Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Some new photos of Brooke!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Another Year Come and Gone!

Hey everyone,

Can you believe another year has come and gone! And just think only 361 days until my next birthday hahaha. Tell everyone thank you for all of the emails and everything! You will be happy to know that all of the emails worked mom! I got my packages a few days before my birthday! I opened the small one right when I got them and saved the big one for my birthday morning! Thank you for everything! I loved everything. Thanks for the pictures in the emails! They made me smile!

Dad, I am glad you got to play a million rounds of golf! It sounds like the weather was pretty good in St. George. I am glad that work is keeping you busy. I hope you get a few bball games in soon! I keep thinking about baseball and basketball, it is kinda bad... ha

Mom, Your email made me pretty happy. I am glad that your divinity eggs turned out pretty good this year. I don't think we have ever been able to do it in one batch before! How is the running coming along? And how is your little business working out? I have people asking about it all the time.

Brynn, congrats on singing! I am glad that everything went well! I tell people all the time about your set of pipes. How is that little shop looking? Have you heard anymore on it?

Chase and Ashley, I image that things are starting to get super busy as school is winding down. Ashley how is teaching are you enjoying it? How are your students?

So sorry about no email yesterday, we had Zone Conference so that is why I am a day late. We had a really great zone conference. President talked a lot about Christ and his role both before this life and His ministry. It was really cool and it gave me a lot of strength that I have been needing lately. I have felt a lot like I have not been getting enough spiritual strength during my person study to get me through the day but this helped to give me a little extra push.

This week was a little hard to be honest. We have a lot of cancelled appointments which is never fun. But we did find a really great investigator names Vadem. He is renting the room of one of our investigators and it was a little awkward at first because he is a really young man, but in the end we had a really great lesson with him and Nina. He knows the bible really really well but he feels like there are so many holes in it. We have spent the last couple lessons explaining the Restoration and the need for prophets so that we can help him feel in some of those holes. They have read everything that we have given them and they always has really great questions. I actually get a little nervous going over there because he has a lot of questions about the book of Revelations and then he sparks questions in Nina and then we get really off topic. They are great though and they are always excited to see us.

Again we were not able to meet with Ira and her family. One of our co-workers was in the hospital so her and her family had to work for her all week and they were not able to meet with us but we will hopefully meet with them on Saturday.

My birthday was pretty uneventful. We woke up and I opened my package, Thanks again! I loved it! Brynn and Aubrey the soaps and cards were awesome! Sister Ethington made me breakfast and after study we went to McDonald's for lunch haha. I know really Ukrainian! We took an hour bus ride to our other area and got dogged and got back on a Bus to come back to a RS activity. We celebrated the birthday of the relief society which was cool. They sisters are pretty strong women here. After we got stood up again so we went and glued up some English ad's and did some phone calls... I have making phone calls it is really scary because it is really hard to understand! Other than that we just laughed and had fun. We stopped by 2 less actives and set up appointments to come back and meet with them.

Tonight we are having a party for our English class and I am pretending that it is my birthday party haha. I know I am a nerd but oh well. Well sorry it was short this week but I have to go. We are going to the beach again to play football! I am excited! I will try and remember to take a picture and send it!

I do have one request for the next package... could you send me some more pictures of you guys! Not ones that are printed on computer paper but ones that I could carry around with me and show. :D. I really need one of Dakota and Ellie because the only one that I have you can't even seen Kota. Also if you could send me a picture of all of our family from grandma and grandpa's birthday-- that would be awesome!

Well I love you and hope that all is well! Thanks again for the emails and love and packages!

Sister Larsen

Thank You For All the Birthday Wishes!

Hello my amazing wonderful family!!

I don't know if you have heard this lately but you are all amazing! Thank you so much for the emails and the love! You guys are so good to me!

Dad, I have to say I am pretty sad that the Reminisci is taking sail. As I read your letter I thought of a lot of great memories that we have made on that boat and on our little chaser1. I hope that we can continue to make memories down there but just in a different way. Thank you for helping create all of those memories. I really treasure our time down there and I tell people all the time about Lake Powell.

I am sorry to tell you, but my packages haven't gotten to me yet. A lot of people are going up to Kiev this week so hopefully they will be there. If not, don't worry about it. It may be a little unbelievable but I am not really worried about my birthday this year, it kinda doesn't even feel like it is March here either. The work goes on haha. Although it would be great to see you go after that package company! I wish I could get that on tape haha. But thank you for sending me stuff. It is great just to know that you are thinking about me!

Pen, Thank you for your millions of emails! I was surprised when I opened my mailbox today and I had like 9 letters! Every time I think about you I just smile haha. I am way proud of you and everything that you are doing! I was just thinking that you might need a sip of soda for sustenance.

Mase and Ash, I can't even imagine how it would feel to wrap things up with school. When you translate the phrase "Enduring to the end" into Russian and then back into English it actually means "suffering to the end" I think that I would feel more like it were suffering to the end, I hope you choose to look at it more then an opportunity to get that last little bit of knowledge rather then the way I look at it. I am proud of both of you for going strong till the end and I hope that everything goes well with tests and stuff! I can't believe there are only 4 weeks left!

We have another 6 weeks in Odessa together! Transfers are this week but nothing will really change for us. We will continue to work in this amazing city! So this week has been really good. Just 4 weeks ago we only had 4 lessons total to report to our leaders and this week we have seen a serious amount of growth. We have really seen the Lord bless us, especially with finding new people that He has prepared. We set a date for a woman that lives in Illichovsk to get baptized in the beginning of April. We set up a lesson to tell her that we couldn't work with her because we needed to work with those who wanted to get baptized and we walked out with a date! I was in shock most of the lesson because we just brought up baptism and she said I want to get baptized, what do I need to do. We told her we would help her understand everything and explained to her what it meant. She was really excited about it. We still have a lot to teach her but hopefully she will get baptized the week after conference! Her name is Svetlana and she is a really interesting person.

Illichovsk is a really interesting place and we always come out with funny stories. After we left Svetlana's we had planned to meet with a less active, which didn't happen. So we went to the beach and did some contacting. I started talking with an older couple and it turned into an interesting conversation and we were all kinda laughing and just talking. The man was joking with us about our accents and he turned and petted my head (I don't know what it is with people and my hair here). Then as we turned to leave he grabbed Sister Ethington's head with both hands and planted a big kiss on her forehead!!! I tried to stop him by grabbing his arm but he had a target set and he wasn't going to give it up. We turned and walked away laughing and I spent the rest of the day apologizing for letting her get kissed. It has been the big joke all week in our district.

On Saturday, our branches here in the city had an open house. They are getting ready for the temple open house so about once a transfer they have these smaller ones so the members can practice. Only 6 people came, but the members were really excited about talking with them about the church. Also everyone that came felt the spirit pretty strong except for a guy that we starting talking to on the street, he had started a little early in the day with the strong drinks ha. We spent most of Saturday talking to people on the streets and inviting them to the open house. We have seen some of the effects of it already, 2 women came to church yesterday that couldn't come on Saturday. They have invited us over to their apartments this week to talk to them a little more. It was fun to see the members get involved and I think they trust us a little more after seeing us really trying to help them be successful! It was also really fun to work with them a little more.

To answer some of your questions, The work is great, hard but great! The only thing I don't really like is being rejected by those that you have already come to really love. I mean no one really likes being rejected but if it is at a door or just on the street it is not really a big deal. It is the times when you have really put your heart into lessons and shared everything that you love and then they don't except the gospel, that is the only part that I don't really like about this work. But I have just had to remember that they have their agency and pray that they will have a change of heart at some point in their lives. Other wise I really love the work. I have started to feel really comfortable just starting really random conversations on buses and on the street. Saturday there was a man standing on the street looking at an apartment building. I crossed the street and stood next to him and tried to see what he was looking at. He glanced down, smiled and continued to look. I asked him what was so interesting and we just started talking, it was really natural to switch things over to the gospel and just talk. I don't think I changed his life but I have just started to love talking to random people. I have also felt my love and interest for the the people here grow. I am feeling great! A little tired at times but I think every missionary feels tired all of the time. My spirits are lifting as the mornings come earlier and earlier. I love waking up to the sun shining on my bed rather than waking up and feeling like it is the middle of the night.

And to answer the question that you are all waiting for.... Honestly I don't think we are going to do anything special for my birthday. We might make breakfast but we have a pretty full day planned, I just hope all of our lessons work out. We might talk about birthdays in English on Thursday as well but that is it. I know not very exciting, but hey that is life ha.

So, I don't know if I have told you lately, but I really really love you! And that just made me think of a worldly song.. oops haha. But really I do love you! So since I have been on my mission I haven't cried very many times, I know it is pretty hard to believe, but this last week my heart has been very "tender" (as mom would say) and I have had some really amazing thoughts about each of you! I want you all to know how much I love you and how grateful I am for your support, AND say sorry for all of the dumb things I have put you through... like the guilt trip for missing the first few hours of my 10th birthday haha. I have used that story a few times this week, trying to show how we can get stuck on the little things that don't matter and it just makes our life ten times harder. We need to look on the gifts that God has given us, like the amazing people that surround us every day. We went to the ballet this week as a zone and it hit me that I am going to be 22 and there are so many things that I have not done yet that I dreamed of doing. I was a little disappointed in myself but then when I got home and laid in bed, I thought of all of the amazing things we have all done together and I just smiled because it is impossible to do everything that we want, but it is possible to do everything that matters most and I think that is what we have done as a family. Thank you again for everything and for helping me remember what is important! I hope that you all have an amazing week and that all goes well! I love you all so so so much and I miss you even more!


(The Birthday Girl ;) )

Monday, March 8, 2010

Happy Women's Day!

Good Morning and Happy Women's day!

It was good to hear from all of you this morning. It sounds like everyone has had a pretty eventful week except for the dogs... I am glad to hear that all is well in the big city and down in P-town. I got some of your letters because the Zone leaders went to Kiev this last week but there weren't any packages at the office for me so I don't know. The ones for Christmas took exactly a month but that was when I was up there. Transfers are next week and the district leaders will be bringing back mail for us if we don't get transfered.

Dad, it sounds like you were pretty creative on finding ways to get out of the house and keeping the hounds from doing too much damage. I am surprised that they still got in the kennels at the end of the day yesterday. I wish I had had my drivers license when we got kota. I thought that those pictures were at Grant's house. You will have to tell him hi from me. Oh by the way dad, a lady here has a huge crush on you! I will tell the story in the main part of the letter but it was really, really funny.

Mom, I am glad you and Brynn had fun and I am glad that you really only had one mishap instead of 4 or 5. From your's and Brynn's letters it kinda reminds me of our trip to NY when we had all of those black bags. I think you guys may have hit a new jackpot. It sounds like gma and gpa had fun having you down there. They were really excited when you told them that you were going to go down in an email that I got from them.

Brynn, again I am glad that you had fun. I had this funny image of you standing at the border and how much worse it would be with both of us. haha It made me laugh. Good news this week is no chicken hearts or really strange food :D. But we are having a ward party today so I might be singing a different tune around 3:00. By the way the Black sea was pretty dark when we were there but it was also really cloudy.

Chase and Ashley, You sound like you had a pretty fun week/end. I still can't believe that you are getting ready to move to Boston. Each week it is hitting me more and more how far away that is... But it is okay, I keep hearing about this whole skype thing, sounds pretty cool!

So this week has been just as eventful as every other week. Today we are starting week five down here and this Saturday we find out about transfers again. I think this has been one of the fastest 6 weeks of my life. We have had more happen in these 5 weeks then I could imagine. I think that everyday when our leaders call to check up on us we have some crazy story to share with them and I think we might have to sit down with my journal when I get home because there are just too many to remember right now. Odessa is great and it always keeps us on our toes.

So we are working with 3 branches down here, some more than others. The 2 that we mainly work in meet here close to where we live. We meet in the front of an apartment building that has been turned into one building, or maybe it was just built attached... I can't really tell. But it is a nice building and it really stands out so people ask what it is. The 2 branches are really great but small. There are about 100 members in all of the branches but on sundays about 20 or so come. In RS we usually have 4 other sisters besides us, but there are enough for the branches to function as long as everyone has 4 or 5 callings. The members are really willing to take their share and 5 other shares of the work. It is great. All of the Branch Presidents are really great. One is really young and they are expecting their first baby. He served in New York City on his mission. The other one is awesome as well. He is a little older and actually reminds me a lot of dad. His son-in-law is in the stake presidency and agreed to act as the branch president in the branch outside our city. All are great men and are really willing to help.

We went with the branch president that served in NY to deliver flowers to the women in the branch today because it is womens day and everyone gets flowers. It is a really big holiday and most of the women get work off. It reminds me of Mother's day but on a bigger scale. There have been flower shops all down the streets all week.

This week we met with one of our members who hasn't been to church in a really really long time. We got to her apartment a little early so we glued up some advertisements for English practice. Some really, really drunk old man snuck up behind me and jumped out and scared me. Sister Ethington was watching him the whole time but she didn't understand what he was doing until he jumped out and yelled boo. We talked with him for a little and he reached out to give us both a big hug and we quickly stepped out of reach. Then as I was looking down to get my planner I felt his fingers run into my forehead. He was trying to move my bangs but his depth perception was a little off and he ended up smacking me in the head. We started to walk away and he grabbed my arm and he and Sister Ethington played tug-o-war over me for a little. We finally got away and laughed the whole way to our meeting.

We finally got to our meeting with our member and she forgot who I was. She thought I was lying to her when I said that I was there the last time she met with the sisters. Finally she believed me when I showed her my pictures and when she turned to one of the pictures of dad she said, "Oh Michael, I remember Michael." I started laughing so hard. She kept turning back to that picture and just saying "Oh Michael." So Dad you better look out when we come back. We wanted to talk with her about the temple and encourage her to prepare to go to the temple this coming year and to prepare to be able to go to the dedication. . . . . We had a great lesson from there on out and she agreed to start preparing to go to the temple in Kiev. It is crazy how fast you can forget truth when you are continually strengthening your testimony.

We also had a great lesson with Tanya. She is 15 and wants to get baptized this summer. We were questioning her desire to get baptized and we had a very straight-forward lesson with her. We told her that we are here to help her to prepare for baptism but she needed to show the Lord that she really wanted it. She said that she wanted it and she has been making a lot more of an effort. We met with her again and she started our lesson by asking us what is happiness for us, remember she is 15. I told her that for me it is being with my family and making my Heavenly Father happy, because I know that when he is happy with me it means I am doing the things that I need to so that I can live with him and my family forever. She told us that she feels like there really aren't people that are good in her classes at school and she really wants to meet more people like us. She said told us a story about a boy at her school that she wants to help because no one talks to him and everyone beats him up. We told her that the Lord would help her find a way to help him. We are meeting with her again tonight and I can't wait. She is really great. I feel like I was sent here for her, just for her. We have such a great relationship and I feel if nothing else happens here, if I can help her, that will be enough.

This is a really sad story please don't post it. . . . . [omitted]

Last good news that we got this week, Julia will be moving back this week :D. We are going to try and help her find a job so that she can stay here. She will be living with those same people until we can find a new place for her to live, which I hope is soon. The economy is so bad here that people aren't really willing to let her stay with them without receiving rent for the room. I hope that something can work out. She is great.

Well we should probably get going. I love you so much. Sorry if I didn't get all of your questions answered. I will try and take more pictures this week. I am really bad and I always forget but I will try and send some soon. I love you! Have a great week and tell everyone hi for me!

Sister Larsen

Chicken Hearts and a crazy letter!

Good morning!

I really love March! All of the snow has melted down here and it has been above zero almost all last week. We have even been able to see some grass starting to grow in the middle of all of the mud. Thanks for all of the emails and sending all of the packages. President is coming down this weekend so hopefully he will bring some of our mail with him.

Mom, You will be happy to know that we have started running in the mornings and every time I hear my alarm go off I think of you and how you do this almost every morning. You amaze me! It sounds like you have had some fun watching the Olympics! I haven't really heard anything about it. We saw some of the prelimiary things while we were at TGIFs in Kiev before transfers but we just glanced up and that is the only info I have gotten about it. ....

Dad, I am glad that things are a little slower at work. I loved the Bi comment. I was laughing so hard! ...... I can't tell you how much I am missing bball season. Right now one of our ZLs played ball for the Y and we have had some good conversations about bball season. I would be really happy to have a baseball cap on with a diet coke and a Dodger dog, but that will just have to wait. ha.

Brynn, Sounds like you had a good weekend. I am jealous that you get to hold babies! I can't remember the last time I held a baby. Weird thought haha. That is funny about Jase and Whitney. I can just see them sitting around looking at people all funny. Sounds like the perfect job.

Chase and Ash, How is school going? I can't believe you are already through midterms and heading down the last stretch. I am a little jealous, I think about all that I have left and just dread going back. How is your little bed headboard business going? Have you found a new job in Provo?

So this week has been interesting for sure. Last Monday we played hookey from all of the things that we needed to do and we went to the beach and played football (American) with the elders and some of the members. It was so fun. It was warm enough to play bare foot, although all of our feet were numb by the end. ha. It was also a little painful when I ran to tag an elder and I stepped on a bunch of ice. It was cool to see ice on the beach. The Black Sea is really beautiful. We had so much fun. We need to make up for it today though. On our way back I started talking to 2 ladies that were sitting down next to me on the bus. I commented that one of them had a really beautiful scarf and she took it off and gave it to me! I was stunned and I offered to make her borsh or cookies (telling her that my cookies are better than my borsh) and she just laughed and said it was a gift from the heart. I couldn't get her number or anything but it is a really cool scarf. I will send a picture next week. We all laughed the whole way home.

Editor's note: Story regarding a very bizzare note passed to Brooke is ommitted...but trust me it was a bit strange.

We haven't been able to get ahold of Julia, the girl that came to church a few weeks ago. We will keep trying because I think she is so ready for the gospel. We did have a really great meeting with our landlord this week. When we signed our contracts the elders asked if she knew how to make borsh. She invited us all over to her house to try her borsh. We went over on Saturday and at first it was really awkward because I don't think that any of us have been in that nice of a house in a really really long time. We didn't want to break anything. The elders kept saying that they wanted something to go wrong because she was just too nice. She fed us a lot of really great borsh and then we had tea and talked about our families. She showed us pictures of all of their trips all over the world and her and here daughter were really cute together. She actually reminds me a lot of you mom. Her nephew came over and joined the conversation. He is from the church of scientology and he had some interesting ideas. After a while she started asking questions about our roles as missionaries and we got into a really great gospel discussion. We ended up giving her a book of mormon and we are going over this Saturday to teach her daughter english and to talk to her a little more. I am way excited because she is really really awesome!

Yesterday, we had a branch lunch and they piled our plates full of some weird meats and rices. The rice is actually way good.... The meat was a little odd. I didn't even want to look at it very much because they looked like little poop things, with 2 holes in the top. I had no idea what they were so I just poped some of them into my mouth. They tasted a little like chicken but they were not very tender. As we were doing the dishes, Sister Ethington told me that they were chicken hearts. I about gaged right there. We both wanted to brush our teeth so bad after! After we went and had a really great lesson with Tanya. She is 15 and she has been investigating the church for about a year. We haven't really seen progress so we went over with the idea that we would be really straight with her and tell her that if she wants to be baptized she needs to show the Lord that she has the desire to follow him. We had a really great discussion with her and she told us how since our last meeting with just her she has started praying every night. She said that before she kinda knew that God existed but she didn't really know. After the first time she prayed so knew that God was there, that He knows her and that He loves her. It was a really great lesson and our faith has been renewed in her. It made me really happy to finally see the fire in her eyes.

So that was pretty much the bulk of our week. We spent most of our days tracting, posting English ads and contacting. We do a lot more of that here then we did in Kiev. You can definatly tell the difference between a branch and a ward. We have made a huge effort to try and meet with as many members as we can so that we can build a better relationship for the missionaries down here. It has been a lot harder area to work in but I have loved every minute of it. I am excited for spring because there are a million grape vines everywhere and you can just imagine how cool the city will look once the leaves start to come out. There is also the small detail of my birthday. I have been a little quieter about it this year. I have only made 2 comments in my journal about it and I have planned to make a cake haha. We found a receipe that almost tastes like real American cake. The only down side is that it has mayo in it. But don't be fooled it is really actually kinda good. haha. Well I should get going. I love you all so much and thank you so much for your support! I hope all is well and please give my puppies a big hug and kiss for me!

Love always!
Sister Larsen