had it planned as a p-day activity for the last 6 weeks. But we're just going to change it into a cultural night so it actually gets done. And also because our options of p-day activities are being changed into : stamping pass a-long cards, more cleaning, and fun stuff like that. We've actually been doing all those pretty well on p-day... so I’m not too happy we can't do the adventure stuff. P stands for preparation... not party, picture taking, or parks. Lame.
3. I'm going to buy my Muslim hat today. You can’t have served in Kazan and not have one. Transfers are coming up this week, so I’m going to not risk not getting one.

I've almost gotten all the doors back to where they belong. My pan is starting to become a dirty pan... gas stoves will do that.
Oh! a new grocery store opened right next to our apartment! That eliminates about an hour and a half of grocery shopping time and a very enduring walk home with heavy bags of groceries. My hands are going to lose their callises. I don't know how to spell that. If it were a Russian word I’d look it up... but i already speak English better than everyone here... so no need to get any better!

well... that's all i have to say today.
i love you
love, Elder Ellis


Heading back to Samara…

But only for training!
Actually, I’m sitting in Samara right now. Yesterday we took the 8 hour bumpy bus ride down from Kazan, so we didn't end up with much opportunity to e-mail... so we're doing it today!
We just got done with our zone training with the Toliatti and Samara zones. It was a bit weird... I’ve become the minority of the older missionaries. That happened over night. Just a month ago i was the minority of the younger missionaries.
I really learned a lot in conference about how i can be a better testimony of Jesus Christ.
I talked about that in my e-mail last week as I thing i wanted to work on as a result of General Conference. And well, the Lord provided me with much opportunity this week to strengthen my testimony of Christ as my Savior and Redeemer. I've always had a testimony of this, but I haven't exactly known what that really meant to me personally.
The first thing i learned this week was from my reading in the Book of Mormon. I read in 1 Nephi 19: 9 about how Christ suffered being scourged, smitten, and spat axon because of His love for us. I've always thought that would be a hard thing to do, but I’ve never really recognized the deeper meaning this verse had to me. Not only did Christ suffer those things to be done in those moments, but He also suffered for the sins of those people that smote him. He suffered the sins of smiting, and scourging the Son of God... that's a big sin, and a big price to pay i would imagine.
I also had a learning opportunity as we went to a more/less active family this week for a lesson. the son is a member of the branch presidency here and also a return missionary, so I wasn't expecting this to be a very hard lesson. We went in, said a prayer, and i began to share one of my favorite verses (2 Nephi 28:24) .... and well she didn't take kindly to it. She started to complain about how 'nobody loves anyone' and how hard life is in Russia and how in America nobody has any trials. She rambled on and on and then started getting a little nasty and mean to me personally. I was trying to be patient with her. At one point i was about ready to throw her through a wall for all the stupid things she was saying about me. I decided i better tune out and not say anything to avoid saying anything i would regret saying as a missionary of the Lord Jesus Christ. I turned to the 2nd cycle missionary i was on exchanges with, and told him he was going to have to finish the lesson because i was done talking. he replied "but i don't understand anything she's been saying"... Exactly. That's why HE needed to finish. But... we sat in silence for a good 3 minutes. Well... almost silence. The member was trying to egg me on and telling me to hurry up and speak. I said a silent prayer and the words from conference popped in my mind that we need to be testimonies of the love of Christ for others. So... I took a breath and started reading from Alma 7: 11-12 and testifying of the Lord's love for us. That he would CHOOSE to suffer ALL that we suffer, even when it wouldn't be required of Him. The whole time i was shaking and pretty close to tears. I was a testimony of Christ's love for her. I felt it. And I gained a testimony of what Christ's sacrifice really meant to me personally.
Well, time is running short. There were quite a few other things i wanted to comment upon today, but I think that I covered what was most important.
I love you all and hope life is wonderful!
love,
Elder Ellis

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

General Conference and pictures!

Pictures first! (Almost 800 photos were sent to the Mom with no information to explain. Here are a few random ones that the Mom liked...ENJOY!)


































General Conference was good... as much as i understood. I do enjoy listening in Russian because it requires me to listen more to the spirit than the words that are being said. It does make President Monson's body language a little bit stranger to understand though. And Elder Holland didn't yell... although his face sure looked like he was.
The message that I got out of conference was that of Continuing to Grow, and becoming a better testifier of Jesus Christ. We need to continue to grow so that we can teach by the Spirit (and to perfect ourselves). If we are not learning and increasing our faith in doctrine principles, than as Alma 32 says, our faith becomes dormant. At that point we are teaching from our knowledge, and as we do that we are not teaching by the Spirit, and we become unqualified teachers. However, if we are always growing and learning, than our faith is active. We can then teach BY THE SPIRIT.
Also we are called to be testifiers of Christ. This is an area that I can improve upon. Boldly testifying of Christ, especially in an area in the mission where many do not have that testimony of Christ already, is our calling. There is power in just the name of Jesus Christ. We should testify of Him in our words, our examples, and our love for others. We should BE a testimony of Christ.
As we grow and testify of Christ we will always be able to teach by the spirit, for the Spirit testifies of Christ.

We only really got to listen to the Sunday sessions because when we showed up on for the Saturday session (with only 2 other people other than missionaries) the electricity went out right before the opening prayer. We took the priesthood session and the Saturday afternoon sessions (the first session was stuck in the dvd player) back to the other elders' apartment to watch on their portable dvd player we have for watching training videos. But... the speaker was not loud... the screen was little... and there are 4 elders... so we got distracted, mostly by sleep.

As a mission we found 189 new investigators this week. That’s an average of 7 per companionship. But that's just a key indicator that means we're doing our job. The number really isn't anything significant.

My companion's name is elder Bearden, and he's from Orlando, but i think i told you that. He's one of the better companions I’ve had. The rest of the district i like too. Elder Beret is from Pocatello, ID, And Elder Dougherty is from.... somewhere in Virginia. No one from Utah. I really enjoy working with these 3. I'm hoping president forgets about us every time transfers role around. Elder Beret and i are already making plans to celebrate our birthdays together in Kazan. (His is April 2nd) I at least hope to be here through one holiday.

I think i might go try to open the mailbox near our house... people should have gotten letters. I definitely won't use that one anymore.

We never made it to the kremlin... and we're not going today because one of the other elders is sick, but, we're hoping next week we'll actually get to go. I’ll try to send pictures.
Today I’m going to work on putting doors back to where they should be in our apartment.
I cooked some plov with our new pan. Its sooo nice.

OH! I have a request for anyone that ever will send a package. Include a short letter with packages and explain why you got me some of the things that you did. I very much enjoy all the stuff i ever get in packages, but i do wonder once in a while what made you think to get me a gummy snake. But thank you :)

well, that's about all for now. i do love you
love,
Elder Ellis

Monday, October 10, 2011

General Conference

General Conference was good... as much as i understood. I do enjoy listening in Russian because it requires me to listen more to the spirit than the words that are being said. It does make President Monson's body language a little bit stranger to understand though. And Elder Holland didn't yell... although his face sure looked like he was.
The message that I got out of conference was that of Continuing to Grow, and becoming a better testifyer of Jesus Christ. We need to continue to grow so that we can teach by the Spirit (and to perfect ourselves). If we are not learning and increasing our faith in doctrine principles, than as Alma 32 says, our faith becomes dormant. At that point we are teaching from our knowledge, and as we do that we are not teaching by the Spirit, and we become unqualified teachers. However, if we are always growing and learning, than our faith is active. We can then teach BY THE SPIRIT.
Also we are called to be testifyers of Christ. This is an area that I can improve upon. Boldly testifying of Christ. Especially in an area in the mission where many do not have that testimony of Christ already. It is our calling. There is power in just the name of Jesus Christ. We should testify of Him in our words, our examples, and our love for others. We should BE a testimony of Christ.
As we grow and testify of Christ we will always be able to teach by the spirit, for the Spirit testifies of Christ.

We only really got to listen to the Sunday sessions because when we showed up on for the Saturday session (with only 2 other people other than missionaries) the electricity went out right before the opening prayer. We took the priesthood session and the saturday afternoon sessions (the first session was stuck in the dvd player) back to the other elders' apartment to watch on there portable dvd player we have for watching training videos. but... the speaker was not loud... the screen was little... and there are 4 elders... so we got distracted. but mostly by sleep.

as a mission we found 189 new investigators this week. that's an average of 7 per companionship. But that's just a key indicator that means we're doing our job. the number really isn't anything significant.

My companion's name is elder bearden. and he's from orlando. but i think i told you that. He's one of the better companions i've had. The rest of the district i like too. Elder Beret from Pocatello, ID. And Elder Dougherty from.... somewhere in Virginia. No one from Utah. I really enjoy working with these 3. I'm hoping president forgets about us everytime transfers role around. Elder Beret and i are already making plans to celebrate our birthdays together in Kazan. (his is April 2nd) I atleast hope to be here through one holiday.

I think i might go try to open the mailbox near our house... people should have gotten letters. I definitely won't use that one anymore.

We never made it to the kremlin... and we're not going today because one of the other elders is sick. but, we're hoping next week we'll actually get to go. i'll try to send pictures.
today i'm going to work on putting doors back to where they should be in our apartment.
I cooked some plov with our new pan. its sooo nice.

OH! i have a request for anyone that ever will send a package. Include a short letter with packages and explain why you got me some of the things that you did. I very much enjoy all the stuff i ever get in packages, but i do wonder once in a while what made you think to get me a gummy snake. but thank you :)

well, that's about all for now. i do love you
love,
Elder Ellis

Monday, October 3, 2011

"I need a letter"

Thank you everyone for the hints of "i need a letter"... However i don't think they're going to speed up the Russian mail system.
I might have to change the mailbox we put our letters in. Your letters might eventually get to you.
Mom, I’ve sent you 2 letters. One with a DVD full of pictures. One with an SD card full of pictures. The SD card was a while ago... i guess that letter never made it.
Kendra... You've got a half written letter in my bag...
Kortney... You also have a half written letter in my journal.

But with all of that said, i haven't had much time to write letters lately. Last week we had a good time at Victory Park... The week before we spent way too long buying groceries (today we get a free pan!!)... and today we'll be going to the Kremlin... and we're already running late (Branch president had us running errands for him... on p-day... grr.... blessings...)

This last week has been pretty uneventful. My companion talked to a woman on the bus the other day whose name was Susha... when i asked him her name later he mixed up some letters and ended up calling her a bad name. I asked if he repeated it to her.... he did. Needless to say she didn't become a new investigator. i thought that was kinda funny.
We met with a Muslim who got all rallied up after my comp asked "do you know what a prophet is?" It was an innocent question, but he found it to be "Idiotic and Foolish" and wasn't too happy. Training is fun.

I spent an hour cleaning a window sill today in our kitchen... Missionaries haven't cleaned it probably since they moved in 4 years ago. If i stay in this apartment till the end of the mission, and spend an hour cleaning each week... by the end of my mission the apartment could be considered clean. It’s not really that bad at first glance... it just takes a lot of deep cleaning.

I taught my first Jewish man. he was more Christ-like than most of the Christians we meet on the street. I'm not sure how many of them have told us we're from the devil this past week. I'm kinda glad to be in a Muslim city.

Well... that letter all looks kinda complainy. But I’m actually enjoying these last couple weeks quite a bit.

I love you all!
Love, Elder Ellis

Monday, September 26, 2011

Army Surplus...

Well. It's been a good week. Went by fast. I think if they keep me in Kazan the rest of my mission it will seem like a month.
This week we helped out at a member’s house helping him do a remont. We put some holes in the wall and broke down old Russian furniture. I do like being destructive.
Our apartment still needs a remont done... and I’m thinking about working on actually getting cabinet doors put back on... we just need the time to do it. Last week we got home from our errands with only 20 minutes of p-day left. That was enough time to put the groceries away and eat an apple.
We somehow ended up with a good amount of money at the end of the month. I'm excited to eat well this next week. The best part is that we've almost got enough stickers at our grocery store for a free pan! we've only got one more week to spend enough money there to get it before the program ends... so... 2 weeks of plenty... and then 4 weeks of a nice pan.... just with nothing to cook in it. Elder Kazikov took the other one they got home with him. That's what stinks about white washing an area... you get there and there’s no food, no pans, and no plans. But we're managing.
Its Russian fall now... which is more like a Missouri winter. Hanging around 10 C and cold and rainy most days. My Florida companion isn't too happy about that. I'm not complaining yet... i just wish the Russian Gov. would turn on our radiators so i can stop having to sleep in the only sweatshirt i have... which happens to be my v neck that i wear under my suit coat.
I do have my dino footie pajamas though... it’s not that cold yet though.
I sent a cd with pictures on it last week. Let me know when and IF it gets there. I guess the SD card and that letter never made it... oh well... it was a cheap SD card.
My favorite thing about Kazan is my favorite Russian. He's 47 years old and somewhat mentally challenged. Every week he comes up to me and points at a picture of Christ and asks
"Elvis, Elvis! Eta Eesoos? Eta Eesoos?" Yes... that's Jesus. "Slava Boga!"
But even better is when he goes through the Liahona and tries to find me a girlfriend.
Which reminds me of how many investigators that we have that sell flowers. Basically every time a flower lady tells us we need to buy flowers, they become an investigator.
"Why would we need flowers? We don't have girlfriends!" "Why not? Handsome young men as yourselves... you should have girlfriends... buy flowers" "nope, cuz we're missionaries... you should be baptised... read this Book"
That's not a direct translation. But gets the point across. Our goal is to stop getting the flower ladies to tell us to buy flowers. And who knows... maybe 1 or 2 of them might get baptized.
Well... gotta go.
Today we're going to park pobedi (victory) to take pictures of tanks and airplanes.
Love you
Love, Elder Ellis

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Greatest City in the World!

And back to the worst apartment in the mission. You win some, you lose some, but I’m not complaining.
I'm in the same area of Kazan that i was in last time, so this transfer isn't a total 'white wash'... but it sure kinda feels like it. I don't know any of our investigators yet, and I’ve forgotten half the branch members' names. I'm not entirely sure how to get around,... but i never knew the first time i was here. But... I’ve been doing pretty good. And asking for directions is a good way to get people to actually talk to you.
My companion is Elder Bearden. I'm jealous of his last name. it contains the words 'Bear, Den, and Beard' it doesn't get much manlier than that. He's from Orlando, Florida.., the other old persons / family vacation spot in the U.S. Just with that we already have a lot in common. And being from Florida means he's not from Utah. Not that that matters....
This week we rode with the church driver on the bumpy roads of Russia, and 8-9 hours later ended up in my old apartment on the north side of Kazan. It was already midnight, so we went straight to bed and arose 6 short hours later. I forgot just how dirty this apartment is. Mainly because when i came last time, I was coming from an even dirtier apartment. Today we spent an hour just cleaning the fridge and the silverware drawer. That’s going to be a fun p-day project. Once everything is clean maybe I’ll work on fixing doors and cabinets.
It's not really as bad as my description is making it sound... but... i could just be used to living in dirty apartments. My last companion complained about the apartment we had in Novo-k... I really couldn't find anything to complain about there except the fact it was filled with our land-ladies junk. Although we did enjoy some of the fur pelts she had lying around.
We got to do a little service this week for a member. He just bought a new apartment and is starting to do a re-mont. I don't remember if that's understandable in English. Remodel. So we helped him haul out some old furniture, wall paper, doors, bathtub, oven, and everything else in the apartment. We basically stripped it down to the concrete box that all Russian apartments really are. He made some soup for us afterwards and we taught one of his friends. I wish we could remodel our apartment. (Russians are pretty much always remodeling... i think our family might be a little Russian in that manner)
It was pretty good soup. But i do have to say that it wasn't quite as good as the things I’ve been making lately. I'm actually starting to cook pretty much every day. I've got a small arsenal of things i like to cook now... plov, tacos, crepes, noodles in sauce, French toast... omelets... eggs... hash browns... fried potatoes... shakes.......cereal....... ok, so maybe i still don't really make that much. But it's improvement.
Speaking of food, i got a package from my favorite mother. THANK YOU.
The Tuesday after i sent the list of things i would want, i thought to myself "Dang... I didn't put cheesecake... i REALLY want some cheesecake." I guess our brains connect even from half way around the world.
Well... Gotta wrap this up
Love you!
Love, Elder Ellis

Monday, September 12, 2011

NaKAZANiye...

That's the Russian word for 'punishment'. I feel like I must have done something wrong, because I’m being banished back to the northernmost city of our mission; Kazan.
I'm very excited about the transfer I just received. I love the city of Kazan and I’m excited to return. (even if all my formal investigators there got baptized while i was gone). I'm not going to miss the streets of Novo-K much, but i do wish i was able to take a few of our investigators and members from here with me. I'll be heading out Wednesday and making the 10 hour bus ride north. I'll be training once again, so i don't yet know who my companion will be. I do know that the Kazan district will consist of me and my trainee, and Elder Doughtery and his trainee. It's only Elder Doughtery's second cycle in Russia... so it looks like I’ll be training 3. Hopefully that's not actually the case (I don't expect it to be), but I will probably mention that a few times to stir the pot a little.
I've actually enjoyed serving with elder Christensen this last cycle. I'm finally figuring out how to learn Russian once again. All my native companions all spoke Russian great... but none of them knew how to LEARN it. So basically what i gained from them is better comprehension, and some neat little phrases. "kashmar! oozhush! Mama Darahaya! Eedee ot suda! ya tozhye ne sahar." (Horrible! Terrible! Dear Mother! Get out of here! I’m also not sugar)
I do miss serving with some of those natives though.

"When you're walking through a field of crap, you can almost always look back and see grass starting to grow" - Elder Ellis

which is to say, most of our not so favorite experiences often can become some of our favorite memories.
My current companion has asked me why i speak so fondly about serving with my last companion if we had so many fights and arguments. I just told him about my sisters and how much i love them. He understood. I'm not sure i can explain that phenomenon though.

Other news from this week

Elder Zwick (from the first quorum of the 70) and president Sweightzer (area president from the 2nd quorum of the 70) came to our zone conference this last week. It was wonderful to sit and listen to the things that they had to say. Elder Zwick was a mission president in Chile a while back and had some good things to say about Elder Hughes (Jason) who served there and now sings in Branson.

Well, I'm outta time, So I’ll be e-mailing you next week (from Kazan!) and I’ll let you know about my new greenie.
love you all,
love Elder Ellis

p.s. I'm gonna try to send a cd home with some pictures on it. Let me know if it makes it, and if it works. I sent a cheap SD card a while back... but apparently it never made it. I was told Cd's have a better chance.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Petting Lions...

If you’re expecting to read anything spiritual or about Russia in this letter, you might as well stop reading now.
WE WENT TO THE ZOO THIS WEEK!!!!
I'm pretty sure I was the MOST excited person on that half-acre lot. Most of the kids got bored after about 40 minutes, but I for one was sad to leave after being there for 2 hours. The highlights of the small zoo included a HUGE brown bear, a big ol' lion, a black panther, a biting fox, and the squirrel cage. I’ve never seen a squirrel cage in a zoo. The zoo itself wasn't much of a zoo... it had more the feeling of a petting zoo than anything else. In fact, I’ve been to better petting zoos. The biggest draw-back was that you couldn't actually pet any of the animals. I did attempt to pet the fox... and he did attempt to bite me. But i was too fast. I tried to get a good picture with the lion... but couldn't get close enough. At one point he knocked his tray of meat out of his cage and let out quite the load roar for such a little room. I was half convinced there was a dinosaur in there. The most entertaining was the big fat bear. Pretty much the size of the big bear that sits in the gift shop at silver dollar city. If you threw him food he would catch it in his mouth. I was interested to see if he would eat other things if we gave them a good toss... but i decided that probably wasn't the best idea.
I do want a pet squirrel when i get home after seeing the squirrel exhibit. Owen and i can catch a skunk pretty well... i think we're going to have to go squirrel trappin'.
This next week Elder Zwick from the 1st quorum of the 70 is coming to zone conference, and President Schweitzer from the eastern European region will be along with him. excited to learn some stuff from them. We should also be finding out about transfers sometime this week as well. I'm interested to see if I’ll be getting transferred. My companion has started making no bake cookies several times a week. I'll be a little sad when one of us goes.
Yesterday was a hay-day at church. 5 investigators showed up, and we had a really good fast and testimony meeting. The rest of church was... well... I’m just glad a few investigators could only stay for the first hour. I'm counting down the Sundays until i get to take an after church nap. Not really... but i am looking forward to that day.
Well, that's my time. ('hit the road jack' just started playing on the guy's computer next to me.)
love you!
love,
Elder Ellis

Monday, August 29, 2011

kryesteetsya, kryerteetsya...

I lost my missionary tan this week at a picnic... I'm showing off my Texas red-neck heritage now.
Took a plane to Kiev this week for visa trip. Didn't get to go to the temple this time, but we did get back at 6 in the evening instead of 3 in the morning. That had its pros and cons. On the way back from the airport we drove through probably the most beautiful little village nestled in a valley right next to the Volga... I found where I’m going to retire to.
Our little branch here in Novo-k doesn't seem to be growing much in numbers. We only had 25 people at church this last week. But it does seem to becoming stronger. Yesterday was probably the most spiritual sacrament meeting I’ve attended in Russia. The 12 year old we baptized back in February spoke with his family as well. It was way cool to see him do that for the first time.
I've finally got all my books dried out from the rain storm we got caught in last week. They're all a little wavy... but at least still readable. I did manage to buy a nice new umbrella this week.... haven't been able to use it yet though.
Been trying really hard to help quite a few people to be baptized. The ones that are ready are starting to avoid us a little. The other ones just can’t seem to get a grasp on what we're trying to teach. I'm going to have a nice chat one day with whoever made "to cross yourself" and "to "baptize" the same word in Russian. One is a central principle in the doctrine of Christ... and the other one is a false tradition.. I wish they had different words so that i could better explain this to old bobooshki.
Well... That's pretty much the time I’ve got this week.
Love you!
love Elder Ellis


Monday, August 22, 2011

"I've never stopped the rain by complaining..."

This week Flew by.
Summer seems to be over. I'm not expecting any more hot days till next June. It's been a little cooler the last day and today is cold and rainy. Which is just a joy... I've seem to have lost my umbrella. It was a long wet walk to the library today. my companion tried to share his umbrella with me... but I’m a little taller than him so i just kept getting poked in the head, and so i gave up and let the rain fall. I've always enjoyed the rain... but i think it’s one of those joys I’ll have to regain once I’m home.
We have a big goal this month for baptisms.. and its looking less and less likely that we're going to achieve it. We've still got some chances with a couple people, so we're not giving up faith yet. We realize that many time our blessings don't come until AFTER the trial of faith, so were trying hard to keep the faith going. The easiest way is just to forget your doubts. Don't let them distract you and diminish your faith. There are many examples of this in the scriptures. In the Book of Mormon there's the account of the 2000 stripling warriors who were all preserved because they didn't doubt. Doctrine and Covenants 6:36 reads "Look unto me in every thought. Doubt not, Fear not." When Peter stepped out on the water to go unto Christ he had the faith necessary to walk on the water. Only when he let the doubts enter his mind did he begin to sink.
We've got 2 baptisms set up this week that i’s thinking are going to happen. The first one is with our cat investigator. We finally found his fear about those he knows that were baptized, and then soon after fell back into their old lifestyles and left the church. That's kinda a problem here. But not getting baptized isn't going to leave him any better off than those who later fall. It's eliminating even the opportunity to become as our Heavenly Father wants us to be.
We also found a wonderful little family of a bobooshka, her husband, and their great grand-daughter. The husband isn't ever too excited to meet with us he's "too old to change", and tells us that he won't be on the lesson. i just tell him "we'll see" and ask his 6 year old great grand-daughter to invite him in. After a few minutes they both walk in the room together and he has a smile of defeat on his face. That little 6 year old is such a great blessing to that couple. when bobooshka wanted to leave church after the first hour the little girl had a good talk with her... they ended up staying all 3 hours.
My companion and I are getting along pretty well. He's still getting used to how things work here in Russia.... it's definitely not Salt Lake City, Utah. I've been remarkably patient with him as he explains to me about the problems here in the branch like I’ve never noticed them. If he could just find a few more solutions to those problems THEN i would be impressed. It's like when our district leader (Ukrainian) rolls off D&C section 4 out of memory (we're all trying to memorize it in Russian before the area presidency visits next month). Say it in English now... THEN I’ll be impressed.
I do like them both though.
Well, i better wrap this up and head to the reenok to buy me a new umbrella.
love you!
love,
Elder Ellis


Monday, August 15, 2011

Answers from the skies...

Welcome to e-mail list Dad.
I am having trouble lately thinking of things to say in these e-mails. Just been busy and the weeks have all been blending. Maybe one day I’ll get a transfer or something and then I’ll have something to write about rather than the 'copy and paste' e-mails I’ve been sending out lately.
I had a dream that i was back in Branson... i was doing missionary work with our district... but Emma Lennon was a sister missionary and we were knocking in Russian buildings and the intersection on 248 with the white oak station worked a lot more like the intersection in front of the provoslovne church near our apartment here. That was a weird dream.
We've been having some success lately. We've got a ton of people we've been teaching and have had less time for those that just like to argue. I just wish people would progress faster. They just set up home teaching in the branch here yesterday. I'm interested to see how that works out. Maybe one day our little novo-k branch will function how the church is supposed to function.
We got chased down by some drunks the other night. We had been walking a really really long way and we were kinda dragging our feet a little bit. It only took a group of 5 drunks to give us a little more spring in our step. The first guy that approached me grabbed my shirt as I was trying to walk away and i gave him a good shove out of reflex. There was a good moment where we both just looked at each other in surprise, and then we started walking away as his buddies came over. About 10 minutes later we hear someone running up behind us and it was our good ol' friend. We ran a little bit, all the time looking over our shoulders and laughing at his even more drunk buddies struggling to keep up.
I'm working on trying not to get annoyed with people lately. My companion has pointed out that i have the catch phase of "I'm gonna throw him through a wall." we just have some people that like to call us ever hour of every day and have the same conversation.
we got invited to go UFO searching. We had to pass on that great opportunity... we have to get permission for any 'cultural nights'.
one man we talked with about coming to church and keeping the Sabbath day holy... he called us later that night and said he had prayed about going on the Volga instead of coming to church and that God gave him permission..... At least he prayed about it.
Well... those are all the humorous things I’ve observed in this last week.
One 'miracle' in my book: Friday we met with a lady and talked with her about coming to church. She said she wouldn't be able to come because there's water at her dacha (garden cottage) on Sunday (usual response from bobooshki) i felt impressed to ask her if she would come if it rained. She said yes and then stated that the news had promised no rain for a while. I told her i would see her Sunday after it rained... she laughed a little and said we could come by Monday after she gets back from her dacha. Not five minutes after we left the air changed. Saturday night it rained. Sunday it didn't rain much, but God did water her dacha. This didn't help her to come to church this week, and she probably didn't even think about it in that way... but it was a testimony to me about what can happen if we just have a little faith.
Well,
that's all I’ve got.
I love you and hope all is well.
Love, Elder Ellis




Monday, August 8, 2011

A greenie training a greenie...

or at least that's what all the members here have been saying....
hello family!
I'm not sure how quickly this week went by. last p-day wasn't much of a p-day of all... so it seems like a really long week. But really it was 2 weeks in one.
My new companion is Elder Christensen. He's one of those Utah elders. (I hope that my mission president laughs if he sees that... he's from Utah too)
I'm finally not being dragged around! it only took a year. and perhaps most importantly: I KNOW RUSSIAN BETTER THAN SOMEONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You have no clue how happy that makes me; me being with native speakers for the last 7 months. But... he actually almost speaks as well as me. i just understand the russian accent more... although he speaks it better.
I don't think i've ever worked hard as i have this last week. it's just been one thing after the other. I've definitely been pulling the load by myself this week, and with my new companion sitting on top of the pile. Not much time to do anything but work work work. my journal is pretty much a hopeless cause at this point. This e-mail is pretty much the first 'me-time' i've had in the past 2 weeks.
it's good fun. I'm growing a lot. Learning a lot of good qualities... like patience. I'm always being taught patience. It's just been one thing after another. we got our phone stolen on this week as well... which makes it pretty hard to do missionary work. I considered this a trial at first... but once we got a new phone and a member starting calling us 20 times a day (no exaggeration) i realized that it was really just a blessing to be uncontactable for a few days.
We're having some success in the work... but we're going to need a lot more if we're going to reach our goals for the month.
Most important is that i'm doing my best!
"We need more speed Captain!" - "I'm given' it all she's got!!!"
Don't melt. Enjoy the rest of the summer. Keep me posted.
Oh. the circus is in town... but we're not allowed to go. sad. i was really hoping to see some lions.
love,
Elder Ellis


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I'm not a greenie anymore...

It's been a crazy week, and i think it’s going to get a lot crazier this week.
I'll begin with the end.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to baptize someone. One of our investigators decided she would get baptized this week. She asked me to perform the baptism, and so i was able to finally put on those white pants i brought with me. I seem to have gained some weight lately. Normally, we try to get members to do the baptizing, but i didn't have time to try help her pick out a member. It was a rather good baptismal service.
Rewind.
This week we've been waiting for the official word on transfers. We finally got the 'news' on Thursday that my companion is being transferred to work in the office, and I’m going to be training in Novo-k. We made the rounds with the members so that he could say good-bye, and make promises in my behalf that I’m not entirely sure I’m going to fulfill... that was annoying. But not as annoying as all the members who would say "what? Elder Ellis is staying? He's training?! A greenie with a greenie?!!" That's pretty much how i celebrated my one year mark. Friday, we went to stallins bunker again. Really isn't worth going twice, but i was one of only 2 elders in the group that have already been. I'm going to suggest we go to the zoo-park next cycle... maybe I’ll get to pet a lion. We took our investigator with us and she really enjoyed it.
Saturday, we headed back to samara for a baptismal service. Emanual (he's Nigerian) was baptized. Our investigator came with us, AND invited her friend. After the baptism Elder Bahr and i took a taxi with our investigators back to Novo-k. Elder Maksymov has an early visa trip, so we're officially not companions anymore. On the way home in the taxi with elder Bahr (he'll be Elder Maksymov's companion) our investigator expressed her desire to be baptized... "The sooner the better". Well, she fulfills all the requirements of baptism. So i went to work. I was on the phone from 9:30 to 11:00 Saturday night, Sunday morning i got back on the phone at 7:00 and was making calls till church started at 10 (aside from a 45 min lesson to fill in all the gaps of our previous teaching) I got a three hour break from my phone for church. Then after church got back on the phone until the baptism started around 6. In all the hurry i didn't even think to grab an extra pair of underwear or a towel, or the fact that i didn't know how to baptize someone in Russian. But it all worked out, it was a good baptismal service (3 people actually got baptized, all of them had decided to go ahead with Sunday after they were at the baptismal service on Saturday). It was a miraculous and very exhausting day for many of us. But, it wasn't a very comfortable ride home.
But, we had a baptism. We helped another soul come unto Christ, and qualify for the blessings that Heavenly Father wants to get them.
Wednesday I’ll find out who my new companion is. I'm very interested to see how training goes...
well,
I love you all!
love, elder Ellis

Monday, July 25, 2011

Happy One-Year week!

The weeks continue to get faster.
3 more days and I’ll have already served half my mission. This time last year I was packing my bags… wait no… that’s a lie. I was probably swimming, camping or eating ice cream. I remember that I didn’t pack my bags until the last minute. Well… that’s an exaggeration. It was the last 6 or 7 hours before I started. Apparently that’s all the time I needed? I’ve survived thus far.
This week in Russia has been mildly hot. But I heard from an investigator at church that in America there are record highs up to 50 degrees Celsius. It came up when he was trying to figure out what are beliefs are on hell and where exactly it is located. He suggested maybe in America.. in the state of misery. I then convinced him that it was merely the “refiners’ fire”. He’s quite the character. Speaks English quite well and is “fascinated by the English language”. I’m just glad to have a break from Russian once in a while.
I also spent a good deal of time with him trying to explain the plan of salvation and just how powerful the atonement of Jesus Christ is. He couldn’t fathom how even some of the most sinful people could deserve an inheritance so great as the Telestial Kingdom. Of course they don’t deserve it. But certainly they will receive such. For we know that to return to live with God, we are required to be perfect. I’m nowhere near perfect, and neither is my companion. We don’t deserve such an opportunity. But if the power of Christ’s Atonement can give me that opportunity, than it can certainly give the vilest of sinners an opportunity to live in a kingdom better than this world. But of course they will have to suffer for their sins before our final inheritance if they choose not to accept the Atonement of Jesus Christ through ordinances, such as baptism, that were set forth by Christ in His earthly ministry.
Other fun things about church yesterday, Cat man decided to come without pants. Luckily he was at least wearing some old long johns. I don’t think he’s going to get baptized anytime soon. Even though he admits that he understands that it’s necessary. God did give us all the freedom to choose for ourselves.
Transfers are coming up at the end of the week. My companion is getting transferred and I’ll most likely be training? It’s still a secret. And I’m not in connection with the office couple anymore so it’s hard for me to gather leaky info. Only time will tell. Maybe I also won’t be in Novo-k?
Well… that is all the wonderful and good news that I have this week.
But more importantly, that’s all the time I have for this week.
I love you all! Hope you don’t melt.
Read your scriptures and you won’t be burned!
Love, Elder Ellis

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cats and Chickens...

Well…
The recent topic of discussion in our apartment is who is getting the transfer in two weeks. We both have been told we will probably be training next cycle. Which means one of us will be in Novo-k… and the other will be set free. Novo-k is a great city…. But it’s a tough one to work in. I wouldn’t mind being here another cycle… but I’ve heard many of the members express their hopes that I’ll be the one transferred. Apparently they think I don’t understand them when they say stuff like that to my companion. Well… that much I do understand. At first I was a little offended… but then I thought I’d just agree with them. Now, I could go either way. I do pray for “Elder Maksymov to have success in novo-k next cycle” in our companionship prayers… but that’s mainly to irritate my companion. It works. He threw my copy of preach my gospel at me this morning and the front cover tore off. I’m in the middle of fixing it with colorful ducktape, my Leatherman, and patience.
This last week went even faster than the previous. We’ve stayed busy. We’ve been nice to each other. And I’ve been happy. We went out to our landlady’s dacha to do some service and teach her a lesson this past week. We gathered berries, played with some chickens, and gathered more fruits. She offered us to cook us some chicken for dinner. I got a little excited thinking I could help her prepare one of her chickens for dinner…. But she informed me that we were going to eat last summer’s chickens, and that she would be preparing this summers’ chickens in October. She said she would let me know and invite me to help if I was still here in October. I figure it would be a good experience for me. If I’m going to eat a chicken… I think I should be prepared to kill one.
Our cat man might get baptized on the 30th… but I’m not holding my breath. He prayers more sincerely that most people I’ve heard pray… but Its hard not to laugh when he starts talking to his cats during his long prayers… “help me to know what to do… help me to know if I need to get baptized…. *meow* quiet belka! I’m not asking you! Deemka… stop being a hooligan!...”
Well… that’s about it for now.
Oh! I got yet another wonderful package from my GRAND mother.
She spends too much money on me.
Love you all!
Love, Elder ellis

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beat the Heat!

Wella wella
This week really flew by.
Our zone leaders came on splits with us this week... which was good. The best part was that they organized all the junk in our apartment for us. Apparently they must be reading in Mosiah 2 where it talks about leaders should serve those they lead, and that when we're in the service of others we are only in the service of God. I learned from their example. At first when they pointed out that our apartment was a mess, i wasn't really ready to listen to them. Just we haven't bothered organizing much because we figured as soon as we did so we would just have to throw it all in the back of 6 taxis again and move it somewhere new. that seems like a really long run-on sentence. In the end, our junk is organized, and i learned a thing or two about service and leadership.
My companion has been teaching me a lot about patience and humility. I haven’t been learning though. It's about time i apply the skills i learned from my sisters.... except the whole walking away... neel za. (forbidden). Our companionship is basically like Elder Wagley and his companion when they came to catch the opossum. I have a greater understanding and respect for that companion now. And of course nobody remembers that companions name... Elvis... Alex.... Alice... Andrea.... Yellis...
We went out to a small village where a couple members live this week. Ended up with 3 new investigators, and a couple potentials. We'll head out there again soon.... when we have money. its almost 700 rubles (~23 dollars) to travel out there.... which greatly cuts into our MSF.
It has been HOT. The temperature peaked at 43 degrees Celsius (110 Fahrenheit) on Friday. We took the train back from our district meeting in samara and it was the HOTTEST I’ve EVER been in my life. I thought i was going to die. I'm asking myself what happened to the Samara Russia i heard about... high of 70 degrees in the summer, low humidity. The only truth to my beliefs was the lows of -40 in the winter.
Our old man investigator didn't get baptized this week. He understands all that we've taught him... just has some hesitations on actually getting baptized. He's just a lot more comfortable talking to his cats than to church members. However, I think WE have gained the status of cats with him. Although he doesn't call us hooligans... and he still talks to his cats more.
Well... that's about all the interesting and boring news i have to talk about today.
I did buy me a watermelon on the 4th of July. Ate half of it for lunch... the other half for dinner the next day.
It’s too hot to cook... so I’ve gone back to my old eating habits of cereal and strawberry shakes.
Which really has so many benefits... I love strawberry shakes, It doesn't heat up our apartment, Little preparation time, AND my pants are no longer too big.
Well.... love you all!
Love, Elder Elvis.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

4th of July

well.... another week.
our investigators are dropping like flies.
The people we do teach don't actually give us time to teach.
I'm can't say negative things about the area that i serve in.... but i will say that some people are not crazy.
everyone likes to comment on my language and its not super fun.
our apartment is still in boxes waiting for us to move again... which will probably be at least another month and a half.
My companion keeps information from me... and i'm no big fan of secrets.
secrets don't make friends.... they make disunity.
We did have exchanges this week with the assistants. Elder Eres was on a few lessons with me and walked out about as frustrated as i've been these past 2 weeks. He told me that i have got the patience of.... something really patient. Which is quite needed for this area.
We did get put back into a district. which is good. Except we have to make the 20 min - 3 hour trip to samara. it all depends on traffic. but we're always really early or rather late. I'm no fan of being late.
Finally tracked down one of my old investigators that i taught when i was here last time. he was rather happy to see me, but said his life just isn't in a place right now that he can come to church or meet with us. I tried to explain that that's when we need the gosple the most... but he just said he'd come when he was ready. which would be after his probation... in november 2012.
So... things weren't so fun this last week... but it can really only get better. and i expect it to.
Happy Birthday Mama! I love you!
Happy Fourth of July! I will not be playing with any bottle rockets this year.... it's not allowed.
I am wearing grandpa's red white and blue tie today. the only time i've gone astray from solid color in the last 11 months.
I hope you all enjoy the holiday! I'm jealous.
love you all!
Love,
Elder Ellis

Monday, June 27, 2011

Frusrating week...

Hello family!
This week was not a very fun one.... but at least it was a quick one.
We had one investigator (who reminds me of my GRAND mother because she has the most valuable unique spiritual insights, and takes enough thought to gift me with 'something laying around the house' even when there isn’t a lot of resources for gifting. (Anyone can go out and buy a gift... it takes wisdom and love to gift with something you already have)) Anyway, now that’s explained, this lovely investigator was supposed to get baptized this week and was all but ready... until we talked about tithing. She did not get baptized, and probably now wont for a while. So i was frustrated about that.
Tithing is a hard thing for a lot of people to have faith to pay in Russia apparently. And it’s quite frustrating when you see from the right perspective that tithing an opportunity God has granted us with so that we can show our love for him and secure blessings for us and our families that we so desperately need.
We talked to one member about tithing this week.... she couldn't pay because she would be buying a new tv. She would pay exactly the amount for the new tv each month that was needed for her to be a full-tithe payer. Well... God ended up blessing her and in the end the electronic store wouldn't sell her the tv she wanted.
Other frustrating things from this week: when i say something in clear Russian.... the investigator looks at me... then to my companion and says "translate that please". My companion then repeats the same words i said and suddenly they understand.
I guess the good thing is that i can speak Russian.
Well... that's about it from this week.
i love you all!
love,
Elder Ellis

Monday, June 20, 2011

pictures...

Well I ran out of time to say much today.
I'm still in Novo-k, still with Elder Maksymov, but now without a district.
They decided that we're too far away. So now it’s just us... all alone. I'm not too happy about it... but... His will not mine.
I feel cabin fever coming on.
well, catch ya next week.
hope you enjoyed the pictures of us at the kiev temple. love you all!
love, Elder Ellis

Monday, June 13, 2011

busy week...

Hello hello
Bru... The baby... is a cute one. I made sure to show the lady at the post office (where we usually use the internet now that we changed apartments) my new plemenik… but she didn’t really seem to care. The girl that cut my hair last week didn’t seem to want to talk about him either. Probably because he hasn’t been given a good name.

It’s been some week in Russia. Started out we traveled out to some members who live out in the middle of nowhere. (I baptized the 13 year old son when I was here in Feb). To travel there we have to take several different transports, hitchhike a little, and wait long periods of time at bus stops in the middle of nowhere. Not a very effective day of missionary work, but that is why we only go out there once every month or so. At one of the bus stops we had a guy pull over to talk to us. It turns out he met with missionaries a while back until he moved out to the middle of nowhere. After 2 hours or so, we finally made it to the village where the members live. They live in a small village that has more chickens than people (in their defense, there are a lot of chickens) we helped them work in their garden, ate lunch with them, and talked about who they could invite to hear about the gospel. That night my companion ended up throwing up all night and I didn’t feel so hot either. The next day my companion slept and I cleaned our apartment and made some calls. We both just got over our sicknesses, and I hope I’ve seen the last of my diarrhea.

But, despite our sicknesses, we had a rather successful week. We found some new investigators, had a wildly full house at church, and set up a baptismal date for the 25th. The Lord really helped us out as we worked despite our excuses we could have had. Our newest investigator (with a baptismal date) reminds me a lot of my GRAND mother. And she already gifted me with something ‘lying around the house’. (I got my package this week from my GRAND mother! Thank you!!!!!!) Speaking of mail… I got the pictures you sent, mom, and I was way excited to see some canoes, and some good ol’ reminders of some of our more “special” memories.
Well… this has been kinda scatterbrained and short… but I gotta go.
Transfers are coming up this next week, and it sounds like it’s going to be another drastic change for everyone. Should be interesting.

Love you!
Love, Elder Ellis

Monday, June 6, 2011

8 Board the plane to Kiev...

Hello family!
This last week has definitely been an interesting one.
there’s been many stories of horrible weather in Missouri, and the tragedies as result, I myself have been a little sick, and we haven't been able to focus on the souls in our area this last week... But i really see how blessed my family has been in this past week. I was most excited to hear the news about my new nephew (although i wasn't happy about the name), my family is safe, the explosion in Ushesk didn't affect any missionaries (I was told i had to say that. Ushesk is an area in our mission. Apparently there was a big explosion there? The missionaries who serve there were in samara at the time for visa trips) and i had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the Kiev Temple and learn and serve there. We have many blessings.
Really the only news worthy things that happened with me this week. So I’ll talk a little bit more about my trip to the Temple. It was a long day. 2 am to 3:30 the next day. Airports, buses, boarder control, passports, traffic, half of my companions belongings (he had us take some things with us to give to his parents... 6 carry-ons worth of clothes that he would have known he would never have an opportunity to wear... had he read his call packet....) overall a long and kinda hectic day.
But once we got in the area of the city where the Temple is located... the whole mood change. Even without knowing that the Temple was near, the area just had a different feeling to it. A feeling that I haven't felt since I’ve been in Russia. Yes, we've had powerful spiritual lessons, wonderful testimony meetings, and great lessons taught to us in zone and mission conferences... but none of those have had quite the same feeling of just being NEAR a temple. It’s such a blessing to have a temple near... for all.
Before we actually went into the temple we had a wonderful lesson taught to us by the temple president about the importance of temples and the covenants we make there. We were all blessed with a great gift of Knowledge. It was quite the experience. But it didn't end there. We were able to do a session in the temple and learn there, and then the next day (back in samara) we had a wonderful uplifting mini zone conference. I hope that all these will help me to teach with more spiritual power.... when we finally get a meeting set up. those have been quite low. partially because we were out of town, out of country, and all other obstacles this past week we had.
Well, gotta go
Love you all! Say hello to bru.... the baby.
love, Elder Ellis

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Under the Weather...

Howdy.
I found the pictures of the Joplin tornado rather interesting. I heard a little bit about the “tornado in Missouri” from a guy we talked to on the street. But I wasn't expecting it to be that bad. Especially when the number of missing people gets changed from 1500 to 150. I'll make sure to keep my Missourian friends in my prayers this week who have been effected.
In other Missouri news, my zone leader is from Kansas City and knows Garon Brett. We went on exchanges this week and we had a good ol' chat about the plaza in KC and good ol' Branson MO. He was quite pleased as I quoted the words from Fire in the Hole. “Fred flanders, you get back in here and put on ya pants!” “But honey, I ain't got no pants no mo'! The dang balknobbers stol'em!” “STOL'EM?! WHAT IN THE TARNATION WOULD THEY WANT WITH YA PANTS?!?!”
So yes, we had a good exchange. Learned a lot and the work in Novo-K has really started to pick up this week.
We did have a picnic planned for this saturday. But in the morning our branch president called and said it was cancelled due to 'bad weather'... 15-20 degrees C and partly cloudy isn't what I would call 'bad weather'... especially after a Russian winter. So we were a little disappointed, but rather displeased when we got a call from a less-active saying that there was a 2 less active families, 2 of our investigators and a few members all wondering where everyone else was. After that news I was just about ready to go back to bed. I'm a little sick, bad news, and we were supposed to teach on the 3rd hour in church the next day. But, I don't know how to take a sick day. So we went out on the street and actually had some really good success. The Lord blesses us when we choose to do even despite all the 'reasons' we have to Don't.
Other than that day it’s been getting hotter and hotter. We did hit 99 degrees F about a week back. My companion likes to complain about that. He's going to have a rough summer.. even though he's from Kiev where is usually hotter. (it can get up to 110-120 degrees here in the summer... -40 in the winter... 40 in the summer... I like my Missouri weather... but i'm not complaining.)
Other wonderful news! Visa trip this week! (I’m always sick when visa trips come up...) But, I’m going to Kiev this time. Not only to Kiev, but we get to go to the temple! I'm way excited. My companion is way jealous as he has to go to Kazakstan, and can't go to his home town.
Well time up.
I love you!
Love, Elder Ellis

Monday, May 23, 2011

Same Song, Second verse....

Hello!
I'm beginning to think that my call letter should have actually read:

Dear Elder Ellis;
You have been called to serve as a missionary in the Russia Samara Mission as an Apartment Cleaner. As such, you will be expected to devote all your heart, might, mind, and strength in cleaning apartments. Etc...

Our Landlady called us up on monday or tuesday and told us that she had sold the apartment. So, we spent a good portion of the week packing, cleaning, and moving apartments. I've had experience with this the last time I was in Novo-k, so this time came a little bit easier. I am becoming quite the expert in closing missionary apartments. It's not a lot of fun cleaning up after years of 19-21 guys living in an apartment. My guess is that i'll get transferred back to Bezimonskii soon as I have heard that the landlady there is also trying to sell that apartment. But before that, i'll most likely get the opportunity again in Novo-K as our lease is only for 1 month, and we are currently searching for somewhere to live.
Other than that we had the opportunity to learn from Elder Seinkins. I believe he's from the area 70... but I'm not really sure. He spoke russian. I was able to stay awake and focus for the majority of his talk while he was here in samara. The main thing that I understood and learned was when he spoke about laws and commandments. He spoke about the Law of Gravity. The Law of Gravity exists. There's not much we can do to change this. Some people may think they don't need this law, and then they often find themselves asking “why do I keep falling down?” Others know of the law, but only see it as something that holds us down. We can't achieve great heights while we have this law working against us. But, there are those who cherish the law. They learn all the can about the law and see how it helps us in our lives. These are the only people that can learn how to fly.
Likewise we have commandments. Many see commandments as inhibitors of our freedom to choose. But, only when we learn and live by the laws can we become our full potential. Anyway... it was interesting.
That's about all the 'exciting' things that happened this. Atleast that I can remember. I find that I'm always tired. I fall asleep quite often. I fall asleep while studying, any BUMPY transports we take, church meetings on Sundays, and even on a lesson once in a while. I sleep wonderfully at night. I probably just need to eat more fruits and vegies. But... for that we need money. Which we don't have at the end of the month. But, my companion did buy some awesome, expensive dish soap from an investigator! So now all of our dishes can be cleaned... we just don't have food to dirty them up. Wise decision there. I thought we were supposed to be 'selling' the gospel... not buying things of the world.
Well outta time! I love you!
Love,
Elder Ellis

Monday, May 16, 2011

Short...

Sorry this is going to be a really short e-mail.
Computers hate us today, and we've had a long day of trying to find a place with working internet.
I'm doing pretty well, just trying to get used to the 'new' area. and the 'new' companion.
we had a baptism this past week. I found him when i was here last, but didn't get the chance to teach him.
I was just the book ends.
well... i love you
love, Elder Ellis

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Russian Holiday Quarantine...

Hello family!
It was good to get to talk to you all on Saturday! (except Kortney, Ben, Kennady, Clark, and Owen.) And I hope you all enjoyed your fun time canoeing. I’m jealous. But, I’m glad that I got to delay you for a little while :P
Happy Mothers Day again. I love you. You’re my favorite mother!
It’s been a crazy (and somewhat fun… FUN? Wait… I thought men couldn’t have fun….) couple of weeks.
Back in Kazan we had branch picnic for the 1st of May… it’s a holiday apparently. Good time filled different team competitions. My team won every game. Much to the dismay of Elder wood who was on the other team. I didn’t even have to argue over the rules… we just simply dominated. 2 of our investigators showed up and had a good time with all the members. I can tell I’ll be missed in kazan. The man we baptized said he’ll keep praying that I get sent back there by the end of the mission, I encouraged him to pray on! Our newly found investigator (who is golden) also said she would miss me and even tried to give me a hug. She hasn’t read her little white handbook of missionary rules. I even got a gift from another member apon leaving. Hand knit house slippers. Pretty neat.
And well, now I’m back here in Novo-k. the members were happy to see me again. Especially Pasha, Mesha, and their mother and bobooshka. ( we baptized masha in February… 13 old boy. Their whole family baptized one by one in the fall/winter)
My new companion is Elder Maximov and I think we fit well together. I don’t intend this cycle to be the easiest, but I do think I will enjoy it. I’m starting to feel some of the responsibilities of being a leader now… deep breath.
One particularly exciting thing. I finished the Book of Mormon again on Saturday, and as we often should, put Moroni’s promise to the test (If you read the Book of Mormon, and ask God having Faith in Christ, a Sincere heart, and real intent then He will answer your prayer through the Holy Ghost… your thoughts and your feelings.) It’s always good to test the things that the scriptures say so that we can receive a personal testimony of their validity. So Saturday I prayed. And waited. Yesterday was another Russian holiday (day of freedom) and since there are lots of crazies on drunks on this holiday we were invited to the “Samara Zone Mini Conference / Russian Holiday Quarantine.” There we watched the Joseph Smith Film, President and Sister Sartori talked to us, and we had a testimony meeting. And somewhere in that 3 hours… I got my answer. I know the Book of Mormon is true. Undoubtedly. It is the Word of God. I knew it before, and I’ve gotten my answer before, But I am greatful for a loving Heavenly Father who will answer my prayers each and everytime I ask. I am greatful for the Book of Mormon and how it has helped me to become who I am today, and also help me realize the potential my Heavenly Father sees in me. I am greatful that through it I have gained a stronger testimony of my Savior Jesus Christ and his loving sacrifice for me. And I am greatful that I have been blessed with all the right tools (family, leaders, scriptures… etc.) that have helped me to find that faith for myself.
It is true. I do not doubt it. I hope I can help others to find this peace and happiness that I have.
Well, Family… I love you!
Love, Elder Ellis