Monday, December 17, 2012

I'm going hoooooooooome


Hey!! This is going to be a short e-mail.

BECAUSE  I'LL SEE YOU SOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!!!

We’re hanging out in the office in Novosibirsk, President Gibbons is coming in an hour to pick us up and take us to his house. There are 4 missionaries going home tomorrow. We'll eat dinner there then wake up super early tomorrow to catch our plane...  29 hours later..

I

WILL

BE

HOME.

I took this picture as I'm typing this letter
Weird. I've been pretty nervous about it this whole week, but when I woke up this morning I was just excited. Russia and my mission already feel just like a dream, it's the WEIRDEST feeling. But... all I can say is that I'm glad to be getting away from the cold. It's death. I got frostbite on my nose TWICE!!!! I just don't know how people can live here... I will never go somewhere -40 degrees again.


It's kinda fun at the same time though, because everything wood is frosted white. Trees, houses, fences, benches... even the air is so frozen that you can see it. It looks like fog, but it's not... it's just frozen air. Sometimes the buildings look like the great and spacious building in Lehi's dream, they look like they're floating in a cloud when it gets to -42 Celsius.

Love you all J

SEE YOU SOON. I'm coming home.

Sister Williams

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Wonderful Day


Well..... When I left the MTC, I KNEW it would be harder to leave Russia than it was to leave home.

Now, I AM leaving home! And not for 1½  years, but possibly forever... AHHHHHH!

This week was GREAT. It flew by sooo fast, it feels like yesterday I was last writing home... Inna got baptized yesterday!!!  The baptism was after church and we had almost 40 people attend. There weren't enough chairs for everyone, so Sister Hoyt and I stood in the back with some members for the little talks... Natasha and Zina were there, also Tatiana who's been coming consistently for the last month (she doesn't want us to teach her for some reason). I loved watching as Natasha sat on the edge of her chair and soaked everything up, watching Yulia hold Inna's hand and guide her to the font, watching Inna climb up the ladder and into the font with water so high that it almost came up to her shoulders, mopping the floor after she and Elder Terry had gotten out, and watching Yulia blow-dry her best friend's hair... it was just a wonderful day.

We made cake and some little Russian sandwiches for everyone to eat after. It was a peach cobbler cake, and the Relief Society President came up and handed me a huge binder, "Put that recipe in here!!!" she said. "It is so good!" Another member came up with a pen and notebook in hand. "Okay, tell me how you made it." "I don't remember," I said. "I promise I'll bring it!" They were very worried about me leaving without passing that recipe along...

And on Thursday after our lesson with Natasha, some of the members were at the branch and I told one of them that I liked her earrings. Without hesitating, she took them out of her ears and gave put them in my hands. "To remember me by," she said. I was sooo blown away!!!

At church I told Zhenya, a 17 year old member that we've been meeting with weekly, that I only had one week left. She latched to my arm and said, "You're not going anywhere. If you get on the train then I'll stop it!!"

Natasha is doing GREAT. We read in 3rd Nephi with her and tried really hard to get her to commit to a baptismal date. She doesn't have any doubts about the church, but she doesn't feel ready, she's looking for a concrete answer. We talked about temples with Zina, the spirit was super strong and I felt prompted to tell her about Alyse and her conversion that lead to TEMPLE MARRIAGE!! (yeah gurl, I love you!! You too BJ). She was reallllly interested in how her mom reacted when she got baptized, and if her mom ever became a member, which brought Sister Hoyt and me to more fully understand her concerns about baptism. She's worried about what her mom will think. She wants her mom to be happy with it and to be a part of it with her... we've tried to meet her before but work has kept her too busy. Zina told us that in January things would die down and we could meet her then. Well... Sister Hoyt can meet her then.  L

Going back to the baptism, I was thinking so much about these two WONDERFUL girls and I know that their day will come. I won't be here, but I hope someone will tell me when it does. I can't make someone be ready. I can only invite.

I love my Savoir. I love my mission. And I love my FAMILY!!!!!!!!!!

Keep smiling, see you VERY VERY SOON.

Sister Williams

p.s. i don't know if I’ll write next week. I'll be in Novo and I'm not sure what my plans will be...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Life turns out...


...different than we planned.

This was a great week! It went by so fast. The weather is unrealistically cold... one of the members here always says to me, "This isn't Moscow, Sister Williams!" Meaning, you're in Siberia now... and ooooooooooooooooh it's cold. Got up to -25 C (-13 F) this week, I heard.

We had a great lesson with Zina this week, we decided to take a break from asking her to be baptized and watched a movie about Christ. She's so great, I love her sooooooooo much. And she's READY!!!! I can't figure out what's holding her BACK!!!!!  On Tuesday we had a great lesson with Inna, the girl getting baptized next week, she was excited as ever....

...then Thursday came around and we met at the branch for another lesson. When she walked in the doors I gave her a big hug and asked how she was doing. "Not very good," she said holding back tears. We went and sat down in a classroom and she told us that she wasn't getting baptized. Her mom found her reading the Book of Mormon and was super upset, she told her to never come back. "So this is the last time I'll see you," she said, wiping the constant flow of tears with her shirt sleeve. We sat in silence for a long time, I looked at her and saw my Guldana in Kazakhstan, whom I love with ALL MY SOUL and who experienced the exact same thing. It just broke my heart all over again... I was praying that the spirit would tell me what to say.... then I opened up to 1 Nephi 3:7 and testified that the Lord will provide a way for her to get baptized if she will take a step of faith and do his will. I asked her to pray to know the will of the Lord, then to ask for strength to do it. It was a hard goodbye.

Natasha came right after that and we had a wonderfullll lesson about the plan of salvation. She wants to get baptized but she knows that it is a huge decision. We asked her to pray about December 15th. It is such a miracle to be able to teach her. And even though it brought me such great joy, my heart was reaaaally sad about Inna. I just couldn't shake it.

On Friday night we were on our way home and I got a call from Yulia, Inna's best friend. I was super confused as to why she was calling at first, because she was asking me if she could have a party in November to celebrate 1 year of being baptized. Sure... then she said, "Inna has news. I promised that I wouldn't tell, she wants to be the one to tell you." I asked her if it was good and she squealed, "Yeah! It's really good!" The next time we saw her she started crying again, but this time tears of joy. "I prayed. And I'm still getting baptized on December 9th." I'm so proud of her. And I hope that with time that her mom will come to understand how wonderful the church is...

We also met with some of the youth members, Anya and Lillia left this morning to go to the temple for the FIRST TIME!!! Anya is old enough to get endowed but she wasn't sure if she wanted to, but after we met with her on Saturday she gave me a big hug and said, "Thanks for your help. I'm going to do it." WooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooHooooooooo!!!"

I love this place! I love these people with everything I am. Can't believe how fast the clock is ticking...

Also!!!! We are gonna be on Russian TV!!! The senior couple is teaching a "Strengthening Marriage and Family" class every Sunday evening and it's getting pretty popular... the church hired a film crew to make a commercial! So yesterday after church (it was the longest Fast Sunday ever) we all gathered in the relief society room and the Holmes taught a part of one of their lessons while the camera guys filmed THEM and US, Sister Hoyt and I sat in the FRONT ROW and it was so COOL... the members told us to take our nametags off and not make any comments so people would think we were Russian... J  I loved it.

And there's this 11 year old girl named Dasha, I can't remember if I've mentioned her before... but her neighbor is Nickoli who is a member, and one day he brought her to church. I sat by her in Sacrament Meeting and we became instant best friends, she's come to church on her own 3 times and we're going to try to meet her mom and get permission to teach her! I gave her a Book of Mormon (which she is reading and she LIKES it!) and wrote my testimony in the front page. I think it's amazing that an 11 year old girl has such a strong desire to come to CHURCH. I never wanted to go to church at that age. But I think i figured out why... people are always talking about how they WANT to be at the branch building. They feel good here, something keeps them coming back... and that's a feeling that they don't feel in their own homes. I grew up in a home where the Holy Ghost was a commonly present so I never really noticed the peace and joy that dwells in the church buildings and with the members... I love Dasha. She doesn't know I'm leaving yet. I don't want to tell her....

I LOVE YOU FAMILY!!! Can't wait to see you so soon... my mission already feels like a dream. It came and went so quickly that it almost wasn't even real.... I've still got two weeks and I'll make them the best ones.

Keep smiling,

Ali

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hello from the snow globe!


Hey from the winter wonderland, otherwise known as Siberia. J

WE HAVE SO MUCH SNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It's only November and I don't remember seeing this much snow in Utah since I was 3 feet tall... I feel like it's CONSTANTLY snowing. And I actually kind of like it....

As for this week, we met with Ina and her member friend, Yulia, 3 times. Ina IS GETTING BAPTIZED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! On December 9th!!! She's come to activities with Yulia for a couple of months but she was pretty against the gospel until last week. She had had an awful day, came home and opened up the Book of Mormon that Yulia had given her. After reading for a while her mood completely changed and that was her testimony -- she knew the book was true. She is SO prepared, and SO excited. After we decided on a baptismal date she kept going, "Ahhhhhhhh! Eeeeee! Ooooooh!" and throwing her arms in the air. She came to church for the first time yesterday, and afterwards she expressed to me her concerns. She's really nervous, really scared. She has some doubts, and of course she does!! It's a HUGE decision!!!! But I really believe that she'll hold out strong and choose to be baptized.

Remember Natasha, the girl I texted and she said she'd been reading the book of Mormon? We were planning on giving her a baptismal date this week, December 15th. But she didn't come to the lesson.... L  She came to church and to the Relief Society activity, we're definitely meeting with her this week (and she's definitely ready for baptism), but I feel like December 15th would be too soon. We'll see what will happen, but I would looooooove to be there for it. She is SO GREAT!!!!!!! And so loving and Christ-like...

We also met with Ira, she's basically a member that just hasn't been baptized yet. She's always refused to meet with us (don't know why) until Saturday..... we had an AWESOME lesson and the spirit was there, and when I asked her about baptism she said, "I wanted to in August, but now my mom is against it." She's 24, so she's old enough to make that decision on her own..... it's SUCH A HARD situation!!!!!!!!

This is the first time on my mission seeing so much success, I don't feel like I deserve it.... but I'm SO GRATEFUL that the Lord has given me these blessings before I go home. I am not a perfect missionary, or Russian speaker, or teacher, or friend.... but the Lord forgives. He helps us be better and gives us undeserved blessings, nonetheless...

We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner at the senior couple's house. We ate DELICIOUS chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls.... the whole traditional dinner with chicken in place of turkey!!!! As we all sat around the table talking, I realized how precious these moments are and that I need to be cherishing EVERY ONE!!! I love my mission, I love this city, these people, these experiences....

Love you guys. J  Thanks for your support and prayers. I'll be seeing you in 3 short weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Keep smiling,
 Ali

Monday, November 19, 2012

We were made for this


This internet cafe I'm typing this from is probably my least favorite place in the world. It's full of smoking men and I might just choke to death... also, a few of the keys on the keyboard don't work well, so if you find some missing Ds or Ss you'll know why....

This week has been full of great miracles and great disappointments. It started last Sunday night when we finished the last day in our old planners. I threw it in the garbage... and the next day took that garbage outside to the big garbage. I think it wasn't until Tuesday that I realized I still had a loooooooooot of phone numbers written in it that I hadn't copied to the area book yet. By then it was too late, my planner was loooooong long gone. The weirdest part to me was why the spirit didn't warn me first??

Then on Thursday I was going through the contacts and text message on the phone, trying to salvage some of the numbers that I had so stupidly lost. I found a Natasha and I wasn't sure who it was, so I texted her, "Hey Natasha, it's Sister Williams! How are you doing?"

She texted me back right away, "Hi!! I'm so glad that you wrote, I've been reading the Book of Mormon on my break at work!" We could not figure out who this girl was but we kept chatting. She thanked me for the gift and we set up a meeting with her for the next day. She came.... which is a shock in and of itself!!!! It turned out to be a girl that had come to the church for the first time on Sunday. The Relief Society president invited her, and before she left I gave her a Book of Mormon and got her phone number. It was the most miraculous lesson of my whole mission, I almost think that Heavenly Father wanted me to throw my planner away because I don't know if I would have texted Natasha otherwise....

We did the whole first lesson and she was absorbing it all up, instantly accepting everything that we talked about. I felt really strongly that I needed to ask her to get baptized, but we ended up praying and I thought, "Oh well, I guess it just isn't happening this time." Then she asked me about Sunday School and what we study, I stood up and pulled the Gospel Principles book of the shelf to show her. When I sat back down, I opened it up RIGHT to the page with a picture of someone getting baptized. I am 100% sure that the Lord did that on purpose. I showed her the picture and started talking about baptism. When I asked her if he would be baptize once she receives an answer that the church I true, she smiled and said

YES!

We're meeting with her again tomorrow. I think we'll be able to set a date.... I feel so good about her. It's a miracle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The coolest part is that it's nothing that I did, it was 100% the Lord leading us to each other. I'm so grateful that he blessed me with this experience before I go home...

We also met with Zina a few times. We tried reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally hard to set a baptismal date, we had an awesome lesson and we know she's ready, she' jut holding back for some reason... she agreed to pray about December 15th, and we fasted an prayed for her hundreds of time this week. She told us, though, that she got her answer that she needs to read the whole Book of Mormon first. I know she's ready, but she has to come to know that for herself. Somehow.

There' a lot more, but I can't stand to be in this internet cafe anymore.  J  Next week we'll figure something else out and I promise I'll write a better e-mail....

Love you!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!! Keep smiling.....

Sister Williams

Monday, November 12, 2012

Nothing is forever


...except for families.

I WAS IN MOSCOW THIS WEEK!!! I thought I had said goodbye forever, but I guess that nothing is forever. We had a short week in Barnaul and my passport has seen better days... I'll start with that story.

Tuesday afternoon we hopped on a bus headed to Novosibirsk for my Visa trip. About 4 hours into the ride I realized that when I transferred all the stuff from my purse to my backpack I had forgotten my paaaaassport... I called the office Elders, and he called me back about 20 minutes later and asked me exactly where it was.
"Are you going to have someone mail it overnight?" I asked. He said, "...something like that." Whatever that means... we had to leave at 7:30 the next morning so that was looking kind of unlikely.

We met all the missionaries at the airport and my passport magically ended up in my hands... APPARENTLY a member called my landlord so she could unlock the door, got my passport, put it in an envelope and handed it to a bus driver who was going to Novo that night. The Elders met him at the bus station at midnight and gave him a wad of cash in exchange for the envelope.
"When we opened it," they said as they told me the story, "we pulled out a kids magazine. We flipped through the pages and inside was another smaller envelope with a bunch of pictures of Jesus inside and your passport safely in the middle of it all." J  Disaster averted!!!

That night we got to Finland and the office Elders asked to take my passport again. I was so tired I didn't think to ask why... "Are you taking everyone’s?" I asked. "Um.... yeah." The next day I was talking to the sisters and realized that they all still had theirs, so when we ran into them again at the temple I was like, "Hey!! Do you still have my passport?" And he was like, "Hey!! Um.. no." APPARENTLY... I didn't have a Russian Visa when I flew into Finland like I was supposed to. They needed my passport to give to someone to try and get a Visa in just one day, but usually it takes at least 3. I think they just forgot me in the office when they did everyone else’s. "I didn't want to worry you last night when I took your passport, but you almost had to stay in Finland for an extra few days!" That would have been nice actually, Finland is the bomb...

We had a 6 hour layover in MOSCOW!!! I was praying to run into Sister Glazacheva or some of my friends there, but we didn't. We went to red square then headed back to catch our next plane.... it was so great.


For our day in Finland we went to this cool island, I went there with ILP once but everything was covered in snow so it looked a lot different. I bought some peanut butter and Laffy Taffy's at the American store there (they sold boxes of mac and cheese for 5 euros!!!!! things were so pricy.... but AMERICAN!!), and we went to the temple!!!! We didn't have as much time as we had planned because we missed our boat to leave the island and had to wait an extra 40 minutes to leave, got a little lost after that, and finally when we got there we didn't have time to do a session.  It was so nice to be there, though.... after that we waited for the bus to the airport for sooooooooo long!! It was about 40 minutes late and we were getting REALLY nervous about making our plane, I started praying that it would get delayed.. We got to the airport, all the missionaries (probably 20) handed the lady our passports in one huge pile to check in. She was going as fast as she could, our plane was LEAVING in 15 minutes and we still had to go to security. Two by two when people got their tickets they took off running, until everyone had them except for 3 other Elders and me. We waited until we all had them, we had 4 minutes at that point. We RAAAAN through security and SPRINTEDDDDD to the other side of the airport, I was getting soooooo tired and we had less than one minute and I started praying for superhuman strength to keep up with the Elders and make that flight!!! I didn't get any super human boost, but in that very moment two of them turned around and said, "Can I take your backpack?" That was enough to get me there. AND GUESS WHAT?? Our plane was delayed about 5 minutes, so we had 3 minutes to catch our breath before being the last 4 people to board. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH MAN. It was a red eye flight, we didn't sleep at all that night and got back to Novo at 9:00 am. I'm still realllly dragging my feet around.

Elder Berg is getting transferred! Elder Mitchel will be coming, he's been in Astana, Kazakhstan and he was in the Moscow mission with me. That'll be fun. This is my last transfer....

Sorry there's not more missionary stories. Oh! …something cool. When our plane first landed in Finland, we were pulling euros off our cards and I was in between two groups of missionaries putting my wallet back in my backpack. A girl came up and kneeled down next to me and said, "Are you just getting to Finland?" Really confused I said, "Yes." She said SO SINCERELY, "I just want to say welcome to Finland, thank you for coming to my country." I looked at her in silence for a second then said, "Do i know you?"

"No," She said, "I'm a Mormon. I haven't been active for years, but I am really grateful that you came." We talked for a minute about how she found the church and I gave her a big hug before she left. That experience was really tender to me for some reason.

God answers prayers! The church is true.

I <3 it.

Sister Williams

Monday, November 5, 2012

I'm not ready yet


Hi!!

This has been an amazing week, full of MIRACLES and an overwhelming sense of GRATITUDE and JOY. It started last Monday when I was talking to an older man on our way home for the night. He kissed my cheek and sang us a song in French. We finished our skype lessons with Yerlan in Kazakhstan, he was so cute when he said, knowing it was the last lesson, "I'm not too decisive about letting you go, my dear Sister Williams!" Honestly, I wasn't either. I miss that place. But it's good to be able to put it 100% behind me now and focus on my amazing Barnaul, which I KNOW with all my heart I'll miss just as much as Kazakhstan and Voronezh and Moscow (and Lipetsk and Ryazan of course).

Wednesday we went over to Zhenya’s and Boris's apartment. They're dating and just a little older than me, the Elders that left were teaching them and we finally got the opportunity to do a lesson. They come to church and activities often, and when we came over they had bought American donuts (they were actually pretty legit!)! Zhenya, the girl, is super philosophical and reads the Book of Mormon like a textbook. Boris has a hard time understanding it, but he did say, "Before I met the missionaries I didn't believe in God. Now I'm not sure..." I think that he'd already be baptized if it wasn't for Zhenya's philosophical outlook holding him back. We're meeting with them again in an hour and a half, I know that if we can get them to read the Book of Mormon and help each other understand it, then that will be the key... they're SO AWESOME!!

We met with Zina on Thursday... and I instantly knew that there was something different about her when she walked in the door. We did a lesson about faith, and the spirit was there SO STRONG, I was tearing up, Sister Hoyt was tearing up, and so was Zina. We've been calling her most nights to talk about what she's read in the Book of Mormon and encourage her to read every day, and every time we talk she understands more and more. She's begun likening the scriptures to her life, she's CHANGING!!!!!!! This is the first time I have experienced this on my mission, and my heart has grown to overflowing with gratitude ALL THE TIME in being able to witness it. With the spirit guiding, we invited her to be baptized. Again. I don't know how many times missionaries have asked her to be baptized, how many times she's said no and blamed her mom, but with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face today was different.

I'm not ready yet.

I'M NOT READY YET!!!!!!!! But she will be soon. There was a baptism yesterday, a lady named Tamara that the Elders have been teaching. We had FIVE investigators come, Zina, Boris, and Zhenya being 3 of them. The 4 missionaries sang, "Lead Kindly Light", all 4 of us singing the different parts, and Sister Hoyt told me later that she noticed Zina crying. MY HEART IS FILLLLLLLLED WITH JOYYY!!!!!! The baptism was right before church, they all stayed for sacrament and then Zina decided to stay for Sunday school for the first time!! I was a little nervous because some of the youth don't really like her much and we had to be in a different Sunday school class, but one of the girls befriended her and Zina LOVED it.

Sister Hoyt and I were fasting for a lot of things yesterday, and that was one of them. That girl who befriended Zina was, no doubt, a huge answer to our prayers. Everything is changing for her, and for me, and I am so grateful to the Lord for letting me have a front seat in this wonderful experience. J J

We also had an open house on Friday!!! We were SUPPOSED to be in Novosibirsk for a Sisters Conference, but that didn't end up happening because of a riot happening against Mormons and Mitt Romney. Why would people in Russia be protesting Mitt Romney? It just doesn't make sense to me. We were SO BUMMED at first, but I'm really glad that we got to be there for the open house. The missionaries stood out on the streets and invited people in, the members took care of everything else. Nadezhda (I'll call her Hope, cause that's what Nadezhda means) and her daughter, Dasha, came! They've been coming to English, and when we sang, "Be Still My Soul" as part of the spiritual thought, she said afterwards, "I felt such a good energy when you sang!" They also came to the baptism and to church yesterday. I gave her a Book of Mormon and we have a meeting scheduled with them for tomorrow.

Last night we also got to teach Marina and her little 4 year old cutie, Sasha. Last time, I don't know if I wrote about it or if you remember, but it was impossible to teach her because Sasha was so out of control and all over the place. But I noticed how much he liked to be around the Elders, so this time we invited them in and they played with him and drew pictures on the whiteboard while we taught her the Restoration. It worked out flawlessly, and was also an answer to our fasting and prayers!! She's so amazing, she is already such a strong believer. Her dad died 2 years ago, and she said that she felt really strongly when he died that that wasn't the end, and that he still existed as a spirit. I can't WAIT to teach her the Plan of Salvation on Saturday!!!!

AND!! I'M GOING TO FINLAND THIS WEEK!!!!!!! My Visa expires soon, and I guess President would rather I finish my mission and take a Visa trip RIGHT before I go home than send me home 3 weeks early. In this mission we go to the temple for Visa trips. THE TEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEMPLE!!! THIS WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!!!!!!!! Can I even tell you how long it's been?? So long. Toooooooooooo long. Much too long. And FINLNAD!!!!!!!!! That's sister Fitzsimons’s hoooooome!!!! Oh man, I’m just so happy. We leave for Novosibirsk on Wednesday afternoon, I'll go to Finland Thursday and fly back Friday. Friday night we'll be back in Barnaul.

That's been our week!! IT was so amazing. I wish I had more time. I love you all... thanks for EVERYTHING!! Especially your support and prayers! I really feel them!!

Sister Williams